Moray House School of Education and Sport

Programme structure

There are three possible exit levels: Certificate, Diploma, or Masters. The emphasis – at every level – is on developing the knowledge, understanding, and judgement necessary to facilitate meaningful learning in, for, and through the outdoors.

Suspension of Outdoor Environmental and Sustainability Education (MSc/PgDip/PgCert) for 2020 entry due to Covid-19

We are committed to offering a high-quality experience to all of our students. While working to minimise the impact of Covid-19, we have reluctantly decided that we will be unable to offer the Outdoor Environmental and Sustainability Education (MSc/PgDip/PgCert) programme for entry in 2020. We anticipate that this programme will be available again for entry in September 2021 and we welcome your applications for the next intake, usually open in October. All information about the Outdoor Environmental and Sustainability Education programme on our website is therefore indicative only. Please check back regularly over the coming year for updates and further information.

The Certificate programme provides a sound understanding of the interconnection between nature and culture, the values associated with such a relationship, and the role of experiential outdoor education in considering these values. The Diploma extends this with further academic study and a Professional Development Programme (involving field courses and a professional placement), integrating academic theory with practical environmental education. The Masters extends this further still with a dissertation. 

For the Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits), you will complete the following three courses:

For the Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits), in addition to the above courses, you will complete:

For the Masters (180 credits), in addition to the above courses, you will complete:

  • Dissertation (60 credits)

INDICATIVE Course Descriptions (2019-20)

The Masters 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.

Courses take place at our Edinburgh campus and multiple bases in the Highlands 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, self-study, and work experience/practicum.

An example of our approach to study can be found in the final academic course of the year which is a culmination of what the students have learnt earlier in the year. This takes place on the Island of Rùm which is a National Nature Reserve on the West Coast of Scotland. Whilst there the 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.

Study Part-time and build your Certificate or Diploma into a Masters

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 Masters 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 five-day 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 PgDip 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.


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.

Professional Development Programme

An integral part of the Postgraduate Diploma and Masters 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; and 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. Core courses may include:

  • Canoeing on the River Spey
  • Land-based Competency
  • Two-day specialist outdoor first aid course
  • Four-week professional placement
  • 'Outdoor Environment and Sustainability Education in Practice’ course

Optional courses may include Cairngorm hill-walking, winter mountaineering, rock-climbing, west coast sea-kayaking, river kayaking, Nordic skiing, bushcraft, wilderness first aid. Additional costs are associated with the optional elements of the Professional Development Programme; please contact the Programme Director for more information on these. 

Due to the holistic nature of the core courses which goes beyond technical skills acquisition, it is expected that all students will fully participate, irrespective of personal experience and qualifications. 

Students on the Postgraduate Certificate may also take some of the skills courses at additional cost.

Professional placement

To facilitate and broaden your direct experience of teaching outdoors, you will undertake a four-week professional placement. The placement occurs at a stage in the programme when you are able to make a useful contribution to the agencies you choose to work with and can relate your 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.

Although there is no credit weight associated with the work placement, on completion of the Work 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

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 Education 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 Outdoor Education 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.


The dissertation is a major investigation that demands a high level of individual application and commitment to research and enquiry. It offers opportunities to identify and examine a topic which greatly interests you and can play a considerable role in your professional development. The dissertation involves a critical interrogation of the relationship between professional practice and academic theory, and the design, ethics and interpretation of research.

Integral to the dissertation is a taught component in which students are introduced to a range of techniques relevant to their chosen approach to enquiry. One of these courses is Sources of Knowledge, which is taken as part of the Postgraduate Diploma.

Each participant will submit a refined proposal which should specify a research question, or a set of related research questions, and justify its theoretical significance and professional relevance. It should include a critical review of the relevant literature and propose an appropriate strategy for collecting data. The likely trustworthiness of the data should be discussed along with any ethical considerations. There should be a plan and timetable for collecting data and writing up the dissertation.

The dissertation will be 15,000 words. It may incorporate, either directly or after amendment, a substantial part of the material contained in the proposal.


This programme starts on 1st September or the closest weekday to 1st September.  Note that this is usually about two weeks earlier than the rest of 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 here 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 removed.

Global Environment and Society Academy

This programme benefits from affiliation with the University's Global Environment and Society Academy.

Global Environment and Society Academy