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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


Structure and Courses

The programme can be taken on a full or part-time basis (see below) and consists of two main elements.  Firstly students must complete a taught element made up of six courses (or an equivalent number of credits). 

All students on the MSc in Policy Studies take the two core courses, Political Issues in Public Policy and Economic Issues in Public Policy.

In addition students take at least one research training course, the school offers ESRC recognised basic training courses in data collection and quantitative data analysis, evaluation research methods, and a course on Comparative Analysis in Social and Public Policy.  Other research training courses may be available and students should check with the Programme Director. 

Finally, students make up the remainder of their six courses from options provided by the Social Policy Subject Group, other subject groups in the School of Social and Political Science and other Schools in the University.  Where students choose courses outside the Social Policy Subject Group, these are subject to the approval of the Programme Director.

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.


Once students successfully complete the taught courses, they proceed to the dissertation element of the MSc. The dissertation offers students the chance to work under the supervision of an academic member of staff to explore in depth a topic of their choosing.  This is an ideal chance to get to grips with an issue that fascinates you, and is also good preparation for further study. You will also have the opportunity, should you wish, to undertake a Work-Based Placement with an external organisation and write your dissertation on the project you have worked on. There is a possibility to undertake such a placement with an organisation of your choice, and this should be discussed with your Programme Director.

Previous dissertation topics include:

  • Social enterprise in Scotland
  • The impact of benefit and labour market policies on unemployment
  • Social policies and fertility rates
  • The impact of tribunals on decision making in asylum and immigration
  • Policy diffusion and police reform
  • Private Finance Initiatives
  • Pensions in Central and Eastern Europe and former Soviet states
  • Transport and social exclusion
  • Devolution and rail transport
  • Donor ideology and sexual and reproductive health policy in developing countries
  • Long-term care
  • Agency work and social actors
  • Policy transfer

Part-time students

Part time students usually take four courses in their first year and two in their second; the dissertation element can be started as early as April or May of the first year, although there is a degree of flexibility to fit around work or personal commitments of any given student.  Please consult the degree programme table (DPT) for the part-time structure of this MSc and an overview of available optional courses.

Image: Graffiti, Potterrow, Edinburgh. ©Andy Aitchison 2007.

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