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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


Placement-Based Dissertations

Graduate students on any of the taught MSc programmes listed below are eligible to undertake an 8-10 week placement-based dissertation (known as a Work-Based Project or Capstone Project) with a local, national or internationally based organisation.

  • Africa and International Development
  • Childhood Studies
  • Global Environment, Politics and Society
  • Global Health and Public Policy
  • Health Inequalities and Public Policy
  • Health Systems and Public Policy
  • International and European Politics
  • International Development
  • Management of Bioeconomy, Innovation and Governance
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Nationalism Studies
  • Science and Technology in Society
  • Social Research
  • Sociology and Global Change
  • Master of Public Policy - Capstone Project

All projects involve an identified programme of work.  Students will undertake a specific, short-term research assignment as part of the MSc dissertation.

Please not that placements are applied to on a competitive basis and a project is not guaranteed for every student. All students must achieve 120 credits before progressing to dissertation (this includes part time students).

Putting Learning into Practice

Placement-based dissertations provide excellent opportunities for students to think through theoretical ideas in real world contexts and to gain transferable skills through applied, practical experience with host organisations.  

Students can either:

  • Choose from projects that have been organised by the University of Edinburgh


  • Propose and organise their own placement - following consultation with their Programme Director and the Student Development Office (

Previous work project assignments have seen students produce briefing papers, literature reviews, project progress reports, field monitoring reports, grant proposals, annual reports, policy documents, and field-based research outputs.

Global Projects

In 2015/16 the Student Development Office offered 76 work-based projects with organisations based in Asia, Africa, Europe and the United Kingdom.

Placements must not be located in areas that the FCO advise against travelling to. Please check with the Student Development Office if you are thinking of undertaking a placement near these areas - you may not be permitted to travel. Students are responsible for checking that their travel plans meet the requirements of their funders/sponsors, e.g. those funded by US student loans are not usually allowed to undertake a placement in the US.

Dissertation Opportunities

Students use the placement as a basis for their final dissertation. Each student will continue to be supervised by an academic adviser for the duration of their placement.


  • September-December - Sourcing placements
  • December - Majority of placements advertised
  • January - Any further placements advertised
  • January 24 at 12 noon - Applications due
  • February & March - Placement selection panel meets and placement interviews arranged, successful candidates notified
  • March/April - Preparatory reading and communication with host organisation
  • May-June - On placement
  • July-August - Working on dissertation

Students on relevant programmes may choose to set up their own placement.  Any students wishing to do this should consult with the Student Development Office.


Student should be prepared to meet the costs of travel, accommodation and subsistence. The University of Edinburgh does have a number of small grant schemes to which they can apply, but not all projects will receive funding. Students may also apply to the Go Abroad Fund.

Additional funding details will be announced in due course.

Feel free to contact the Student Development Office with any questions:

Make an appointment to see the Student Development Team

To discuss any element of the placement-based dissertations, please make an appointment here.