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Course content

This innovative programme offers students the opportunity to examine processes of governance and policy-making at a variety of levels, from global to local, and utilise ideas about governance to better understand contemporary policy processes in a range of settings. Students can explore these issues in a cross-disciplinary way, making use of insights from politics, international relations, social policy, sociology, demography, gerontology and social statistics. This programme is specifically structured to enable students to shape their degree around their own particular interests in the fields of governance and policy more broadly, and will appeal to those not only from a social science background, but also to those with relevant work experience in the public, private and third sectors and beyond who wish to expand their skills and knowledge portfolio.

Introducing your course

Are you interested in understanding modern governance and how policymaking processes actually work and deliver public services? The MSc Governance and Policy degree at the University of Southampton enables you to study these issues, to explore the complexities of governance systems, and to apply your own particular policy interests to your programme through a broad selection of optional modules exploring a diverse range of contemporary policy issues.

Graduates are well placed for careers in local, national and international political institutions, policy think tanks and advocacy organizations, the civil service, and further research.


This programme is designed both to equip students to undertake independent research across the social sciences, with specific reference to the fields of governance and policy, and to develop skills that are of relevance to a broad range of careers in the public and private sector. The cross-disciplinary nature of the programme enables students to build their own degree according to their own particular interests and preferences within the broad areas of governance and policy, drawing on the diverse range of relevant modules taught across the disciplines of politics and international relations, sociology, social policy, social statistics, demography and gerontology. The core module of the programme, Governance and Policy, also enables students to develop their policy skills by preparing a policy briefing as part of their assessment, a task designed to enable students to use the knowledge and conceptual insights gained to outline ways to solve ‘real world’ policy problems, thus delivering key skills prized by employers.

  • The aims of the programme are to provide you with:Knowledge and understanding of contemporary theoretical, conceptual and empirical debates in the study of governance and policy
  • Knowledge and understanding of philosophical and methodological debates in the study of social sciences
  • The skills necessary to design and complete a dissertation on a specialist topic in the field of governance and policy
  • All of our MSc programmes endeavour to develop your subject-specific knowledge and understanding, and provide opportunities for you to shape your own degree trajectory through optional module selection. In addition, all our MSc programmes aim to help you gain:
  • Awareness of the changing nature of the contemporary political world, and the complex challenges presented by phenomena such as globalisation
  • Awareness of the basic theoretical concepts common to advanced study in politics and international relations
  • Key research skills, such as the ability to search for and reference sources, and to manage complex empirical or theoretical information
  • The capacity for critical thinking and independent study
  • The ability to work in groups
  • Presentation skills

In addition to the credit-bearing modules you will take as part of your chosen programme, all MSc students participate in our bespoke training workshops, led by the MSc Coordinator, and specifically designed to help you get the best grades you can on during your masters study with us:

MSc Coursework Workshop (Semester 1)

This workshop explains the expectations and demands of coursework in our masters programmes, delineates the critical thinking, research and writing skills required, outlines the processes associated with literature reviews and coursework planning, and the rules about academic integrity. The workshop is designed to give practical support to students as they approach their coursework tasks, help UK/EU students understand the specific expectations we have at masters level, and help overseas students unfamiliar with higher education in this country get a better sense of what is expected.

MSc Dissertation Workshop (Semester 2)

This workshop helps students begin the process of thinking about and planning for their MSc dissertation. It provides guidance on topic selection, generation of research questions, aims of the literature review, the role of primary research, dissertation structure, writing advice, and the role of the supervisor. The workshop also offers practical advice from academics about how to produce an original piece of work, the role of depth over breadth, and how to craft convincing arguments.

View the programme specification document for this course

Visit the Governance and Policy - MSc/PgDip page on the University of Southampton website for more details!




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