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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school

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Frequently Asked Questions

When does the programme run?

The programme runs from September to August. There is one intake per year, and students work on taught courses from September to March, and then turn their attention to their dissertation. The timetable is varied for those part-time students taking the programme over two years.

Should I do any pre-reading?

This depends very much on your background – if you have come straight from a degree in Social Policy, in Politics, or in other social science disciplines, you may be familiar with the issues and language of Comparative Public Policy. If you are returning to University after an time away from higher education, or have studied another discipline at undergraduate level you may need some more work to orient yourself towards the discipline. A list of readings is sent out during the summer months before you start the programme, but the Programme Director will be happy to recommend one or two texts prior to this according to your needs.

How is the 'taught' element taught?

Not every course follows the same format, for example, data analysis courses require work in a micro-lab and on web-based material to accompany supporting lectures, but many substantive courses take the form of two hour seminars in which a lecturer will set out the outline for the day's discussions, and may introduce key ideas and concepts, and then will proceed to guide students in discussion. This means that the onus is on students to come prepared for such discussion, having read adequate material from lists provided in course handbooks.

Why don't all the courses run every year?

In order to allow a variety of courses to be taught, and to allow for research leave and sabbaticals for academic staff, some courses will not run every year. Certain courses, including the main research courses and all core courses in any degree programme are run on an annual basis.

When would I graduate?

If all goes well, you will graduate in November or December around three months after you submit your dissertation.

Why should I study Comparative Public Policy in the UK, in Scotland, and at the University of Edinburgh?

The UK has a rich and vibrant academic environment for comparative studies and associated disciplines, a number of which are brought together in the School of Social and Political Science and in the wider College of Humanities and Social Science. Scotland, as a recently devolved polity is an exciting place to observe contemporary developments in government and the country lends itself to comparison with other parts of the UK, other sub-state entities, and other small countries. Edinburgh itself hosts a number of institutions of interest to Public Policy students: the Parliament; Courts at various levels; tribunals and ombudsmen; and various NGOs.

The Social Policy subject group brings together a number of academics who actively employ a range of comparative methods in their research. Together they have designed a core course which illustrates their different approaches and encourages students to engage critically with different methods of comparison. For more on the staff behind the core course, their research interests and publications, see individual profiles:

Image: Salisbury Craggs and Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh. ©Andy Aitchison 2007.