There are three possible exit levels: Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma, or Master’s. The emphasis – at every level – is on developing the knowledge, understanding, and judgement necessary to facilitate meaningful learning in, for, and through the outdoors.
The Certificate programme provides a broad theoretical coverage of the field of outdoor education. The Diploma extends this with further academic study and a Professional Development Programme (involving field courses and a placement) which provides a broad base for a professional career in outdoor education. The Master’s extends this further still with a dissertation or applied project.
Courses take place at our Edinburgh campus and multiple bases in the Highlands and on the West Coast of Scotland from where you will journey by boat or on foot to live and learn in the outdoors. Learning will take the form of lectures, seminars, group discussions, student presentations, field courses, residential courses, self-study, and work experience/practicum.
The Master’s and Diploma programmes can be taken on a full-time or part-time basis. The Certificate is by nature a part-time programme of study.
For the Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits), you will complete the following courses:
- Interpreting the Landscape (20 credits)
For the Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits), in addition to the above courses, you will complete:
Social Theory and Outdoor Education (20 credits)
- Outdoor and Environmental Education Praxis (20 credits)
Ecology and Field Studies (20 credits)
Professional Development Programme (Additional information below)
Each 20-credit course entails submitting a 4000-word assignment or equivalent thereof. You will develop your intellectual skills through critically assessing theoretical, professional, and academic issues surrounding outdoor education while honing transferable skills such as environmental literacy and oral communication. You will also expand your understanding and personal practice of outdoor education through a range of professional development activities.
N.B. If taking the programme on an intermittent basis, courses offered by other Schools may have different fees.
For the Masters (180 credits), in addition to the above courses, you will complete:
The dissertation/applied project is a major investigation that demands a high level of individual application and commitment to research and enquiry. Both pathways offer opportunities to identify and examine a topic which greatly interests you and can play a considerable role in your professional development. The dissertation and applied project involve a critical interrogation of the relationship between professional practice and academic theory, and the design, ethics and interpretation of research. The dissertation will be 12,000 words.
Professional Development Programme
An integral part of the Postgraduate Diploma and Master’s programmes, the Professional Development Programme (PDP) brings together the theory and practice of outdoor and environmental education in residential, journeying and workplace situations. It offers unique opportunities to live and learn in Scotland’s spectacular land- and seascapes.
Tailored to the experience level and ability you arrive with, you will:
- Develop your technical skills
- Increase your knowledge of local ecology and culture
- Hone your interpersonal competencies
- Help create experiences which will enhance your integration of theory and practice.
You will complete several field courses, some of which are core and others optional. Due to the holistic nature of the PDP core courses which goes beyond technical skills acquisition, we expect that all students will fully participate, irrespective of personal experience and qualifications.
Core courses may include:
- Summer hill-walking
- Winter hill-walking
- Sea kayaking
- Two-day specialist outdoor first aid course
- Rock climbing
- Firbush Residential
- Four-week (20-day) placement
To facilitate and broaden your direct experience of teaching outdoors, you will undertake a four-week (20 day) placement. The placement occurs at a stage in the programme when students are able to make a useful contribution to the agencies they choose to work with and can relate their experience to theoretical material covered in class. Placement agencies range from those focusing on environmental education, to inner city projects, country parks, special needs organisations, management training, outdoor education centres, and many more. By working under the guidance of established outdoor professionals, students will broaden their experience of approaches to teaching outdoors. They will gain insights into the work of unfamiliar establishments and have the opportunity to work with a range of outdoor establishments.
Normally an apprenticeship model will be employed with the student expected to learn agency systems and approaches and take responsibility for teaching/coaching/facilitating as requested by the agency. Staff play a crucial role in giving feedback and monitoring progress. Outdoor and Environmental Education (OEE) section staff will liaise with the agency throughout the placement and may visit during the placement. Reports will be prepared by the agency. Placement reviews will be held upon return to University, wherein students will present their experiences to fellow classmates and OEE staff.
Assessment is based on the following competencies:
- demonstrate a commitment to and enthusiasm for a career in the outdoor profession
- demonstrate a sound knowledge of and practical skills in the outdoor area appropriate to the agency allowing stimulating and challenging activities to take place
- show awareness of the physical and emotional safety of each of the group participants and a demonstration for this in adapting activities to suit many needs
- demonstrate a wider environment knowledge and suitable strategies for involving students/clients in the sustainable future of the countryside
- effective communication with students/clients and other staff from the agency
- ability to motivate and sustain interest in the groups for whom the student has responsibility by setting expectations and a pace of work which make appropriate demands on students/client groups
- employ a range of teaching/coaching instruction/facilitation strategies as appropriate
- demonstrate a reliable and responsible work ethic (punctuality, dress and behaviour to other staff and students/clients)
- work well as part of the agency team and yet take responsibility for sound individual decision making where appropriate
- self evaluate the quality of teaching etc with a view to being a reflective practitioner throughout their working career, setting and achieving targets for professional development
- respond appropriately to issues of gender, social class, religious differences, etc by applying principles and practice to promote positive behaviour, including moral and spiritual well being of students/clients
- encourage students/clients to take initiative and become responsible for their own learning
- show awareness and understanding of the theory associated with the impact of residential and direct experiences out-of-doors on the personal and social development of young people and other participants.
