International Social Policy - MA
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The programme takes a critical approach to the study of International Social Policy to provide an advanced understanding of current debates, theories and concepts in a vibrant area of study and research. Drawing on world leading research expertise, you learn to analyse how national and global forces interact to shape the trajectories of welfare system development.
The programme involves critical discussions of how welfare states meet human needs and delve into the enormous challenges posed by social changes. You explore key fields of policy including health, migration, social care and labour market related policy. Methodological training is central to the programme, covering critical thinking and applied qualitative and quantitative technical skills.
Reasons to study an International Social Policy degree at Kent
- Social Policy at Kent was ranked 2nd in The Times Good University Guide 2022
- Core modules provide inter-disciplinary insights into fundamental aspects of comparative and international social policy research, and in-depth training in appropriate methodologies
- Optional (elective) modules focus in detail on specialised topics relating to social policy and allied fields of study
- A diverse and international community allowing for the development of genuinely global and comparative perspectives
- Social Work and Social Policy was ranked 3rd in the UK for Research in the Times Higher Education following the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021
- Academic Adviser and in-house student support team available
- Thriving cosmopolitan student community in and around the city of Canterbury
- First-class facilities at our Canterbury campus, close to London
- Graduate at the historic Canterbury Cathedral
About the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR)
SSPSSR has a long and distinguished history, and is one of the largest and most successful social science research communities in Europe.
Academic staff specialise in research of international, comparative and theoretical significance, and we have collective strengths in the following areas: civil society, NGOs and the third sector; cross-national and European social policy; health, social care and health studies; work, employment and economic life; risk, ‘risk society’ and risk management; race, ethnicity and religion; social and public policy; sociology and the body; crime, culture and control; sociological theory and the culture of modernity.
A first or second class honours degree or higher university degree in a social science or related discipline.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.
English language entry requirements
The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Need help with English?
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
In the news
Duration: One year full-time, two years part-time
We place considerable emphasis on structured, interactive seminars with a high degree of student participation. You also join the staff/graduate seminars which allow MA and research students to become involved in a professional research culture.
The programme gives you a clear and confident grasp of social policy in developed and developing countries. You gain an advanced understanding of the relevant debates, theories and concepts of international issues alongside skills in research design and data collection.
The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year. Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules.
You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.
This course provides students with the understanding and skills necessary to use research, whether within a research career or outside of it. Building on other training in the details of specific methods, it focuses on two sets of broader questions. Firstly, it critically analysis central concepts such as truth, power, ethics and uncertainty in social research. When addressing these issues, the module engages with how they are dealt with and approached in qualitative and quantitative research. In the module students will engage actively with these issues and critically reflect upon their own views and how they apply them in their own research projects. We particularly discuss the difficulties of causal inference and generalisation, coming to conclusions from research reviews, and philosophical issues around 'truth' and values. Secondly, it looks at the link between research and action. In doing this, it goes from the very practical (how to ensure that your research is used by policymakers and/or practitioners, and to deal with the political pressures on researchers) to the conceptual (in what ways does evidence get used by wider society?) to the normative (should researchers be ‘critical’, and if so, what are their ethical obligations in doing this?).
This course introduces students to the logic and methods of social research. The course aims to familiarize students to central topics in research design, the methodological choices necessary to address in designing social research and the ethics of social research. The module introduces students to both positivist and critical/interpretive approaches and the debates behind their selection for conducting research. Students will be versed in the scientific approaches to social research, including both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The module aims to provide students a robust understanding of social research methods and the decisions needed to write up a research proposal.
This module provides practical example of the theories, logics and methods that underpin criminological research. As such, students will learn about the principles involved in designing, carrying out and interpreting research. The module focuses on the relationship between empirical data (what is observed/measured in the 'real world') and the development of theory (academic thought). Students are encouraged to learn how to ask appropriate criminological questions and to design studies which draw on the most appropriate methods to answer them. These methods include both primary empirical work (quantitative and qualitative) and secondary work (e.g. dataset analysis, literature analysis). The module thus is also concerned with how data can be interpreted and analysed. Beyond equipping students with intellectual and practical skills in the field of criminological research, the module fosters a capacity to critically evaluate research in general.
