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Government, Policy and Politics (MSc)

Course Description

This Master's degree in politics examines the day-to-day practice and reality of government by analysing post-War politics and public policy in the United Kingdom and around the world. You will develop your ability to analyse political debates and issues in a critical manner and you will be taught by academics with expertise in researching, writing about and participating in politics. The course combines theoretical approaches with empirical knowledge and real-world case studies and you will explore topics in political theory, political science and sociology. You will be given the opportunity to debate and engage with the everyday practicalities of politics through class discussions and meetings with experienced practitioners.

The core modules explore the history, politics and institutions of global governance as a response to the challenges of globalisation and introduce you to the key issues and policy debates in international political economy. You will be equipped with the conceptual ideas, theoretical approaches and analytical research skills needed to study politics at postgraduate level.

You can then choose 2 option modules from a wide variety of topics including international security, American foreign policy, globalisation, political theory and sociology, nationalism and religion, and war and conflict. You will also learn research techniques that will enable you to specialise and undertake the researching and writing of a dissertation on the subject that interests you most.

Our Department of Politics is a lively and distinguished centre of interdisciplinary research, with a strong reputation for the quality of our teaching. Some of the world’s most famous libraries are on our doorstep in Bloomsbury, central London, and you can walk down to Whitehall, where Parliament and the UK’s most influential and important think-tanks and centres of political research and analysis are located.

Our departmental building was once a key location for members of the Bloomsbury Group, so you could be studying in rooms that have hosted distinguished visitors, including T. S. Eliot, George Bernard Shaw and Maynard Keynes.

Why study this course at Birkbeck?

This Master's degree provides an intellectually stimulating guide to politics, policy-making and the processes of government in the contemporary United Kingdom and around the world.
The programme allows you to follow your own interests, with a wide choice of option modules, while developing your research skills and undertaking a dissertation in an area that interests you.
Our location in central London puts us at the heart of the UK’s political life and at the centre of academic London. You can walk down to Parliament and Whitehall, while Bloomsbury contains some of the world’s most famous libraries and centres of research.
You can take advantage of the rich research collections nearby, including Senate House Library, which is right next door to Birkbeck, the British Library, which is 5 minutes’ walk away, and the British Library of Political and Economic Science at the London School of Economics, which is walkable from Birkbeck.
Our Department of Politics was ranked 12th in the UK in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) results and is a world-renowned centre of original, influential research.
The department organises a lively programme of seminars and conferences and is home to affiliated research centres, such as the Centre for the Study of British Politics and Public Life, which run seminars, conferences and other events where some of the world's best scholars present their latest research.
Our academic staff are international authorities in their respective fields, publishing and delivering stimulating teaching in a wide range of political topics including civil society and the state, public policy, development, gender, international security and terrorism, and social and political theory, among others.
Birkbeck Library has a large politics collection, including the major specialist journals, and provides you with access to an extensive range of online materials.

Our research

Birkbeck is one of the world’s leading research-intensive institutions. Our cutting-edge scholarship informs public policy, achieves scientific advances, supports the economy, promotes culture and the arts, and makes a positive difference to society.

Birkbeck’s research excellence was confirmed in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, which placed Birkbeck 30th in the UK for research, with 73% of our research rated world-leading or internationally excellent.

In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), Politics at Birkbeck was ranked 17th in the UK.

Visit the Government, Policy and Politics (MSc) page on the Birkbeck, University of London website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Adam Simmonds

4073.jpg Adam Simmonds – the youngest police and crime commissioner in England – is successful and ambitious, and he credits Birkbeck with giving him the confidence to succeed.

Fascinated by politics from a young age, Adam chose to study an MSc in Politics and Government at Birkbeck when he was just 22. He had already studied Politics as an undergraduate at the University of Greenwich. His early political roles included working for Gary Streeter MP – the shadow secretary of state for international development – and joining the campaign to elect Jeffrey Archer as Mayor of London.

Adam decided to enrol on the one-year course at Birkbeck as he wanted to combine his work with evening study. He said: ‘Birkbeck was the only institution that offered opportunities to study in the evening. I was really pleased to be able to study in the Department of Politics as it has an excellent reputation, and it is right at the heart of political, economic and philosophical discussions.’

Today Adam still fondly remembers the buzz of students heading to their evening classes, and the intellectual stimulation of learning from his distinguished classmates, including businesspeople and journalists, as well as his lecturers. Adam said: ‘Birkbeck offered me an opportunity to make of this experience what I could. It provided a window on the world and an outlook that was not just academic. There was a really eclectic group of students around the table, and I was able to learn from them and their experiences. The course itself was top rate.’

Adam’s dissertation focused on how both Stalin and Roosevelt used the media in different ways for their own propaganda. He gained a Merit for his studies. Adam said: ‘I left Birkbeck with a huge amount of confidence, and I have absolutely achieved my ambition thanks to my studies.’

After leaving Birkbeck, Adam became a political adviser for Northamptonshire County Council. For the next 12 years, he worked in various roles within the Council, quickly assuming senior managerial responsibilities and becoming an assistant chief executive.

