Social Policy - MA, PhD
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We offer research supervision across a broad range of social policy topics and themes. The study of welfare arrangements is a fundamental part of what we do.
Welfare states, and other institutions seeking to meet human need, everywhere face enormous challenges from population ageing, changes in family life and work-patterns, migration and the economic crisis. In a globalised and interdependent world, these issues can only be understood from an international perspective which accounts for these common pressures and processes, but which also recognises and engages with the diversity of national traditions and institutions for delivering welfare.
We are especially interested in postgraduate research proposals to investigate these challenges and issues, please refer to individual staff members’ web pages to identify your chosen specialism.
About the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR)
Our School has a long and distinguished history and is one of the largest and most successful social science research communities in Europe. 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
The School supports a large and thriving postgraduate community and in 2010 distributed in excess of £100,000 in Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) quota awards, and in University and SSPSSR bursaries and scholarships to new students.
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 good honours degree in the social sciences, an interest in the chosen topic area and a clear idea of your proposed thesis topic. In the case of research in health services and personal social services, we will also consider candidates with professional qualifications alone and/or relevant experience in the health service.
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
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
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: MA 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
PhD 3 years full-time, 5 years part-time
The 2023/24 annual tuition fees for this course are:
Social Policy - MA at Canterbury
- Home full-time £4712
- EU full-time £18000
- International full-time £18000
- Home part-time £2356
- EU part-time £9000
- International part-time £9000
Social Policy - PhD at Canterbury
- Home full-time £4712
- EU full-time £18000
- International full-time £18000
- Home part-time £2356
- EU part-time £9000
- 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
The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.
General additional costs
Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.
Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both:
- University and external funds
- Scholarships specific to the academic school delivering this programme.
We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.Search scholarships
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.
At Kent, research in this area includes the role of global civil society, critical analysis of terrorism and responses to it, globalisation and everyday life, migration, the role of communication technologies, and the global expansion of capitalism and responses to it in social movements.
The Individual and the Social
Within this area, staff have worked on the ‘culture of anxiety’ and the ‘therapy culture’, the impact on individual lives and experiences of masculinity, gender, race and ethnicity, parenthood and nationality. Other interests include the social context in which attributions of mental illness are made and managed, the meaning and construction of pain in late modernity, and the sociology of crime and deviance.
Risk and Society
The critical analysis of risk and perceptions of risk have become central issues in the sociology of the ‘risk society’ and this is a major focus of research 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.
Race, Ethnicity and Migration
The School has strong expertise in the area of race and ethnicity, and in the area of migration. Our work includes projects on mixed race, immigrant communities and refugees.
Research at Kent has also addressed diasporas, undocumented migrants and the links between marriage and migration.
The Analysis of Social Movements
Social and political changes have stimulated new forms of political participation and mobilisation, including waves of protest, new social movement organisations focused on old as well as new issues, new political parties and global social movements. Staff interests include environmental movements, humanitarian NGOs, elite networks, and the ‘postmodern’ politics of anti-communist movements in Eastern Europe.
Philanthropy, Humanitarianism and Social Justice
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; contemporary humanitarianism and its powers of influence over social policy and political process; and to understand 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.
Sociology of the Body
In this research cluster, staff seek to understand the complex relationships between embodied subjects, and the social and cultural forms, relationships, institutions and structures that shape and are shaped by these actors. This includes research on clothing and fashion, the embodiment of age, and the body in health and social care. Thesis topics within this cluster have included female binge drinking, female body builders, tattooing and piercing, and the embodied sociology of private spaces.
Crime, Control and Culture
Members of the crime, control and culture research cluster are primarily involved in projects and research-centred activities connected with cultural criminology, for example in the areas of subcultures, drug use and intoxication, the night-time economy, the surveillance society, the photographic representation of crime, young people and crime, and the carnival of crime. In addition, work of a more traditional nature is also being undertaken, for example in the fields of international drug policy, the history of crime and punishment, and violence.
Sociological Theory and the Culture of Modernity
Staff working in this cluster study issues such as classical social theory, the impact on social theory of the fall of communism, and the theoretical implications of the changing boundaries of social life. This has further entailed work on the integrity of auto/biography as a form of social information and its impact on diverse disciplines of feminist perspectives.
Research at Kent addresses how gender is constructed and how it operates in a variety of social realms. Some of our recent projects have focused on gender in prisons, on women working as door staff in nightclubs and on how women are addressed in advice on pregnancy. Our research on social policy also includes a focus on gender, examining how men, women and families are affected by legislation and service provision.