This course focuses on key challenges for International Social Policy through systematically differentiating and analysing key fields and issues. In this way, the student is provided with a systematic overview of some of the main spheres in which international and national social policy agendas co evolve. Individual social policy fields include extended working life and retirement; health; social security, migration policy and social care; with related issue areas including social exclusion and urban policies. While many policy domains are under pressure to change in the context of common socio-economic and processes – including population ageing, globalisation, and international migration -the response to these pressures will vary depending on a number of internal and external socio-economic and political factors, whose configuration will vary markedly by country and policy field.
The module will serve to provide students with an overview of the scope and expectations of a dissertation at MA-level. We discuss the ethical challenges of doing empirical research in the 21st century, and prepare students for carrying out an independent piece of research within a given timeframe. If the dissertation requires ethical research approval, an application will be submitted to the School research ethics committee.
The module is organised around the general theme of a discussion of current debates in the sociology of health, illness and medicine drawing on both theoretical and empirical research. More specific themes will include: the social construction of health and the changing boundaries between health and illness; medicalisation and the discovering of new mental and physical illnesses ; narratives of illness and identity in the context of chronic illness and disability assessing the value of concepts such as 'biographical disruption': the changing structure, nature and regulation of medicine and the explanatory power of the new sociology of professionalism.; the political sociology of medicine which explores the relationship between the state and organised interests such as the pharmaceutical industry; changing approaches of the public /patients to maintaining health and managing illness in the context of a culture of consumption where health and lifestyle might be seen as commodities and maintaining a healthy body keeps control over an uncertain and changing world ; trust, risk and mental health ; consideration of the growth in the use of non-orthodox health care and the development of medical pluralism and a discussion of the relationship between structure and agency in the context of social inequalities in health.
This module focuses on the theory and practice of qualitative research. It explores the various aspects of using and collecting qualitative data. The aim of the module is to illustrate a range of practical techniques while considering related problems of evidence and inference in qualitative analyses.
Students will be versed in a range of techniques and will have the opportunity to practice some of them, this includes
• the theory and practice of interviewing and different varieties of interview;
• focus groups;
• oral history;
• case study methods;
• ethnographic theory and method;
• action research;
• critical discourse analysis;
• narrative analysis;
• visual methods.
The module will provide an introduction to the use of Statistical Analysis within the Research Process. It will begin by introducing and discussing different types of measurement and the practical use of SPSS. After discussing basic data description and transformation the focus will shift to Exploratory Data Analysis and the need to examine the data carefully. Approaches to summarising data and distributions will then be examined. This will then be followed by methods to test research hypotheses through bi-variate and multivariate regression methods, including more advanced techniques such as logistic regression, and interaction terms. The final part of the module will look at various issues surrounding the practical quantitative data analysis, such as how to find appropriate data and about presenting research outcomes.
The module is designed so that, as well as covering a core of central concepts and theories, students will have the opportunity from selecting from among a range of optional topics. The core topics which are covered every year include:-
- Introduction: questions of definition – protest, collective action, social movements, social movement organisations. NGOs, pressure groups
- Collective behaviour or political action? The question of rationality; mass society theory; relative deprivation
- Resource mobilisation theory and its critics
- Political opportunity structures
- Ideas, values and knowledge in the making of social movements
- Mass media and social movements: framing and its consequences
- New communications media and social movements
This module explores the economic, social, political and moral aspects of neoliberalisation in low- and middle-income countries. Notions of power, the state, capital, class, agency and morality are central to considerations of economic and political change. Several key topics, including gendered politics, state corruption, international aid and donation, global finance, informal settlements and migration, will be discussed. The module is interdisciplinary, giving students the opportunity to engage with key ideas and studies from sociology and political science to development studies and ethics. Each week students will explore a broad range of literature, spanning from political sociology to moral economy, so that students gain a deeper appreciation of people' politics and values in emerging and newly liberal societies.
This module explores some key issues, debates and controversies in the cross-disciplinary study of terrorism and political violence. Since 9/11, terrorism and jihadist violence in particular has become one of the most contentious and politically charged issues of our time. Yet it remains poorly understood, in part because of the contention and consequent polarization surrounding it, but also because of the methodological challenges in researching the individuals and group involved in terrorist activity. One of the core aims of the module is to bring into focus the central points of contention in debates over the meaning, nature and causes of terrorism in contemporary western societies, and to help shed a light on the challenges - methodological, practical and ethical - of researching an issue saturated in danger, secrecy and stigma. What is terrorism and how should it best be defined? Why does the term "terrorism" carry such a potent stigma? What are the master cultural and intellectual narratives for thinking about terrorism and terrorists? Does it make sense to talk of "the terrorist" as a category of person, and what are the problems inherent in efforts to "profile" those who engage in terrorism? What do terrorists and terrorist groups want? Is terrorism rational? What is suicide bombing and what explains it? How do terrorist rhetorically frame the use of violence against civilians? What is ISIS and is it Islamic? What is radicalization and how should it be conceptualized? Can terrorism ever be morally justified? The purpose of this module is to provoke a framework for thinking about these and other crucial questions about terrorism and political violence.
In the late modern period we are presented with an extraordinary wealth of criminological theory. Past and present paradigms proliferate and prosper. This course examines these theories, placing them in the context of the massive social transformations that have taken place in the last thirty years. It is not concerned so much with abstract theory as criminological ideas, which arise in particular contexts. It aims, therefore, to situate theories in contemporary debates and controversies and allows students to fully utilize theoretical insights in their criminological work. In particular we will introduce the current debates surrounding cultural criminology, the debate over quantitative methods and the emergence of a critical criminology
This module examines the way work shapes society and in turn how society shapes work. Drawing on the fields of sociology, cultural sociology, social policy as well as other disciplines this module explores work in a variety of competing and complementing ways and in doing so offers students a chance to appreciate different themes, issues, methodologies and approaches. These include work identity and meaning; age, generation and class; visual methods and approaches; the cultures of work; work/life balance and the end of work.
The module will explore the following indicative topics:
• Sociological analysis of the term 'parenting'
• The social history of debates about 'the family' and the sociology of privacy
• The changing meaning of childhood, motherhood and fatherhood
• The meaning of the term ‘intensive parenthood’ and its relation to expertise and risk culture
• The sociology of identity, as applied in studies of the experience of parenting
• The relationship of policies linking family life to broader social policy
• Critiques of state intervention in family life and of particular contemporary parenting policies
The aims of this module are two-fold:
First, to provide students with the opportunity to independently carry out an in-depth inquiry to investigate a research question(s) of their choice, producing a coherent review of the relevant literature, a logical discussion and a clearly communicated set of conclusions in the form of a dissertation. Second, to provide students with an assessed opportunity to apply their skills as 'research-minded' practitioners with a view to being able to undertake future research in practice settings and/or take a lead role in supervising others in such work.
During the spring term, the students will finalise their dissertation proposal with their chosen supervisor (having received prior guidance on the aims, the structure and the process of the dissertation). If the dissertation requires ethical research approval, an application will be submitted to the School research ethics committee by the beginning of the summer term. During the summer term and vacation, students will meet their supervisor regularly to discuss the progress of their dissertation. The supervisors will provide feedback on written work and will set work plans and targets for the students. The dissertation topic will relate to a key question, issue and problem within social science.
Teaching and assessment
Modules combine various forms of coursework; a research dissertation also acts as a modular component of the course in its own right.
