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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


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What is the Graduate School of Social and Political Science?

The Graduate School of Social and Political Science is the postgraduate division of the School of Social and Political Science, which is recognised as a centre of excellence in research and teaching in the social sciences. Its postgraduate programme offers opportunities for students to develop their interests in core academic disciplines as well as to pursue interdisciplinary studies in a large and intellectually stimulating community.

The School of Social and Political Science offers a range of research degrees (MSc by Research, MPhil, PhD) as well as a large MSc/Diploma programme. MSc degrees and Diplomas offered include: Africa and International Development, Childhood Studies, Comparative Public Policy, Global Health and Public Policy, International and European Politics, International Development, Nationalism Studies, Policy Studies, Science and Technology Studies, Social Anthropology, Sociology and Global Change, South Asia and International Development, Social Work and Social Research.

What is the MSc/Diploma in Childhood Studies?

The University of Edinburgh is well-placed to capitalise on the strengths of childhood studies, with its extensive research and teaching in childhood studies across its Schools and Colleges. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this intensive degree provides an advanced understanding of how theories, policies and practice conceptualise 'childhood' and opportunities for critical review and analysis of how well they meet the needs and rights of children. It provides the opportunity to develop skills in research and consultation with children and young people.

The degree serves both as a conversion course for recent graduates who wish to pursue careers working with children and/or children's issues and as a career development opportunity for those with experiences in these fields. It is thus ideal for those who work now or will work in the future as children's policy specialists and/or development at international and local levels, professionals working directly with children, non-governmental and voluntary groups that work with children, and researchers working on children's issues.

The degree has been designed to cut across subject areas and explore themes of general interest. Through seminars and class discussions, directed reading, essay and dissertation work, students investigate a range of topics in depth. It provides many opportunities for students to consider topics in which they have a special interest and to bring their own experiences to bear upon the issues, problems and processes addressed within the degree.

Why Childhood Studies?

The study of 'childhood' has burgeoned over the past decade, with an increasingly inter-disciplinary focus. Disciplines as widespread as philosophy, sociology and geography have 'rediscovered' childhood, while developmental psychology has generated new strands of theorising about childhood and adolescence. Present studies of childhood are influenced by reconceptualising children as 'social actors': that is, as having competencies beyond those traditionally expected of them, and as active and interactive members of society and not simply passive recipients of socialisation and culture.

This new emphasis can be attributed to various reasons (e.g. increased childhood survival rates, changes in labour markets and/or the decreased number of births in most Western countries) but one of the most influential has been the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child. This has galvanised not only academia but policy and practice to re-consider and address children's needs and rights. The UN Convention has had an international impact and is key to international development agendas. The UK is no exception, with legislation, policy and practice addressing key articles of the Convention such as listening to children, prioritising their welfare and non-discrimination.

In theory, research and policy activities, 'childhood' has become a major field of academic study. Its strengths lie in its openness to an inter-disciplinary approach and its potential usefulness to policy and practice.

What are the Entrance Requirements?

The Graduate School welcomes both international and UK students. No specific academic background is required but applicants should normally have, or expect to graduate with, a good degree in a relevant discipline. For UK applicants this would normally be an Upper Second-class Honours degree. Eligibility from outside the UK is based on the National Academic Recognition Information Centre scheme used by British Universities.

Candidates whose employment or other educational experience provides evidence of intellectual ability of an equivalent standard are strongly encouraged to apply.

What if my first language is not English?

Applicants whose first language is not English are required to pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT) at a prescribed level in order to satisfy the University's entrance requirements. There are exceptions, for example if your latest university degree has been in English. Details of these can be found at the Graduate School website in Language Requirements.

When Does It Begin and How Long Does It Last?

The programme of study begins in September. For full-time students, it extends over 12 months for the MSc and over 9 months for the Diploma (which may be awarded on the basis of taught courses alone). For part-time students, the MSc degree lasts for 24 months and the Diploma degree for 21 months. Teaching sessions take place during the University's two semesters (i.e. from September-December and from January-March). MSc students spend the summer term and summer vacation (i.e. from April-August) working, under supervision, on their dissertations. These are marked in September/October and students who are successful graduate in November/December.

How Much Will It Cost?

Information about University fees are available from the Registry and will be stated with the offer of admission. In addition, students need at least £7,500 to meet their living costs and a smaller sum for the purchase of essential books and materials.

Is Any Financial Support Available?

See our webpage on funding and follow links from there.

Will It Contribute To My Career Development?

The knowledge students acquire and the greater level of understanding they achieve from taking the course will be of lasting value. Although the degree is intended to provide an opportunity for academic study rather than vocational training, employers are likely to recognise the knowledge gained and commitment shown by successful completion of the degree. Importantly, the degree contains not only theoretical content but skills development, in such areas as consultation and research with children and policy analysis. Past students have gone on to a variety of posts, such as employment with national and international non-governmental organisations, research posts and PhD study, and national and local government positions.

The degree can count towards the first year of a 4-year PhD programme in the UK. It has been granted recognition by the Economic and Social Research Council as providing the necessary research training. Thus UK and other EU students are eligible for ESRC funding for the degree.

What Is The Programme Of Study?

See Programme and Aims and Structure and Courses.

How Are Courses Taught?

See Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

How Are Courses Assessed?

Candidates will be assessed on each course through coursework (equivalent to a 4,000 word-long essay) and/or examination. The Diploma pass mark is 40%, the MSc pass mark is 50%, while 70% represents work of distinction standard. Students must meet certain criteria to move from the course work to the MSc dissertation. To obtain an MSc, students must also pass the dissertation, which requires 50% or above to pass. In addition to the internal examiners drawn from the teaching team, external examiners from other universities scrutinise the marking.