The Master’s degree programme offers an interdisciplinary and in-depth study of social protection systems. Graduates of the degree programme will be able to design “smart” systems, systems that can be sustainably financed while being effective and flexible. They will also be able to contribute towards optimizing and, if necessary, reorganizing existing social protection systems, adapting systems to future demographic, economic and social challenges.

+++ **Attention: These are the regular months. With Corona Restrictions these might change. +++



Pre-Courses – Online and on-campus (August - September)**

Bridge courses in Economics, Statistics, and Academic Writing


1st Semester – Face-to-Face in Germany (October until March)**

M 1 – Comparative analysis of social protection systems (6 ECTS)

  • Social protection systems - constitutive elements and determining factors
  • Social protection actors
  • International social protection policy

M 2 – Social protection policy instruments & design options (8 ECTS)

  • Contributory schemes
  • Tax-financed transfers and services
  • Promotional measures

M 3 – Analysis for social protection design (6 ECTS)

  • Assessing social protection needs and priorities
  • Assessing the political economy of social protection
  • Assessing capacity to implement social protection interventions
  • Assessing inter-linkages and graduation possibilities

M 4 – Social protection financing & modelling (6 ECTS)

  • Social expenditure and resource mobilization
  • Financing techniques
  • Modelling social expenditure & revenues

M 5 – Research methods (5 ECTS)

  • Research methods 1 
  • Research methods 2 (2nd semester)


2nd Semester – Online Courses + Summer School (April until August)**

M 6 – Simulation & evaluation (8 ECTS)

  • Applied econometrics & introduction to a statistical software (1st Semester)
  • Micro-simulation (1st Semester)
  • Evaluation of individual interventions
  • Evaluation of social protection systems

M 7 – Social protection governance (6 ECTS)

  • Governance approaches in social protection
  • Accountability mechanisms
  • Social protection law

M 8 – Social protection management (6 ECTS)

  • Social protection delivery mechanisms
  • Financial management
  • Investing social security reserves
  • Information management

M 9 – Social protection reforms (6 ECTS)

  • Understanding reforms
  • Managing reforms
  • Communicating reforms

M 10 – Electives (8 ECTS) (2nd and 3rd semester)

  • Specialisation Climate Change
  • Specialisation Health
  • Specialisation Inlusion of Persons with Disabilities
  • Specialisation Vulnerability


3rd Semester – Summer School and Internship (September until February)

  • Preparation Courses (5 ECTS)
  • Internship (25 ECTS)

Students with more than 11 months relevant work experience in social protection have the possibility to shorten the study duration to 3 semesters and start their master's thesis.


4th Semester – Master’s Thesis (September until February)

  • Research and Master’s Thesis (30 ECTS)



Given that students come from various backgrounds and might have also left the academic world some time back, we offer preparatory courses in economics, statistics and academic writing that are supposed to familiarize students with basic concepts and allow them to follow subsequent modules at greater ease.

The preparatory courses are offered online. In this way, students can take them at their own pace before starting the first semester.

The preparatory courses are optional but highly recommended for students who do not have a background in economics and statistics.


MODULE 1: Comparative analysis of social protection systems

  • Why is it worth investing in social protection and how can we convince the Ministry of Finance?
  • Is social protection just a state’s affair or who else participates?
  • What does social protection mean in an international context?

Module 1 familiarizes you with the basic concepts, the main actors as well as theoretical approaches behind the rise, growth and entrenchment of social protection systems. You learn how to compare different social protection systems and study the constitutive elements as well as differences across systems. You are sensitized about the importance of contextual factors and understand that the welfare state is no longer a purely national affair but shaped by regional and global influences and regulations. 


MODULE 2: Social protection policy instruments and design options

  • Is social protection only about cash transfers in low-income countries?
  • Do private insurances count as social protection?
  • Does social protection automatically translate into social insurance when a country develops?

Module 2 familiarizes you in detail with the main social protection policy instruments comprising contributory schemes, tax-financed transfers and services as well as promotional measures to give recipients the opportunity to become productive again. You study the concept, impact, challenges of different instruments and learn how the choice and prioritization of instruments is dependent on the inherent logic of the respective social protection system. For each and every instrument, you analyze the various design options and determine which options are most suitable in a given context.


MODULE 3: Analysis for social protection system design

  • How do I ensure that a social protection system adequately addresses the needs and characteristics of a particular country?
  • How do I maximize apriori a system’s effectiveness as well as political sustainability?
  • How do I make sure that instruments neither overlap nor remain in isolation?

Module 3 teaches you the necessary analytical skills to effectively combine different social protection instruments and tailor them to the country’s context. In order to gauge the effects of particular policy choices, you learn how to analyse the needs and risk profile of the population, the political economy of social protection in a particular country context as well as the institutional, organizational and individual capacity to implement social protection interventions. As system building also requires a good understanding about how interventions should be combined and sequenced, you analyse inter-linkages across interventions as well as the pathways of graduation out of an intervention as well as out of a system.  


MODULE 4: Social protection financing & modelling

  • How much does social protection cost and how do costs develop over time?
  • Is social protection really affordable in a low-income country context and where do governments find the money?