This programme aims to:
- provide you with an advanced understanding of current debates, theories and concepts relevant to international social policy
- impart country-specific as well as cross-national empirical and theoretical knowledge of current challenges and processes of transformation of welfare systems
- enable you to apply theories and methods of social policy in exploring specific policy fields such as health, migration, pensions, education, social care, poverty and social exclusion, urban development, and family policy
- develop your skills in research design and data collection in areas pertaining to social policy
- familiarise you with using primary and secondary data to develop cutting-edge research in the field of international social policy.
Knowledge and understanding
You will gain knowledge and understanding of:
- comparative approaches to social policy
- research design and methodologies for studies of social policy
- theories and ideologies of welfare provision in a global world
- the impact of post-industrialisation and globalisation to the study and understanding of social policy
- an understanding of social policy developments in Europe and across the world
- implications and challenges of social policy programmes for gender, class, age, ethnicity and race
- an understanding of the relationship of international actors to national social policy systems
- the use of qualitative and quantitative research methods and their critical application in the scholarly literature and in policy papers.
You develop intellectual skills in:
- the ability to develop reasoned arguments, synthesise relevant information and exercise critical judgement
- the ability to use theoretical concepts and frameworks to gain a sophisticated understanding of the challenges and dilemmas of international social policy
- the ability to reflect on and manage your own learning and seek to make use of constructive feedback from your peers and staff to enhance your performance and personal skills
- general research skills: how to gather data from secondary sources, especially large international data sets and web-based resources
- seminar presentations and discussions will encourage you to present information verbally.
You gain subject-specific skills in:
- the ability to identify and understand key issues in theory and research on international social policy from a multidisciplinary perspective.
- the ability to identify current debates and challenges for specific policy fields using a comparative framework
- the ability to research and access the main sources of information relevant to international social policy
- the ability to understand the logic behind applied research, from research design to data collection and data analysis
- the ability to present results in a meaningful way to international academic forums, as well as to more varied audiences.
You will gain the following transferable skills:
- the ability to undertake research from a diverse range of sources, including data compiled by international and national policymakers, transnational agencies and governmental data, as well as existing survey and interview data
- the ability to summarise detailed and complex bodies of information concisely and accurately
- the ability to formulate arguments in verbal presentations, using social science language and terminology, and defend these against opposing views
- the ability to present information and arguments in written form, in accordance with academic conventions, and appropriately to the intended readership
- the ability to evaluate personal performance.
The 2023/24 annual tuition fees for this course are:
- Home full-time £9500
- EU full-time £13500
- International full-time £18000
- Home part-time £4750
- EU part-time £6750
- International part-time £9000
For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.
For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your fee status
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General additional costs
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Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at the following postgraduate-specific pages as well as any featured scholarships:
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In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, 100% of our Social Work and Social Policy research was classified as ‘world-leading’ or 'internationally excellent' for impact and environment.
Following the REF 2021, Social Work and Social Policy at Kent was ranked 3rd in the UK in the Times Higher Education.
Academic staff at Kent share a number of interests, grouped here for your guidance. However, there is often a degree of overlap between groups and your research project does not have to fall neatly within any one of them. The School also has several research centres that bring together experts in the field, co-ordinate research, organise talks and offer opportunities for postgraduate students to get involved in discussions and research projects.
The Civil Society
Staff in this research cluster seek to: understand the social forces and cultural interests that move people to take moral responsibility for responding to/caring for the needs of others; document and explain the institutional organisation of charitable behaviour and its social impacts; the socio-cultural dynamics of philanthropic behaviour and its effects on society. They also perform research into contemporary humanitarianism and its powers of influence over social policy and political process; and the character of the social ties and cultural values that structure the interrelationships between humanitarian action, charitable endeavour and philanthropic intervention; as well as the bearing of government policies and governmental processes upon the charitable sector and philanthropic activity.
