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Social and Political Thought MA

Course Description

This wide-ranging programme explores key concepts, methods, debates and applications in social and political theory.

Core modules will introduce you to social and political thought and its relation to economic, social, political and cultural problems in a fast-changing, globalised world. From the seminal works of Karl Marx to contemporary thinkers such as Judith Butler and Slavoj Zizek, you’ll think about how these approaches can help us understand social change on the global stage.

Beyond this, you’ll choose modules that suit your own interests – you could specialise in gender, racism and ethnicity studies, social policy, globalisation, care, health or disability among others. You can also pursue research training to prepare for further study.

Research insight - the Bauman Institute

You’ll become part of the Bauman Institute, launched in honour of Emeritus Professor Zygmunt Bauman to analyse social change around the world. It’s an exciting and stimulating research environment where you’ll learn from experts in their fields.

The Bauman Institute is inspired by Bauman’s sociological imagination, and has earned an international reputation for teaching and research. Bringing together researchers from diverse disciplines, it investigates the ways in which societies continue to evolve in areas such as power and resistance and the sociology of capitalism.

Course content

You’ll take core modules during the year that introduce you to different areas of social, sociological and political thought, from Marx and Weber to the Frankfurt School and recent feminist and psychoanalytic thinkers. You’ll consider the positioning and relevance of critical theory in relation to contemporary social phenomena.

These modules lay the foundations of the programme; you’ll build on them through your choice of optional modules which give you the chance to specialise. You could focus on areas such as research methods and design, healthcare, disability theory, globalisation, gender, racism and ethnicity studies or policy analysis and evaluation. If you’re planning to progress to PhD study, we’ll recommend you take modules focusing on research and data analysis.

At the end of the programme, you’ll submit your dissertation – an independent piece of research on a related topic of your choice, which allows you to demonstrate and apply the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired during the year.

Course structure

Compulsory modules

  • Contemporary Social Thought 30 credits
  • Dissertation (Social and Political Thought) 60 credits
  • Researching Culture and Society 30 credits
  • Understanding Society and Culture 30 credits

Optional modules

  • 'Race', Identity and Culture in the Black Atlantic 15 credits
  • Disability and Development 15 credits
  • Social Policy, Politics and Disabled People 30 credits
  • Contested Bodies 15 credits
  • Que(e)rying Sexualities 15 credits
  • Social Policy Analysis 15 credits
  • Social Policy Debates 15 credits
  • Quantitative Research Methods 15 credits
  • Qualitative Research Methods 15 credits
  • Policy and Programme Evaluation 15 credits
  • Power, Critique & Global Transformations 15 credits
  • Sociology of Media and Culture 30 credits
  • Religion, Society and Public Life 30 credits

For more information on typical modules, read Social and Political Thought MA Full Time in the course catalogue

For more information on typical modules, read Social and Political Thought MA Part Time in the course catalogue

Learning and teaching

Most of our modules are taught using lectures, seminars and tutorials. Optional modules may also include workshops, online learning or other methods. However, independent study is still a crucial element of this programme, allowing you to develop your skills, pursue specific research interests and form your own ideas.


Core modules are assessed using essays, as well as your final dissertation. Depending on the optional modules you choose, you may also be assessed using research reports, project work, presentations, literature and book reviews among other methods. If you select research methods modules, you’ll also be expected to engage with some data analysis in your essays.

Career opportunities

This programme will enable you to think critically with an ethical awareness and to understand how a consumer society has transformed social and political realities.

These qualities are crucially important for a wide range of potential careers from policy research to local authority and government roles, campaigning and political lobbying, work with development agencies and NGOs, and even entry to the academic profession and research-based employment.

Careers support

We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. That’s one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.

The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more at the Careers website.

Visit the Social and Political Thought MA page on the University of Leeds website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Raj Passy

1440.jpg I currently work as a civil servant for the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission. The current organisation that is responsible for administering statutory child maintenance; the Child Support Agency, is being de-commissioned.

This is where my role comes in. My role is to design a completely new organisation that is set to go-live in 2012. I have responsibility for defining the customer experience, specifying our policy framework, and ensuring the design of our new IT system meets the requirements of our future customers.

The School of Sociology and Social Policy was very attractive because of its 4* RAE rating and the credentials of the University itself. With over 33,000 students, no matter how niche your interests are, or how diverse your background is, you’re bound to find like-minded people.

My initial perception of a postgraduate degree was that it would be more like a 4th year of uni but just ‘a little harder’. But as I got into my first semester, I found that my perception was challenged quite a bit! The course was different in that it forces you to reconsider what you learnt in your undergraduate degree and look at things in a new light.

During my entire time with the School, from application to graduation, the communication from the School was absolutely brilliant. This got even better throughout the semesters and I cannot fault the School on any count.

(Student Profile)

Jack Palmer

1756.jpg The University of Leeds has been familiar to me for a long time - even as a prospective undergraduate student I was aware of the University’s strong reputation. I was greatly encouraged to look at Leeds by a number of people whom I respected and admired. I was also drawn by the idea of exploring a part of the country that I’d not seen before.

Zygmunt Bauman has informed my own interests more than any other theorist. I hence feel very privileged to have been presented the opportunity to study in an institute which is named in his honour.

The fact that the institute is situated in one of the most reputable sociology and social policy departments in the country is just icing on the cake! The school routinely produces very important work on the frontline of global debates. The possibility of engaging with (perhaps even contributing to, one day!) these kinds of debates is a challenging prospect, but an extremely exciting and motivating one nonetheless.


Entry Requirements

A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) in sociology, social policy or a related subject. English language requirements: IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component.

Last Updated

08 August 2017

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