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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


Information for Host Organisations

Please read through the 2018-19 placement-based dissertation host organisation information pack & form for full details of the placement scheme. If you would like to discuss the placements further, we would be delighted to hear from you - please contact the Student Development Office

What is a placement-based dissertation (PBD)?

Selected MSc students can apply to undertake a research project in collaboration with external host organisations, as an alternative to a traditional desk-based dissertation. Students will be based with the host organisation (in the UK or overseas) for 8-10 weeks, then will analyse and write up their findings for a further 6 weeks. The resulting research paper will be submitted to both the host organisation and the University.

What are the aims of a placement-based dissertation?

For organisations, PBDs offer the opportunity to host a student with specialised knowledge in the field, who will contribute to a pre-arranged research project in order to advance organisational objectives. These projects 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. The commissioned research paper will address a real need within the host organisation, while improving the employability of our graduates; it is key that placements are of mutual benefit to the host and the student.

As the project forms an integral part of the student’s degree there is no requirement to provide any form of remuneration.  Students may be asked to undertake some limited work not directly related to their research, but this must not detract from the agreed research project nor take up significant time or resources.

Output: the research paper

The research paper must not exceed 12,000 words and will use data collected during the placement. The paper will be an extensive piece of academic writing; the exact format will be decided between the host organisation, the student, and the University prior to the start of the placement. The format will be formally agreed via a Memorandum of Understanding signed by all parties. Students will also submit a 2 page executive summary with the main report.

Which students can take part?

Placements are assigned on a competitive basis, ensuring that the most relevantly qualified students are assigned to each project. Students are concurrently enrolled on courses which expose them to the most recent and relevant literature and debates on relevant topics pertaining to one the following degree programmes:

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

Candidates will be assessed by a panel of academic staff and it is highly recommended that organisations interview the proposed candidates to ensure a mutually agreeable fit.

What is the timeline?

The following timeline pertains primarily to the standard placement-based dissertations organised by the School, but is approximately the same for student-led placements.

*Student-led projects can be submitted in March, as students need not go through the application process.*

Date Action

August – November

Project proposals constructed by host organisations in liaison with the University. If organisations can host more than one student, a separate proposal form should be sent for each project


Completed project proposal submitted to the Student Development Office (

*Completed project proposals for student-led projects can be submitted in March*


Placements advertised on a competitive basis


School selection panel meets

Proposed student CV and motivation letter sent to host organisation. Host organisation asked to approve student or request an interview (via Skype if located outside Edinburgh)

Late February / Early March 

Successful students notified by the University


Memorandum of Understanding signed by student, host organisation, and University Programme Director

Organisations that are based outside the EU would be required to complete an EU Model Clauses Agreement. Both the organisations and students would be expected to sign this. 

Late April /May & June

Students on Placement:

  • The University will provide academic supervision, as well as administrative oversight, throughout the placement;
  • The host organisation will be asked to provide a named contact for the University to liaise with on all placement matters.


Report submitted to host organisation, dissertation submitted to University

If you have any questions, please feel free to get in contact:

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