Cross-National and European Social Policy
Using the framework of studying different welfare regimes, academic staff research a wide range of topics, while postgraduate students conduct research projects in every part of the world. Many of these projects involve overseas students making comparative studies involving their own country and European or UK services. The work of academic staff has resulted in a wide range of policy research related to Europe. Recent cross-national work has included projects examining home care services for older people, formal and informal social care systems, institutional change and the future of welfare reform, industrial relations, housing and community activism. Other interests include globalisation and welfare, and subsidiarity and convergence. Current or recent thesis topics include: democratisation and social policy in Korea; youth homelessness in Greece and the UK.
Health and Social Care
Present studies cover a range of issues within the fields of health services, social work and health policy. Particular interests include health care organisation and policy; risk assessment and management; primary care; public and user views of health care; health inequalities; occupational therapy; care work in health and social care; adoption; foster care; adult attachment theory; mental health; child protection; body work; psychoanalysis; race, ethnicity and health. Current or recent thesis topics include: women’s health in Uzbekistan; improving men’s health: the role of healthy living centres; women, the body and madness.
Migration and Ethnicity
Though socially and discursively constructed, ‘race’ continues to be a key basis of social division and identification in British society, across Europe, and globally. Not only do many disparate ethnic minority groups continue to identify along ethnic, racial and religious lines, but ethnicity and race continue to shape a variety of outcomes, such as employment, educational attainment and senses of ‘belonging’. In this sense, ‘race’ and the recognition of difference continues to matter and is a key element in the School’s research interests.
Risk and Uncertainty
The critical analysis of risk and perceptions of risk have become central issues in the sociology of the ‘risk society’ and this is an important focus of activity in the School. Staff research includes work on health risks and their management, the implications of attitudes and behaviour concerning risk for the welfare state, the development of a culture of risk and anxiety, moral panics, risk and crime, risk and the life course, suffering, and the perceptions of new communications technology.
Work and Economic Life
Interest in the issues surrounding work stretches across SSPSSR and current projects focus on work identity and meaning; work/life balance; age, generation and employment; visual representation of work; deindustrialisation; organisational sociology; gender, ethnicity and class at work; historiography of work sociology; moral economy; workplace ethnography and oral histories.
The School also has several research centres that bring together experts in the field, co-ordinate research, organise talks and offer opportunities for postgraduate students to get involved in discussions and research projects.
Centre for Child Protection
The Centre for Child Protection is part of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) and is the first centre of its kind in Europe. Combining research with distance learning programmes and a range of innovative serious training games, the Centre for Child Protection is leading the way in building knowledge and training opportunities for professionals working in this area.
We aim to:
- develop innovative techniques for professional training and support
- translate and apply the latest research and knowledge to inform best practice
- create diverse and flexible learning programmes
- address gaps in post-qualification training provision and opportunities
- facilitate safe and realistic environments in which child protection professionals can develop and enhance their skills and professional practice.
The Centre is led and informed by a team of experts in the field of child protection. With many years of experience in both research and practice, we are committed to improving the provision of continued professional development to enhance the skills of those involved in child protection.
Centre for Health Services Studies (CHSS)
The Centre for Health Services Studies has a strong record in attracting research grants from the National Institute for Health Research, European Union Framework Programme, ESRC, Department of Health, as well as local health authorities and trusts. It is a designated NIHR Research Design Support Service. Particular areas of expertise include pragmatic trials, risk assessment and management, care of vulnerable adults including older people, and public health.
Centre for Philanthropy
Dedicated to an understanding of the social processes and cultural experiences by which people acquire moral dispositions to care for others, the Centre for Philanthropy offers a focal point for much of this work. Research is conducted into the ways in which our capacity for feelings are socially cultivated, corporately structured, politically mediated and economically expressed. The School is also linked to the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC), collaborating with the University of Birmingham on third sector theory and policy analysis.
Centre for Social and Political Movements
The Centre was established in 1992 in order to consolidate Kent’s leading position in the study in Britain of social and political movements. The Centre is actively involved in international networks of social movement researchers through its participation in the Erasmus network on ‘Social movements, conflict and political action’ and through its members’ activity in the relevant research committees of the International Sociological Association, the European Sociological Association, and the European Consortium for Political Research.
