Social science & policy

Social sciences and policy at UNSW

Learn the science of policymaking and how it impacts our society

At UNSW, social science and policy is a broad area of study that looks at the methods used to study social issues and the policy interests of our community. Academics in this field are concerned with research methods and social policy analysis to develop deeper insights into the decisions and forces of influence that shape action within specific policy fields.

Policymaking plays a vital role in managing change across society, offering a set of tools and mechanisms for coordinating complex environments. Policy structures reflect stakeholder interests throughout civil society and is an area of contest and debate in democratic societies.

Policy informs every field of practice and with rising expectations of sophisticated, evidence-based policy, there is a need for well-trained policy analysts and researchers in government, business, social and political organisations. Education and research in social science and policy appeals to professionals: 

  • in government developing public policy and delivering public services
  • in the NGO sector advocating for change, representing community interests and sharing in the delivery of services that meet a public policy objective
  • who contribute to policy frameworks that shape regulatory governance in industry.

UNSW researchers in social science and policy are motivated to better understand broader governance processes and how we can effectively advocate for change. Their research includes disability, housing, development, economic and regulatory policies within specific industrial or social sectors. 


  • The Bachelor of Social Sciences is your gateway to inform public debate, influence policy and pursue a career that will make a real difference in the world. This degree will give you knowledge and skills in research and analysis needed to understand complex social, environmental and economic challenges.

    Courses you can study include:

    Vocational placements

    As a third-year student, you can complete a structured and supported vocational placement to develop professional skills and gain an understanding of potential career paths. These placements provide work opportunities with our world-leading UNSW Research Centres and Institutes, plus organisations beyond the university.

    Major social research project

    This project draws together the research and analytical skills necessary for research and policy-related work. In this course, you’ll conduct a piece of major social research, which includes preparing a research proposal, literature review and the completion of a research project representing the study results.

  • Completing an honours year in the School of Social Science offers the chance to develop your research and professional skills. You’ll be guided by staff who are passionate about research and the development of new researchers.

    Honours indicates to employers, selection committees and postgraduate training institutions that graduates can work independently and excel academically. The research you produce as an honours student can set you apart from other graduates because of the skills developed, extended engagement and advanced knowledge in a field of study.

  • Master of Public Policy & Governance

    The Master of Public Policy and Governance provides specialist studies in public policy and management, public administration and public governance of services at the local, national and international level.

    Professional Doctorate in Public Policy & Governance

    The Professional Doctorate in Public Policy and Governance at UNSW is designed for policymakers seeking leadership roles in public policy development. This postgraduate degree combines postgraduate research study in advanced policy work with doctoral research.

  • As a postgraduate research student in UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture, you’ll be supervised by leading academics to produce an original body of work. We offer both a Masters by Research (MRes) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

    Find a research supervisor