School of Social and Political Science

MSc Health Policy


Mariah Kelly

Mariah Kelly graduated in 2020 and received the 2020 prize for Best Overall Performance in Health Policy. Mariah writes about her time on the MSc Health Policy, and how it prepared her for her current role as a Policy Officer for a third-sector organisation. She's got loads of tips for things to do and see in Edinburgh, too!

Studying at the School of Social and Political Science

What made you choose to study at the University of Edinburgh?

I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh quickly became my home. I didn’t feel ready to leave the city, and the course was exactly what I was looking for, so I decided to continue my studies here.

I was particularly drawn to the placement-based dissertation option that is available on a lot of courses at the School of Social and Political Science (SPS), which didn’t seem to be available at many other universities.

Unfortunately, my planned placement in Nepal couldn’t go ahead because of Covid-19 but I still enjoyed writing a standard dissertation.

How have you enjoyed your programme?

I've really enjoyed my programme and I’ve learned a lot. It was a great introduction into the world of policy, and I think it has set me up well for my career.

What has been your favourite course?

Health and Human Rights.

Aims for after University?

I'm currently working as a Policy Officer for a third-sector organisation, which is exactly what I'd hoped for.

I think my masters degree really helped me to get here by providing me with the opportunity to learn about policy, and in particular, enabling me to specialise in areas of interest.

The Careers Service has also been extremely useful in helping me know where to look for jobs and how to best write applications.

What does a typical weekday look like for you as a student at SPS?

Most of my studies at SPS took place pre-Covid, so a typical weekday usually involved walking across the Meadows to the Chrystal Macmillan Building for a seminar and then heading to the library afterwards where I'd do the bulk of my reading and essay writing.

I'd often meet friends for lunch in Teviot, or grab a soup from the Union of Genius van (I can't recommend the vegan chilli enough)!

Knowing what you do now, what would you say to your past self before starting the course?

I'd definitely encourage myself to have more confidence in my capabilities.

University life

Are you involved in any student societies?

Yes, I was on the Girl Up committee during my time at SPS. I'd really recommend it as a fun, inclusive feminist space and I met some lovely people there.

Where have you lived while studying at Edinburgh?

I lived in the Sciennes/Marchmont area, which I'd really recommend. It's really near to campus and the Meadows, and only a 15-minute walk from Holyrood Park and Arthur's Seat.

I've also lived in Bruntsfield, which is lovely and has lots of independent shops and restaurants.

If you recommend ONE thing to do in the first semester what would it be?

Go to as many Welcome Week events as possible!

The City of Edinburgh

What are your favourite things to do in Edinburgh at the weekend?

Edinburgh has so many wonderful green spaces to explore. I love walking round Holyrood Park, Blackford Hill and the Hermitage, and Dean Village.

I also love browsing Edinburgh's bookshops, and Lighthouse Books is a personal favourite. Edinburgh is also full of great restaurants, pubs and bars.

City of Edinburgh top tip or hidden gem?

It's definitely not hidden but I'd really recommend climbing Calton Hill as soon as you get a chance. Unlike Arthur’s Seat, it only takes 5 minutes and the views are spectacular!

Have you had a part-time job while you've been in Edinburgh?

Yes, I worked two days per week at a charity to help fund my masters.

It can be tough balancing part-time jobs with your studies, and for me it helped to prioritise my workload and plan out my time in advance.