Staff share a research interest in the social role of the media, how media are used and how they are changing. Research at Kent has included work on the role of the media in constructing social problems and moral panics, media and crime, new media, media and subcultures, and the role of media in representing space and identity.
Staff share an interest in the visual dimension of social life. How is life seen, how are images created, stored and used? In various research projects, we also explore the use of images in innovative forms of research design and in sharing our findings.
Work, Employment and Economic Life
This research cluster represents a long-standing interest within SSPSSR at Kent. Currently, ten members of the School are researching and teaching in this broad field, representing staff in sociology, social policy, criminology and cultural studies. Themes studied include: age, generation and employment; deindustrialisation; gender, ethnicity and class at work; historiography of work sociology; moral economy; organisational sociology; policy effects on formal and informal labour; visual representation of work; work identity and meaning; work/life balance; workplace ethnography and oral histories.
Cross-national and European Social Policy
Cross-national study, both among staff and postgraduate students, is widespread throughout the School and relevant to all research clusters. However, some of our research also takes cross-national comparison as its major focus. This includes analysing policy formation and its impact on individuals, families and social groups within different states and within a global context.
Using the framework of 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 comparing their own country and European or UK services. 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, gender and family, globalisation, housing, and community activism.
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 the Study of 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.
Kent Crime and Justice Centre (KCJC)
KCJC is a collaboration of senior researchers at the University of Kent, based in the School, the Personal Social Services Research Unit and Kent Law School. It works in partnership with Kent Youth Offending Service and other criminal justice and non-governmental organisations. The core members have a multidisciplinary background, which includes sociology, economics, law and statistics, and expertise in sophisticated quantitative techniques, economic modelling and qualitative methods.
Centre for Child Protection
The team at the Centre for Child Protection is leading the way in developing new and innovative ways to deliver training and opportunities for simulated role play for professional development. The serious game concept offers a safe medium to explore and reflect upon child protection assessment. It offers professionals, at all stages of their careers, a unique way to evaluate real-life situations.
The first in the series of games, Rosie 2 promotes the theme of inter-professional practice by exploring the boundaries and challenges of a joint visit to the
family by a health visitor and social worker. Rosie 2 was followed by Visiting Elliot which explores a visit to a sex offender in the community. Zak, the third game in the series, focuses on an aspect of internet grooming.
The Centre for Child Protection’s series of serious game simulations provide research-based case studies and the opportunities to explore the complex dynamics involved in making professional assessments and decisions in these contexts.
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 Tizard Centre runs an annual seminar series where staff or guest lecturers present the results of research or highlight recent developments in the field of social care. The Jim Mansell Memorial Lecture invites public figures or distinguished academics to discuss topics that could interest a wider audience. The Centre also publishes the Tizard Learning Disability Review (in conjunction with Emerald Publishing) to provide a source of up-to-date information for professionals and carers.
The Tizard Centre provides consultancy to organisations in the statutory and independent sectors, both nationally and internationally, in diversified areas such as service assessment, person-centred approaches, active support and adult protection. The Centre also teaches a range of short courses, often in conjunction with other organisations.
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.
Staff research interests
Kent’s world-class academics provide research students with excellent supervision. The academic staff in this school and their research interests are shown below. You are strongly encouraged to contact the school to discuss your proposed research and potential supervision prior to making an application. Please note, it is possible for students to be supervised by a member of academic staff from any of Kent’s schools, providing their expertise matches your research interests. Use our ‘find a supervisor’ search to search by staff member or keyword.
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. Recent graduates have pursued careers in academia, journalism, local and central government, charities and NGOs.
Research programmes involve writing a thesis on a particular topic with specialist supervision. You are given research training, which is tailored to the particular needs of your research and takes into account any training you have previously received. You also have opportunities to attend modules on relevant subjects on a non-assessed basis to fill any gaps in your background.
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.
Researcher Development Programme
Kent's Graduate School co-ordinates the Researcher Development Programme for research students, which includes workshops focused on research, specialist and transferable skills. The programme is mapped to the national Researcher Development Framework and covers a diverse range of topics, including subject-specific research skills, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking and teamworking, and career management skills.
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
PhD at Canterbury
T: +44 (0)1227 768896
International student enquiries
T: +44 (0)1227 823254