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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


Structure and Courses

The MSc in African Studies is a 12-month full-time graduate programme that can also be taken part-time over two (or three) years.

We encourage you to design your own curriculum focusing on key issues in African Studies through the disciplines of Politics, History, Anthropology, Art and Architecture, and more.

On the MSc in African Studies, you will take six 20-credit courses (totalling 120 credits) in semesters one and two: two required core courses that provide the empirical, theoretical, and methodological foundation for the MSc; and four option courses that enable students to build a specialist expertise. 

Over the summer term, MSc students complete a 15,000-word dissertation (60 credits) on a topic selected in consultation with the Programme Director.

Core courses

Building Blocks of African Studies (Semester 1) focuses on key theories and concepts in African Studies, establishing baseline expertise for all students in the history, politics, and anthropology of Africa.

Research in Africa (Semester 2) develops your methodological repertoire, from research design, through modes of inquiry, data collection, and analysis, to practical considerations in fieldwork.

Option courses

These are selected in consultation with the Programme Director to round out your African Studies curriculum. This flexibility enables you to examine key topics, disciplines, or research methods in greater depth or specificity to complement the core courses. To balance your course load across the academic year, take two options in each semester.  Please consult the degree programme table (DPT) of the programme for an overview of available optional courses. Note that the records will be updated by the end of August for each academic year. Some courses might not run some years due to staff availability.


Edinburgh is also one of the only African Studies programmes in Europe with beginner and intermediate Swahili training. Our students thrive in East Africa, where many use their newly acquired Swahili skills for interviews, fieldwork, and their future careers.

Research training

The MSc in African Studies is designed with research in mind. You will receive rigorous training in key skills, from academic essay writing, to research design and fieldwork, that is designed to prepare you for a PhD as well as applied research in the public, private, or non-profit sector.


The 15,000-word dissertation (60 credits) represents the culmination of your theoretical, methodological, and empirical training in the MSc programme. You should begin to think about your academic interests in Semester 1 as you explore the interdisciplinary landscape of African Studies. Students are encouraged to consider their readings and curricular focus in part as preparation for selecting their dissertation topic. Students have two options for carrying out their dissertation research:

a) The research can be self-directed and focused on a topic of the student's own choosing

b) It can be carried out as part of a work-based placement within an Africa-based/focused organisation e.g. a research institute, a policy think tank, a museum or a film festival trust.

You will have the opportunity to meet individually with the Programme Director in Semester 2 to identify a country and topic of interest that you wish to explore in depth. The Research in Africa core course provides an opportunity to hone your research topic into a clear and coherent question, with a feasible methodology, and rigorous and ambitious analytical and theoretical potential. Students are strongly encouraged to pursue fieldwork. However, travel is not required and excellent dissertations have been written with archival materials or secondary sources available here in the UK. 

Recent dissertation topics include:

  • The RPF's 1994 campaign
  • Consumption patterns and 'islandness' in the Seychelles
  • Exclusion of pregnant schoolgirls from Tanzanian schools
  • Religion and identity among African diaspora in the UK
  • Emerging middle-class and Dutch investment in Africa
  • Elections and the media in Kenya
  • Outreach strategies of two Cape Town museums
  • Sport and missionaries in colonial Kenya
  • Land and authority in rural Zimbabwe
  • The globalisation of education policy in Namibia
  • Civil society and peacebuilding in Sierra Leone
  • The fiscal sociology of the petro-state
  • Climate governance and parliamentary positioning in Malawi
  • Approaches to irregular migration in contemporary Senegalese migration fiction
  • Responses to grand corruption in South Africa
  • Child sacrifice in Uganda
  • Characterisations and definitions of British Somali persona
  • South Africa and Benin before and after democratization
  • Nollywood and the creative industrial revolution in Nigeria
  • Conflict and tanzanite mining in Mererani, Tanzania

Part-time Students

Part-time students usually take four courses in their first year and two in their second (although in exceptional circumstances part-time students may complete their M.Sc. over three years). The dissertation is usually started in April/May of the final year, although there is a degree of flexibility to fit around work or personal commitments of any given student. Please see the Degree Programme Table (DPT) for more information. 

African Studies