Centre for Social Science and Risk
The Centre conducts research into the concept of risk and uncertainty: how and why risk is manifested and how it is experienced in today’s society. Staff take an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing upon sociology, law, social psychology, and history. The Centre’s research seeks to understand causal issues from the perspectives of both individuals and organisations while considering the wider political and social context.
Personal Social Services Research Unit
The PSSRU is the largest social services research unit in the UK, and operates at three sites: the University of Kent, the London School of Economics and the University of Manchester. Facilities include the Griffiths Library of Community Care, a reference library of more than 10,000 books, journals and other literature linked to the Unit’s field of study. Research focuses on needs, resources and outcomes in health and social care: major concerns are resourcing, equity and efficiency from the perspective of users, agencies and others. The Unit has developed a distinctive analytical framework called the ‘production of welfare approach’ to illuminate this research.
The University of Kent is one of 15 universities in the UK to have a Q-Step Centre, significantly funded by HEFCE, the Nuffield Foundation and ESRC, to provide students with advanced training in quantitative methods in social sciences.
The Centre is based in SSPSSR and incorporates teaching from Politics and International Relations, Law, Business and Liberal Arts. At its heart is the delivery of quantitative skills training in a subject context, a community-based project and professional placements. Quantitative Methods (QM) training, which greatly enhances employability and provides a deeper and more secure grasp of the quantitative skills needed to evaluate evidence and analyse data within a discipline, is delivered in a practical and engaging manner.
The Tizard Centre is part of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) and has excellent links with health and social care organisations, and other relevant establishments. The Centre is at the forefront of learning and research in autism, intellectual disability and community care, and in 2013 received a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of its outstanding work in these areas.
Our primary aims, through research, teaching and consultancy, are:
- to find out more about how to effectively support and work with people with learning disabilities
- to help carers, managers and professionals develop the values, knowledge and skills that enable better services
- to aid policymakers, planners, managers and practitioners to organise and provide enhanced services.
The Tizard Centre is recognised as leading the field in deinstitutionalisation and community living, challenging behaviour, quality of staff support, sexuality and autism, and has had a significant impact on national policies in these areas. We are committed to addressing issues arising from social inequality.
Staff research interests
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Building on Kent’s success as the region’s leading institution for student employability, we place considerable emphasis on you gaining specialist knowledge in your chosen subject alongside core transferable skills.
We ensure that you develop the skills and competences that employers are looking for including: research and analysis; policy development and interpretation; independent thought; writing and presentation, as well as time management and leadership skills.
You also become fully involved in the professional research culture of the School. A postgraduate degree in the area of social and public policy is a particularly flexible and valuable qualification that can lead to many exciting opportunities and professions.
SSPSSR consistently ranks highly for student satisfaction and teaching quality, ranking 2nd in the UK for our Social Policy students' graduate prospects (The Complete University Guide 2017).
Recent graduates have pursued careers in academia, journalism, local and central government, charities and NGOs in roles which utilise their wide range of skills and are often found in managerial positions.
The atmosphere in the School is informal and friendly and has at its centre a lively and diverse postgraduate community. The weekly staff/postgraduate seminar series is designed to introduce you to the work of major scholars from the UK and abroad, and there is also a wide range of other seminar and workshop series each academic year.
Our postgraduate students have access to dedicated office space within the department and are able to take advantage of excellent library and computing facilities. Where appropriate, research students are encouraged to expand their experience by teaching part-time in the School.
Dynamic publishing culture
Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Journal of Social Policy; Journal of European Social Policy; Voluntas; Social Policy and Administration; and Social Policy and Society.
Global Skills Award
All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.
Learn more about the application process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.
You will be able to choose your preferred year of entry once you have started your application. You can also save and return to your application at any time.
Apply for entry to:
United Kingdom/EU enquiries
MA at Canterbury
T: +44 (0)1227 768896
International student enquiries
T: +44 (0)1227 823254