(Student Profile)

Luciana Berger

4085.jpg Luciana Berger MP – a rising star in the Labour party and Shadow Minister for Public Health – gained her theoretical political education at Birkbeck. The discussions, knowledge, and skills borne out of her postgraduate course have contributed to her successful political career, and her support for evening and part-time study. Luciana also has fond memories of her year at the College and said studying an MSc in Government, Policy and Politics led to her 'best' academic experiences.

Luciana was heavily involved in student politics and anti-racism campaigns when she was an undergraduate at the University of Birmingham, where she studied Commerce with Spanish. However, without any formal political education, she felt the need for her political activism to be informed by the 'theoretical backbone' of politics, and she decided to study politics at Master’s level.

Luciana first heard about Birkbeck from other students and she saw adverts for the College on the Tube. She was impressed by Birkbeck’s academic reputation and decided to attend an Open Evening. She later had an interview and was offered a place. She was delighted to accept, and started the full-time one-year MSc in Government, Policy and Politics in 2004.

Luciana said: 'Of all my academic experiences, Birkbeck was by far the best. It was really very interesting and I reflect really fondly on that academic experience. The personal enjoyment I got from it was massive because I was, and continue to be, so passionate about politics.'

According to Luciana, one of Birkbeck’s greatest strengths is the diversity of the student body as this leads to a variety of insights and perspectives, which are then shared in the classroom. She added: 'I rave about Birkbeck when people are considering it because I think it is unparalleled in terms of the diversity. I think some universities struggle to get that diversity, but because of the part-time focus at Birkbeck you get a wider group of people who put themselves forward. We should have as wide a pool of people involved in academic debate and discussion.'

(Student Profile)

Daniel Gilbert

4113.jpg 'I'd always planned to study for a postgraduate qualification after my first degree but I didn't want to put my career on hold. Birkbeck was the obvious choice. It's really the only place in London where you can get a Master's degree from an institution with a good academic reputation while holding down a full-time job.

'The other students really define your experience. When you're in a politics seminar, it really makes a difference to be surrounded by people who bring so many different perspectives to the debate. As I also work in politics, I've been able to choose a course that complements my day job, and vice versa.

'Flexibility is important. The Department is very geared up for people who have busy work or family lives. The tutors understand this, and try to get as much information online as they can.'


School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy, Postgraduate Taught (PGT) Bursary - Single Award

Applications are invited for one 'Postgraduate Taught' Bursary worth £6,000, to be awarded to a candidate with an outstanding academic record who shows high potential for strong performance on one of the School's 'Postgraduate Taught' programmes.This competition is open to new Home/EU and International students who are applying for either a full-time or part-time MA/MSc place in the departments listed below; the competition is also open to students who are applying to the Department of Philosophy and the degree of M.Phil. Stud. Philosophy.This £6,000 award is in the form of a bursary (i.e., there is no 'fee waiver' but the bursary may be used towards payment of fees). If awarded to a part-time student, the bursary will be paid for two years of PGT study.Please note that in order to apply for funding you must also complete an application for a place at Birkbeck on an MA/MSc programme within the School of SSHP or the MPhil. Stud. in the Department of Philosophy, either before or at the same time as applying for funding.Prospective studentsCandidates will be expected to fulfil similar academic criteria to those demanded by external funding bodies. They will normally possess at least an upper second class honours degree or equivalent.

Value of Scholarship(s)



This competition is open to new Home/EU and International students who are applying for either a full-time or part-time MA/MSc place in the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy; the competition is also open to students who are applying to the Department of Philosophy and the degree of M.Phil. Stud. Philosophy.This competition is open to new students only.

Application Procedure

Before you apply, you should contact the relevant department for advice.Once you have identified a relevant programme, you will need to:Apply online for the relevant MA/MSc or MPhil. Stud. (Dept. of Philosophy) degree in the normal wayDownload the SSHP Postgraduate Taught Bursary Application Form Word iconThe SSHP Studentship application form should be returned to Jane Halstead, Assistant School Manager, via the following email address:[email protected] STATE ‘PGT BURSARY’ AND DEPARTMENT APPLIED TO IN THE ‘SUBJECT’ LINE OF YOUR E-MAIL.Any queries relating to the PGT Bursary can also be sent to this email address.

Further Information



Postgraduate Support Scheme for final-year undergraduates (full-time) - 20+ Awards

We are pleased to announce that, for October 2015 entry, Birkbeck has a limited number of new £10,000 postgraduate scholarships. These scholarships are for students progressing from a full-time undergraduate degree to a part-time Master’s degree starting in 2015/16.

Value of Scholarship(s)



To be eligible for the scholarship you must be:Starting a 2-year part-time taught Master’s degree in 2015/16
Domiciled in the UK/EU
Progressing from an undergraduate course for which you were charged the higher tuition fee (applicable since 2012–13)
Studying at postgraduate Master’s level for the first time

Application Procedure

If you want to apply for this support, you must follow these steps:Submit an application for your intended course
Submit an application for the Postgraduate Support Scheme

Further Information


Entry Requirements

A good undergraduate degree in a related area or relevant experience combined with an adequate academic background (subject to interview).If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.

Course Fees

Part-time home/EU students: £ 3975 pa Full-time home/EU students: £ 7950 pa

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Recipient: Birkbeck, University of London

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