In Module 4, you acquire knowledge of the social protection expenditure trends in different country settings.You study how greater fiscal space can be generated for social protection and grasp the role of political processes in resource mobilisation strategies. You get insights into the different financing techniques that are available for various instruments such as health care benefits, pensions and other benefits. International sources of financing are equally analysed. In order to project expenditure and revenues into the future, you learn the basics of modelling.


MODULE 5: Research methods

In Module 5 you focus on sharpening your research skills to eventually prepare them for research papers throughout the master’s programme, your master’s thesis as well as potentially for a PhD later on. By systematically learning how to formulate a research question, how to come up with a suitable research design, how to collect and analyse data and how to write it up, you are accompanied in writing a successful master’s thesis.


MODULE 6: Simulation and evaluation

  • What makes up a solid and credible evaluation?
  • Does every program have to be evaluated?
  • How do I make sure that not only certain interventions but the entire system is functioning?
  • What data requirements is needed for effective microsimulation models?

In Module 6 you are introduced to ex-ante as well as ex-post evaluation methods in order to assess whether the design chosen is socially, politically and economically appropriate, whether interventions are cost-effective and whether fiduciary risks are minimised. As a good command of quantitative skills is required for simulations as well as evaluations of social protection interventions, you first follow a sub-module on applied econometrics and the use of a statistical software package. Subsequently, you learn the basics of economic simulation models. You then explore different methods that can be used to evaluate the impact, cost-effectiveness and fiduciary risks of social protection programmes. You learn to judge when and how to best evaluate a social protection programme and when and how to evaluate an entire social protection system.


MODULE 7: Social protection governance

  • How is a social protection system legally grounded?
  • What is the appropriate division of tasks between the public and the private sector?
  • How do we ensure that citizens have an active role to play?

Module 7 familiarises you with governance-related questions around social protection. You get an understanding of what good governance entails for social protection interventions and how it can be strengthened. You study the (international) legal framework that governs social protection systems and learn which legal provisions have to be made to ensure effective governance. Grasping the importance of accountability, you learn how to assess and design effective accountability mechanisms.


MODULE 8: Social protection management

  • Can a social transfer program be managed cost-effectively in a challenging environment?
  • How are social security reserves invested and information about beneficiaries safely stored?
  • How can we ensure that public services are effectively tailored towards the needs of citizens?

In Module 8, you learn different techniques that facilitate the management of social protection programmes. You explore the delivery process as well as delivery options in greater detail, assessing which identification and payment methods are most appropriate for a particular context. Reacting to the concern of financial risks related to social protection programming, you either immerse themselves in accounting and budgeting or in the effective management of social security reserves. You also learn how to best manage the wealth of information around recipients of social protection programmes and how to deal with challenges of data and privacy protection. You come to know and get to practise how software can support the data management process.


MODULE 9: Social protection reforms

When do social protection systems call for a reform and how can reforms be adequately managed and communicated to the general public?

In Module 9, you study the need and opportunities for system reform, in reaction to socio-economic and political influences as well as technological advances. Keeping in mind that there are many obstacles even for technically sound reforms, you familiarize yourself with different reform processes in various country settings, with the legal framework as well as political economy of reforms. Furthermore, you examine as to how policy changes and reforms can be best managed and communicated so that obstacles are minimised and the general public as well as public policymakers are in support.


MODULE 10: Specialization

To do justice to the various backgrounds and interests that students are coming from, this Master program offers students the possibility to pursue different specializations. Students can specialize in the theme of vulnerability, health or old age, delving into aspects that have only been briefly introduced in previous modules or discovering completely new aspects to the topic.

In the specialization, you will have the chance to get greater technical and methodological insights into a topic that is of particular concern to any social protection system. Next, to understanding the basic relevant concepts and methods, you will have the opportunity to discuss any contemporary challenges and solutions.


Specialization in climate change

  • Theory and Concepts of Climate Change and Climate Change Adaptation
  • Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction- Policy and Practice
  • Climate Change, Disaster Risk & Social Protection - the Nexus
  • Innovative Financial Solutions to serve the Nexus

Specialization in health

  • Health systems design
  • Prevention and health promotion
  • Health care financing
  • Controlling in the health insurance system

Specialization in inclusion of persons with disabilities

  • Disability, inequality and inclusion
  • Inclusive social protection for empowerment or persons with disabilities
  • Disability and eligibility determination
  • Access to services and interlinkage across the life cycle

Specialization in vulnerability

  • Poverty & vulnerability analysis and targeting methods
  • Gender & social protection
  • Child protection
  • Social protection & social inclusion

Module 10 is partly offered online and partly in the framework of a summer school allowing for an enriching exchange with different specialists and students from other disciplines.


MODULE 11: Internship

Students with more than 11 months relevant work experience in social protection have the possibility to shorten the study duration to 3 semesters and start their master's thesis.


MODULE 12: Research & Master Thesis

Each student is required to write a master thesis, working on a research question that is motivated by for instance one of the modules, the literature discussed or a practical problem experienced at work.

Prior to working on the master thesis, students will follow an online course on research methods that can be taken at their own pace. The course on research methods prepares students for the module on evaluations and will help students formulate a research question and design the appropriate methodology.

After the summer school and before going back to their respective countries, students have to defend their proposal. Once the proposal has been accepted, students can start working on their Master thesis.