Social policy


Social policy is a diverse subject which examines the formation and implementation of policy across a broad range of fields, including health care, education, housing, criminal justice, international development, social security and personal social services (such as child protection, care for the elderly and people with disabilities). It also covers issues that affect society in more general ways, including race and diversity, social exclusion, families, crime and deviance and urban regeneration. As part of the programme you will study social policy from an international and comparative perspective, looking at the influence of globalisation as well as the national and local context.

Features of LSE courses

Social policy is a vibrant subject at LSE, taught by many leading experts in the field. People in the Department are broadly interested in what we should do to ensure the wellbeing of ourselves and others. How far do we have a responsibility as individuals to provide for ourselves? What should governments, employers, voluntary organisations and families do? Who gets what in our society and in other societies: why and what issues does it raise?

You will study policies and measures at many different levels: local, national and international, and in many different kinds of organisation: central government agencies; international organisations; local authorities and health authorities; non-profit bodies like housing associations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and charities; private businesses which have contracts to supply services; and informal networks of mutual aid such as those based on families and neighbourhoods.

We examine the making of legislation, such as Acts of Parliament, European Union Directives and international instruments, and the taking of public expenditure decisions, for example, in UK central government and local authorities. Another concern is how members of different groups within society - such as those defined by gender, social class and ethnicity - are affected by policies and measures.

There is a strong critical and evaluative component in the degree, and you will examine ethical considerations and the effectiveness of social provision.

The programme includes a comparative dimension, which includes, but moves beyond, the traditional focus on Europe and other industrialised societies to consider social policy in developing and transitional countries.

Degree structure

You may take a single honours degree in social policy or combine your study with another subject as a joint or major/minor degree.

Joint honours and major/minor degree programmes

Although social policy is in itself an inter- and multidisciplinary subject, it can be studied in combination with other social science subjects.

BSc Social Policy and Economics allows students to develop economic technical expertise in a growing area of social policy analysis. This programme draws on the intellectual traditions of both departments in an integrated way.

BSc Social Policy with Government enables students to broaden their understanding of political institutions, processes and theories.

BSc Social Policy and Sociology allows students to focus on the connections between the making and implementation of social policies and contextual aspects of social structure and the key trends in social change.

What the selectors are looking for in an application

Selectors are looking for students who have studied a broad and eclectic mix of subjects; there is no one ideal subject combination, however successful applicants tend to demonstrate post-16 strength in the social science areas. As with all degree programmes at LSE, at least two traditional academic subjects are preferred. A high level of literacy is expected and this can be demonstrated by your choice of post-16 subjects. Applicants for the Social Policy and Economics combined degree programme must have studied, or be studying, Mathematics as one of your A level (or equivalent) subjects. 

For Social Policy, selectors are looking for an original and interesting statement which demonstrates your awareness of and interest in contemporary social problems and their alleviation. We are interested in your views and opinions. You should mention whether there are any aspects of particular interest to you, how it relates to your current academic programme and what additional reading or similar experiences you have had which have led you to apply. You may also like to include information on your extra-curricular activities and any relevant work experience or volunteering. 

For the three combined Social Policy degrees your personal statement should demonstrate a genuine interest in both aspects. 

Personal characteristics and skills that will be useful to students in their study of Social Policy (as a single or combined programme) include the abilities to ask incisive questions; think independently; read widely; show initiative; be creative and adopt a flexible approach. In addition you should possess intellectual curiosity and have the motivation and capacity for hard work.

Please visit for further information on admissions criteria.

Teaching and assessment

You will have weekly lectures and classes for each course component amounting to a minimum of eight contact hours per week, as well as LSE100 teaching. Classes are in smaller groups where you will discuss issues related to lectures. Preparing for classes is a very important part of your work. You will have an academic adviser who is responsible for guiding and assisting your learning and is there to help with any personal difficulties.

Apart from the long essay, each course has an examination at the end of the year. Additionally, some courses include an assessed coursework component. We monitor your attendance and contribution to classes, and keep a record of progress which you discuss with your academic adviser each term. You will also receive feedback in the form of written comments on the essays that you write.

Preliminary reading

If you wish to gain further insight into the subject we suggest that you look at one or more of the following books:

  • P Alcock, M May and S Wright The Student's Companion to Social Policy (4th edition, Oxford: Blackwell, 2012)
  • J Baldock, N Manning, S Vickerstaff and L Mitton Social Policy (4th edition, Oxford University Press, 2011)
  • H Dean Social Policy (2nd edition, Polity, 2012)
  • H Glennerster British Social Policy since 1945 (3rd edition, Blackwell, 2007)
  • T Newburn Criminology (Willan Publishing, 2007)
  • N Timmins The Five Giants (Revised and updated edition, Harper Collins, 2001)

Graduate destinations

The skills you will develop by studying social policy are attractive to a range of employers, though they do not prepare you for a specific career. Many students go on to take our higher level MSc programmes including Social Policy and Planning, Health Policy, Social Policy and Development and Criminal Justice Policy. Others have entered professional fields such as law, accountancy and personnel management or gone into the civil service, local government, health policy and planning, education, the voluntary sector as well as the international community, journalism, politics and pressure group activities.