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Education, Policy and Society (MSc)

12 months, with some weekend seminars (full-time) / 24-36 months, with some weekend seminars (part-time) / n/a (distance / e-Learning)

Course Aims

As education becomes increasingly globalised, schools and education systems around the world are being shaped and reshaped by what are often a common set of global education policies and ideologies. The aim of the MSc in Education, Policy & Society is to help students develop their ability to critically analyse these dominant educational ideologies, policies and practices; to understand the forces that are driving them, their shortcomings and likely outcomes; and most importantly, to discover and engage with alternative models of education, training, teaching and learning, at the early childhood, primary, secondary and post-secondary levels, and in non-formal and informal contexts outside the formal education system altogether.

Special Features

The MSc in Education, Policy & Society is unique in that it is one of the few Master’s level courses focusing on education in the UK, or anywhere else in the world, that is offered by an interdisciplinary School of Social Sciences. As such, the approach to education offered here is shaped by a strong belief in the value of interdisciplinary social science theory and research for enhancing our collective ability to re-think, re-imagine and enhance educational practices, policies and principles, whether at the local, national or global level.

Course Description

The MSc in Education, Policy & Society is designed for all students wanting to develop their capacity to critically analyse educational practice, policy and ideology, to develop a more clear “big picture” understanding of the broader structures and forces that are affecting schools, universities and education systems today, and to find out about and deepen their understanding of alternative ways of thinking about and doing education. This may include those who have recently completed undergraduate courses of study, as well as individuals currently working as practitioners, whether in schools, colleges or universities, youth or community groups, international development organisations, workforce and skills development programmes, or in different levels of government. The MSc in Education, Policy & Society has been designed to be of value and relevance to students both from the UK and overseas; so interested individuals from all nations are encouraged to apply.

Course Structure

The MSc in Education, Policy & Society is organised around a sequence of up to three 20 credit specialist modules in education, two 30 credit modules in social science theory and research methods, and one 60 credit supervised dissertation on an educational topic of your choice.

The School currently offers specialist education, policy and society modules on the following topics, although these may change from year to year:

Social Contexts of Education

Social Contexts of Education (20 credits)

This module provides students with a set of theoretical frameworks and critical analytical tools that are helpful for examining and understanding questions of power, politics, ideology and inequality in a broad range of educational practices, structures, policies and discourses. This module is unique in that it is offered as an intensive set of lectures, seminars and student workshops that are organized over a short, three-day period. It brings together MSc students with working professional students, who are currently engaged in a range of occupational contexts, including in schools, colleges and universities, public health, public policy and administration, social work, nursing and medicine.

International and Comparative Skills Systems

International and Comparative Skills Systems (20 credits)

This module develops students’ knowledge and understanding of skills and skills systems in different national contexts, and explores the impact of growing internationalisation on skill development, labour mobility and inequality. Aspects that are covered include the comparative political economy of skills and the way state and non-state policy actors (e.g. state, trade unions, employers in coordinated, liberal and emerging economies) shape the skills system. Further attention will be given to debates on the knowledge economy, the challenges of globalisation, the role of skills in economic growth and development and variability within and across countries. The module focuses, in particular, on vocational purposes of education.

In addition to specialist modules in education, policy and society (or other relevant areas of study), all students are also required to take two 30-credit modules in social science theory and research methods. These modules are:

Principles and Practices of Research Design

Principles and Practices of Research Design (30 credits)

This module provides students with an introduction to the principles and practice of social science research design and methods. It introduces students to the main data collection methods used in social sciences and provides a common grounding in how to critically evaluate the research of others and make appropriate choices in their own research projects, enabling them to specify, design and conduct a research project. Seminars in this module help students understand how to apply research principles and practices to the field of education studies in particular.

Critical Perspectives in Social Science

Critical Perspectives in Social Science (30 credits)

This module introduces students to, and advances their understanding of, some of the leading theoretical perspectives and concepts in the social sciences. The module draws on a range of sociological theoretical perspectives and conceptualisations (for example equality, power, values, gender, ethnicity, class and social reproduction) to explore the ways in which theoretical insight can add insight and understanding to our knowledge of the social world and everyday practice. Seminars in this module help students understand how to apply theoretical perspectives and concepts to the field of education studies in particular.


Dissertation (60 credits)

Finally, all students in the MSc in Education, Policy & Society are asked to produce a 60-credit, 12,000 word dissertation on an educational topic of their choice. This dissertation involves a small scale independent piece of research, and enables students to develop their interests in a substantive area related to the programme, and to put into practice the knowledge and skills developed through participation in the taught modules. Each student will be allocated a personal dissertation supervisor to assist in planning, conducting and writing up the research project.

Teaching Methods

Modules on the MSc in Education, Policy & Society are delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, workshops and independent guided study, and offer extensive opportunities for small group learning. Most of the modules involve weekly meetings over the course of a three month academic semester, although some are taught as an intensive three day learning event. Some modules are offered only in the Autumn semester, and others only in the Spring semester. Modules are assessed by a combination of essays, reports, reviews and presentations. There are no examinations.

Skills Acquired

On successfully completing the MSc in Education, Policy & Society, you will have significantly enhanced your ability to:

  • Critically evaluate policy, practice and discourse in a wide range of educational settings, and analyse competing theoretical perspectives and knowledge claims
  • Analyse and situate local and national education policies and practices within their broader global, historical and ideological contexts
  • Collect, analyse and interpret a range of complex social science data
  • Communicate and present ideas and research findings effectively in both spoken and written form
  • Apply social science theory and research in order to better understand, re-think, re-imagine and enhance educational practices and policies in your own communities and workplaces

Entry Requirements

Applicants should normally hold a first or second-class undergraduate degree in a humanities or social sciences subject. However, other applicants will be considered if they can demonstrate, through recent and relevant experience, that they have the ability to undertake the course.

Applicants whose first language is not English are required to obtain a minimum overall IELTS score of 6.5 with at least 6.5 in writing, and at least 5.5 in all other sub-sections. Full details of Cardiff University’s English language requirements can be found here.

Further Information & How to Apply

Applications should be made via the Online Applications Service. Please make sure that you explain clearly in your personal statement why you are interested in applying to this MSc in Education, Policy & Society at Cardiff University, a course that focuses on using social science theory and research for enhancing our understanding of education.
In your statement, you should refer explicitly to the course and module content outlined above and should explain clearly the particular aspects of this course that most interest you, and what topics or themes you are hoping to learn more about in taking it. If this information is not included, this may cause delays in processing your application, and the School may contact you with a request for further information.

The deadline for international applicants is 1 August; for UK& EU applicants, the deadline is 1 September. The different dates are due to the need to allow sufficient time for visa processing for international applicants.

Tuition Fees 2016/17

Fees quoted are for the academic session 2016/17. For programmes lasting more than one year, tuition fees for subsequent years of study are subject to an increase of no more than 4.5% per year.

  UK & EU International
Full-time £6,000 £14,500
Part-time £3,000 £7,250
Deposit n/a Includes a £1,000 deposit. More information about our deposit policy.

Next intake: September each year

School Contact

Name: SOCSI Taught Masters Administrator  

Telephone: +44 (0)29 2087 0284 / +44 (0)29 2087 5178  



School Website:

School Contact

Name: Dr. Dean Stroud  

Telephone: +44(0) 29 2087 7406 



School Website:

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