On completion of the Placement, students will:
- show competency in technical skills at the levels required by the agency
- operate in a safe manner both personally and with students/clients
- demonstrate competence in teaching/leading/facilitating groups in a variety of situations and activities
- show practical awareness of environmental issues and an ability to impart this to others in their care
- have reviewed their work on a weekly basis with the agency and tried to implement improvements
These courses are dependent on staff availability and student numbers each year.
Additional costs are associated with the optional elements of the Professional Development Programme. Students on the Postgraduate Certificate may also take some of the skills courses at additional cost. Please contact the Programme Director for more information on these.
Further details on programme structure
This programme starts on the 1st September or the closest Monday to 1st September. Note that this is usually about two weeks earlier than most programmes at the University.
The period of study for a full-time Masters is 15 months. The taught part of the programme lasts until the end of June, with dissertation submission in late November.
An indicative calendar is included below to note the block style teaching for the Outdoor Education, Outdoor Environmental & Sustainability Education, and Learning for Sustainability programmes. Please note calendar dates remain indicative only until the note at the beginning of the academic year is changed to indicate confirmed timetable.
It is expected full time students are based in Edinburgh for the entirety of the programme. Part time students need to be present in Edinburgh and/or the Highlands/West Coast as required for courses.
You can personalise the timetable by selecting the down arrow in the top right of the calendar next to ‘Agenda’ and choose only those calendars relating to your programme. (OE – Outdoor Education, OESE – Outdoor Environmental and Sustainability Education, LfS – Learning for Sustainability, PDP – Professional Development Programme Courses).
An example of our approach to study can be found in the final academic course of the programme which is a culmination of what the students have learnt earlier in the programme. This takes place on the Island of Rùm which is a National Nature Reserve on the West Coast of Scotland. Whilst there, students spend the week exploring the mountains, woodlands, sea cliffs, rivers, lochs and seashore of one of the UK's premier and largely unpopulated nature reserves. They learn techniques for identifying and mapping bird calls, identifying trees and gathering and classifying aquatic organisms. The foray into the hills at night to sit amongst the Manx shearwaters as they come and go out to sea from their burrows is an experience that makes a lasting impression on most. Students climb the Cuillin ridge where their mountaineering skills (walking, scrambling and navigation) are tested in reaching a mountain hut where they stay overnight before exploring the sea cliffs to observe seabirds nesting and to study the ice-scoured rock that reveals the geological history of the island. Students also learn about the history of the island and its castle and explore ruins of crofting settlements to gain a better understanding of the human history of Scotland. Students work together in all aspects of the programme including preparation of group meals and usually spend an evening at the local ceilidh (traditional Scottish dance), this contributes to the integrated holistic learning experience. Moray House was the first educational institution to be invited to the island (in 1973) and has returned every year (in May) since then because the range and diversity of these experiences can be found nowhere else.
One way of deciding whether postgraduate study will suit you is to register for the Postgraduate Certificate as a 'part-time intermittent study' student. This means that you will pay fees on a course-by-course basis. You can attend one course of your choice from within the Certificate options and submit the assignment. You are not obliged to continue on to complete or pay for any further courses. In discussion with staff members, you may then decide to progress to complete the full Certificate, Diploma, or Master’s programme.
The programme attracts outdoor educators, environmental educators, rangers, youth workers, NGO employees, recreationists, and individuals who want to consider their own personal and professional approach to using the outdoors in an educational context. As the three courses that make up the Postgraduate Certificate are delivered in blocks, it may be particularly attractive to educators who want to keep working (and who perhaps live some distance from Edinburgh) while they study part-time.
If studying full–time the Postgraduate Diploma programme takes about ten months to complete, finishing in late June. This includes both the academic and professional development programme elements.
Upon completion, those wishing to progress to the Master's dissertation stage may do so during their year of study. However, all students, including direct entrants to the MSc, are required to reach a specified standard of work in order to proceed to the dissertation stage (overall average of 50%, with no fewer than 40 credits below 50). During the Board of Examiners in May/June, all students wishing to progress to dissertation will be considered, including any PgDip students who wish to enter the Master’s programme.