School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy | Research | Social Sciences | Postgraduate Social Research programmes
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Postgraduate Social Research Programmes

The School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy (SSHP) is home to a family of interdisciplinary Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma, and Master's programmes, designed for people who wish to develop a strong grounding in social theorising and methods, whether for the workplace or to prepare for doctoral study.

Birkbeck is London's evening university, with classes held between 6pm and 9pm, so you can combine study with whatever work or other commitments you have during the day.

Programme pathways

Social Research Pathways

Core research methods training

The programmes all provide two core modules in qualitative and quantitative methods. These satisfy Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) training requirements.

The qualitative module covers a range of approaches including ethnography, discourse analysis, focus groups, and interviewing, for large group designs and small-sample case studies.

You have a choice between two quantitative modules.

The introductory module is designed for students who have little prior knowledge of quantitative methods, and uses the SPSS package which is popular in social research.

The intermediate module is for students who already know basic quantitative methods, such as how to use multiple linear regression, and wish to step beyond to, e.g., multilevel models. It uses the free software, R, which is gaining in popularity.

The Postgraduate Certificate allows students to obtain a formal qualification for these qualitative and quantitative modules and is ideal for people who wish to concentrate on improving their methods skills.

Theory options

The Postgraduate Diploma and MSc Social Research programmes add modules on Theorising Social Research, which provides a historical and philosophical toolkit to understand how to engage in theorising as an activity, and a Masterclass, which develops in-depth knowledge of advanced theory and methods and is taught by guest lecturers who use each approach in their own work.

Students who wish to specialise in Applied LinguisticsCriminologyGender and SexualityLaw and Legal Studies, or Psychosocial Studies will find a rich selection of module choices on our joint MRes Social Research programmes. They take two optional modules from the corresponding departments (as alternatives to Theorising Social Research and Masterclass).


MSc and MRes students write a dissertation and work with supervisors who are leading experts in their field. Recent graduates have chosen topics including: intersectional analyses of voter engagement, perceptions of LGBTQ+ Pride in London, ethical consumerism, internet memes as political activism, political independence of voluntary sector organisations, and many more. To get an idea of possibilities, please explore staff profiles across the various SSHP departments. We have also arranged cosupervision by staff outside SSHP, e.g., for students wishing to include a significant economics or humanities component.

Frequently asked questions

Who studies on these programmes?

Our students have usually studied an undergraduate degree in a social science such as sociology, politics, geography, or psychology. Many have experience working in social research, for instance in government departments, councils, charities, and other non-governmental organisations.

People from other disciplines are welcome too – please get in touch before applying  to discuss whether these programmes would be a good match for you (contact details at bottom of page).

How much time commitment is required?

You need to attend face-to-face sessions, typically half-lecture and half-seminar, which are in the evenings and last 2 to 3 hours.

We are often asked how much time commitment is required beyond these sessions for reading and other activities. The answer is, "More than you think." One estimate is 5 to 7 hours on average for every face-to-face session, with a peak approaching essays and other assignments.

If you are working full-time or have other significant commitments such as caring, we strongly recommend studying Master's programmes part-time (over 2 years) so that you have space to think, and to do the readings and activities.

What careers do the programmes lead to?

Graduates go into research roles, for instance, in government departments, think tanks, NGOs, and political parties. The Master’s degrees also help prepare for doctoral study, and satisfy ESRC funding requirements.

What funding is available?

There is a page providing more information on funding and discounts, including loans, and grants for people on low incomes.

The Master's programmes may also be taken as part of the ESRC-funded UCL, Bloomsbury and East London Doctoral Training Partnership.


Compulsory quantitative and qualitative methods classes are on Monday and Friday evenings, respectively, across autumn and spring terms (see Birkbeck term dates). Alternatives can be found for students who cannot make either of these days for unavoidable reasons, e.g., for religious rest-days or regular health appointments for long-term conditions; please ask for details (see contact details at bottom of page).

More information and apply

Social Research (Postgraduate Certificate)
Social Research (Postgraduate Diploma)
Social Research (MSc)
Social Research and Applied Linguistics (MRes)
Social Research and Criminology (MRes)
Social Research and Gender and Sexuality (MRes)
Social Research and Law and Legal Studies (MRes)
Social Research and Psychosocial Studies (MRes)


If you have any other questions about the programmes, please contact Dr Andi Fugard, Programme Director (Email: