MSc Applied Social Data Science

Duration Full time 1 year
Part time 2 years
  • Politics and International Relations
LocationExeter (Streatham)
Start date September


Policy-making in all sectors has become more data driven. Advanced training in issues of data use, data sharing, transparency, and accountability are important for both the public and private sectors.

Unlocking the potential of collecting, sharing and analysing massive amounts of administrative and economic, social and political information to bring economic and social benefits requires individuals trained in both evidence-based decision-making and social data science.

This programme will equip you with the technical understanding of a range of social data science techniques and the practical software and programming skills to implement these methods to address your research questions, allowing you to pursue other professional research activities.

You will develop a number of skills that are valued in academic, professional, and managerial careers. The understanding you will gain of complex political and cultural issues, often in continually changing environments, can also be relevant to both business and public sector appointments, or for PhD level study. Previous students are now working for organisations such as the ONS Data Science camp, YouGov, the FCA and Defra.


The MSc Applied Social Data Science is designed to train you in market-leading social data science skills that are in high demand with employers. In addition to these skills, the programme will allow you to apply what you've learned through practical experience. There are a number of options available to you including work placements and industry-based research consultancy projects.

A work placement will allow you to get hands-on analysis experience for a period of typically 3 to 6 weeks. There are a wide variety of placements to choose from locally, nationally and in Europe working in public sector organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and industry. Your work placement will also be supported by a bursary to enable you to make the most of this opportunity.

Industry-based research consultancy projects are a variant to a more traditional style dissertation. These provide you the opportunity to partner with an external organisation to examine a research question of mutual interest. This option is designed to integrate the applied nature of the course with direct workplace experience as you work on your project.


I was given a lot of responsibility and I truly enjoyed being in charge of important parts of the research. The fact that we were all building this new project together pushed me to put my ideas forward and really contribute something to the collective work. This experience allowed me to gain desirable skills and will make my CV more attractive to employers in general. The placement also helped me understand what it means to commit to a project and deliver good results even under pressure.

Livia, Q-Step Masters graduate.

Programme structure

The programme comprises 180 credits in total: taught modules worth 120 credits in total, and a supervised dissertation worth 60 credits.

Each taught module is normally taught through seminars, underpinned by reading and essay assignments.

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Learning and teaching

Each module on the MSc Applied Social Data Science is typically delivered by lectures interspersed with seminar discussion, presentations, group work, reading and essay assignments. We also bring a number of subject experts, including alumni, into our module teaching. You will learn a range of social data science skills and their application to policy-making. This will enable you to evaluate the suitability of these methods and the rationale for using them. There is a strong emphasis in this course on the practical skills associated with working with data using a range of statistical software, including R, Stata and Python.

A large component of the MSc programme will include guided and independent study. The dissertation / research consultancy project is the main opportunity for you to apply the skills you have learnt to a policy-related topic of your own interest. You will also develop the communication of the findings of your work to a range of audiences using effective data visualisation tools.

In addition to module based teaching we offer a variety of additional training including;

  • Applied Data Analysis Workshops which seek to provide additional support to students interested in Quantitative Methods for the Social Sciences. These aspire to raise interest in Applied Data Analysis amongst both undergraduates and postgraduates, and embed quantitative literacy in wider University practice.
  • The Q-Step Seminar Series is a long-running successful annual postgraduate conference which brings together researchers from across all humanities and social science disciplines.


Meet our graduates: Nicolo talks about his time as a Q-Step MSc student and his career following graduation.

Kay talks about her time as a Q-Step MSc student and her career following graduation.

You will develop a number of skills that are valued in professional and managerial careers: the ability to research and analyse information from a variety of sources along with written and verbal skills needed to present and discuss your opinions. The understanding you will gain of complex political and cultural issues, often in continually changing environments, can also be relevant to both business and public sector appointments.

Consequently, University of Exeter Politics postgraduates have been highly successful in securing interesting career opportunities and progressing to PhD level study. Previous students are now working for organisations such as the ONS Data Science camp, YouGov, the FCA and Defra.

Employment and professional development

Our excellent Employability and Graduate Development Service provides invaluable support, advice and access to graduate employers. Visit the employment and professional development pages for more information, including podcasts and profiles, about the range of support available.

I have found employment at the Financial Conduct Authority as a Data Science Research Assistant. The Q-step programme directly enabled me to be a successful candidate through rigorous training in R and the use of  longitudinal panel data sets. 

John, Q-Step Masters graduate



Exeter Q-Step Centre brings together international research-focused social scientists. Q-Step research takes an interdisciplinary and data-driven focus to address major societal challenges. The Centre’s research focuses on the three themes of connecting people, society and data. Our approach to research is interdisciplinary and works across the University of Exeter and with a number of industry partners. Q-Step’s interdisciplinary research activity also offers an opportunity for our students to learn-by-observing data analysis and to be part of cutting-edge research.


The University of Exeter’s Q-Step Centre has a total 17 core research staff across a number of disciplines including Politics, Sociology, International Relations and Criminology as well as over 20 affiliated staff and several industry partners. These staff have expertise in a number of areas including complex survey data, text analysis and network analysis. Exeter Q-Step has research funding from a variety of sources including the EU, ERSC and the Policing College Fund.

Our research sits within three research themes:

Social Aspirations/Social Policy/Social Inequalities

This research programme looks at how socioeconomic background shapes people’s aspirations and the realisation of these aspirations throughout their lives. The focus of this programme includes: educational outcomes and access to educational pathways, including higher education; fertility and how this affects career decisions and career aspirations; older age aspirations and how individuals live during later life. This programme also seeks to contribute to international comparative work in these fields.

Policing in Practice

Policing in practice research at Exeter Q-Step aims to understand and improve policing policy, practice and professionalism through innovative data use and the development of police data collection. This research programme focuses on how force is used by police, the health of police officers, and how police-civilian interactions get reflected in data.

Computational Social Science

Computational social science research at Exeter Q-Step looks at the intersection in between computer science and social science. Q-Step has expertise in social networks, text as data and Bayesian inference.

Find out more about our research.

Entry requirements

Normally a 2:1 Honours degree (or international equivalent) in an appropriate subject from a recognised university.

You will be required to produce some evidence of exposure to data analysis training, this can include a undergraduate research methods module or numerate social science discipline eg. psychology and economics.

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 6.5. No less than 6.0 in any section.


Overall score 90 with minimum scores of 21 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

58 with no less than 55 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

During my placements I undertook rigorous research and analysis with interesting organsiations. Q-Step is one of the best things I have done. If you want to combine social science with stats and programming this is the course for you.  I have recently set up my own business as a policy analyst and researcher. Q-Step has enabled this by giving me the statistical, programming and policy training necessary as well as the contacts and support to make my business successful.

Melissa, Q-Step Masters graduate.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2020/21

  • UK/EU: £8,000 full-time; £4,000 part-time
  • International: £18,000 full-time

University funding

The funding section has information on all available Scholarships, Bursaries and Studentships funding open to prospective students of taught Masters programmes. You can also use the searchable database of all Scholarships and Bursaries to find funding for which you are eligible.

Fee information

Fees can normally be paid by two termly instalments and may be paid online. You will also be required to pay a tuition fee deposit to secure your offer of a place, unless you qualify for exemption. For further information about paying fees see our Student Fees pages.

UK government postgraduate loan scheme

Postgraduate loans of up to £10,609 are now available for Masters degrees. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

Global Excellence Scholarship

We are delighted to offer Global Excellence Scholarships for students of outstanding academic quality applying to postgraduate Taught programmes starting in autumn 2020.
Please note that this scholarship isn't offered for all our masters programmes.

Contact us

Please contact us if you would like more information about this programme, or if you would like to arrange to come and see us.

Postal address

University of Exeter
Amory Building
Rennes Drive
United Kingdom

Current students

Phone: 01392 723301 

Postgraduate Taught admissions

For all enquiries relating to this programme, please contact:

SSIS Student Recruitment Office
Tel. +44 (0)1392 723192
WebEnquire online

Where to find us

Politics is located on the University's Streatham Campus. For information on how to find us, please see our directions to Streatham Campus and the Streatham Campus map.

Visit the Politics and International Relations website

Apply online

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The University of Exeter Q-Step Centre

Q-Step is a UK-wide £19.5 million programme to promote a step-change in quantitative training in the British social sciences education.

Programme Director, Dr Chris Playford, talks about our exciting programme.

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