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Policy Research MSc/PGDip/PGCert

Course Description

Researchers, research managers and policy advisers, as well as service planners, are all faced with a growing need for top-quality research that is timely and relevant. This programme builds on the links between research and policy in developing the particular skills and capacities needed by policy-oriented researchers, professionals and postgraduate students interested in carrying out public policy, social policy and social welfare research. We believe this is vital if researchers are to maximise the impact of their work in addressing real issues of concern to policy-makers and decision-takers.

The programme provides core research training in philosophy and research design in the social sciences, along with introductions to and further approaches in quantitative and qualitative methods in the social sciences. It also offers elective courses in areas of the school's particular research expertise, namely child and family welfare, gender and violence, health and social care, poverty and social exclusion, and policy-oriented evaluation.

We recognise that students will be joining with relevant - albeit varied - experience. Therefore, there will be opportunities for you to draw on your own experiences as researchers, managers and policy advisers and to share these with other participants on the programme. Those who have recently embarked on a career in policy research, or who hope to do so, will find the programme offers a unique combination of academic rigour, up-to-date policy content and relevant skills development.

Programme structure

The programme is delivered through a combination of intensive block teaching and weekly delivery so as to be most accessible to postgraduate students, busy policy professionals and practitioners. The delivery of units on the programme is designed to allow students to accumulate credits flexibly and organise the patterns of attendance to suit their own needs and circumstances.

The MSc and PG Diploma consist of four core units and two optional units. A dissertation of 10-15,000 words is required for the MSc. The PG Certificate is awarded to students who successfully complete three units, two of which must be mandatory units.

Core units
-Philosophy and Research Design in the Social Sciences
-Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods in the Social Sciences
-Introduction to Qualitative Research methods in the Social Sciences
-Further Quantitative Methods

Optional units
-Further Qualitative Methods
-Domestic Violence: Research; Policy and Activism
-Researching Poverty, Inequality and Social Inclusion
-Economics of Public Policy
-Global Contexts of Rights and Disability
-Disabled Childhoods


The programme stresses the development of policy research and analysis methods, as well as substantive knowledge. In addition to careers in academia, this program prepares students for careers as policy researchers and analysts, research commissioners and managers in public or private agencies or organisations, both in the UK and overseas.

Visit the Policy Research MSc/PGDip/PGCert page on the University of Bristol website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Audrey Lenoel

68.jpg Audrey Lenoel is currently studying the MSc Policy Research at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol. The programme is the first year of an ESRC 1+3 funded studentship leading onto PhD study afterwards.

I had developed a strong interest in issues relating to migrations and the integration of migrants and very much wanted to pursue these interests through further studies. I chose the UK for its academic reputation in my field and applied for… a research associate position based at the School for Policy Studies (SPS) at the University of Bristol. The reputation of the institution in the field of social policy appealed to me.

I immediately liked Bristol and working at SPS. I found people here friendly and supportive, and enjoyed working in a School bringing people with different backgrounds and areas of expertise and research interests together. This environment encouraged me to pursue a career in research and I felt it was the right time to undertake doctoral studies.

I was keen to stay at SPS as I appreciated its multidisciplinary research environment and knew I would receive great support there.

Working at SPS put me in a good position to get advice on funding opportunities and develop a research proposal. I was recommended to apply for funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and, since my previous postgraduate qualifications did not contain the research methods modules needed to be recognised by this funding body, I applied for a 1+3 scholarship (MSc + PhD). I was granted the scholarship and started the MSc in Policy Research last October.

The MSc Policy Research course helps students build their practical research and analytical skills and constitutes a good preparation for doctoral studies. I intend to study the practices and impact of migrant remittances on both the senders and receivers sides during my PhD and the different modules offered in the MSc give me the opportunity to think carefully about research design and the most suitable methods to address my research questions.

As the course is particularly intended for researchers and practitioners working in public service organisations, it has a practical focus and the discussions during the classes are fuelled by real-life experiences. I regard this degree as a very good foundation course for my doctoral studies. It would also suit the needs of professionals willing to improve their understanding and skills in research methods.
Extract reproduced with kind permission from Prospects.ac.uk


Entry Requirements

An upper second-class honours degree (or equivalent). Other qualifications (including those awarded by professional bodies) and relevant professional experience will also be considered. Also required is a personal statement demonstrating evidence of an ability to benefit from the programme.

Last Updated

19 September 2016

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