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School of Social and Political Science: Undergraduate study


Peer Support

There are several peer support projects continuing and starting up this year in SPS, providing extra academic and social support for students. These projects aim to foster students’ independent thinking and learning, and contribute to a sense of community within the School and individual subject areas.


PIRPALS is a Peer Assisted Learning Scheme which has been running in conjunction with the Politics and International Relations courses for first years since 2013/14. Over the years the scheme has developed to offer students a session timetable designed to bolster their learning in Introduction to International Relations (semester one) and Political Thinkers (semester two). In groups of three, student volunteers from higher yeargroups lead weekly hour long sessions, covering the topics explored in the previous week of classes. Sessions are completely planned by students, and provide a fantastic opportunity for those from older year groups to connect with those below them, and vice-versa. In the past year, PIRPALS have worked hard to offer an increasing number of sessions, and this year the new team are preparing to work hard and consolidate this improvement.

This year, PIRPALS runs from Week 2 to Week 11. The team are considering using a committee model as a means of improving attendance and organisation, and look forward to meeting the new first years!

Find more information here:

Staff Contact: PIR Student Support Officer Natalie Stroud (

SDPALS (Sustainable Development)

SDPALS is a peer assisted learning scheme for first and second year sustainable development students. Higher year student leaders run weekly sessions where you can discuss course content and practice essential study skills (such as article reading and essay writing) in an informal and fun environment. The sessions are run by students for students, so each session will be tailored to key themes of the lectures you attend as well as covering any other subjects you wish to discuss.

SDPALS provides a space to ask questions which you may have felt uncomfortable asking in a lecture, or did not wish to bring forward to your lecturers or tutors.

SDPALS is open to everyone, whether you are feeling a little behind and need a little help, or wish to make new friends to socialise and revise with.

SD FAMILIES is a social support scheme within the School of Social and Political Science. The aim of the scheme is to provide a relaxed social environment to facilitate the development of friendship, peer support and sharing of experiences for those studying Sustainable Development at the university. 

The scheme is open to all years of the MA Sustainable Development Degree as well as students taking the core courses Sustainable Development 1a and 2a. First year students on the SD Degree are automatically signed up with the possibility to opt out while older year students and students outside of the degree will have the opportunity to sign up at the beginning of the year. 

Each family will be composed of around 5-6 people and led by two trained volunteers (leaders). The family leaders are responsbile for organising bi-weekly meet-ups, each centred around a topic decided by the student leaders which are related to the student experience at the university. There will be a set schedule for the leadres to follow regarding topics but the meet-up times are flexible during the two-week period. There will also be opportunities to attend bigger socials and other events together as a family.

The scheme is run through a joint Peer Learning and Support Scheme Committee. The comittee will work in close collaboration with Edinburgh University Sustainable Development Association regarding bigger socials and other events.

Find more information here:

Staff Contact: SD Student Support Officer Sue Renton (

Social Anthropology Academic Families

The Social Anthropology Society run Academic Families, allowing first year students to meet and connect with students from other years in the programme. These run independently from any specific courses, but provide the social support which is so important for new students transitioning to university life.



SocPals runs study sessions for all first year students taking Sociology led by 2nd and 3rd-year Sociology students. The sessions give you a chance to discuss the topics of the sociology lectures in more depth, as well as study skills such as how to read and prepare for lectures and tutorials, how to take good notes, write essays and do the end-of-semester exam.

It's also a great way to get to know other students from your course and from other years. It's all very informal and biscuits are guaranteed, so come along!

Just come along to any of the sessions – be aware that two sessions in the same week might have the same content, so check the Facebook group to be sure. No sign-up beforehand is needed!

Find more information here:

Staff Contact: Sociology Student Support Officer Karen Dargo (

Social Policy

Policy PALS, or PPALS in short, provide academic help sessions for first year Social Policy students, tailored to areas they are struggling with. Sessions are led by 2nd, 3rd and 4th-year students who have completed the same course, so are familiar with the challenges that current students may face.
P-PALS sessions provide a platform to discuss challenging ideas and they are also a good way to practice techniques for effective and efficient learning.

This scheme won the Students’ Association Impact Award for Best New Scheme in 2016/17.

Find more information here:

Staff Contact: Social Policy Student Support Officer Clay Young (

Student lying on grass reading book