Frequently asked questions
Looking for information about Outdoor and Environmental Education programmes? Find answers to some frequently asked questions here.
You must be fit enough to fully engage in all programme activities. If you have any questions about your own level of physical fitness, please contact the Programme Director to discuss.
The Outdoor Education (MSc/PgDip/PgCert) Professional Development Programme (PDP) requires the ability to camp and canoe for a week, lift and carry canoes over uneven terrain, carry an expedition rucksack in mountainous terrain for several days at a time, sea kayak in potentially inclement weather and walk on uneven rocky shores carrying sea kayaks and overnight camping equipment, and climb on single pitch crags - all the things you might imagine necessary from our website info on the PDP. You do not need to be at the peak of human physical fitness, so please do not see this as a barrier, but clearly you do need a certain level of physical capability.
The Outdoor Environmental and Sustainability Education (MSc/PgDip/PgCert) Professional Development Programme (PDP) is active, but does not require the same kind of expedition or hill fitness as the OE PDP. You will be required to camp and canoe for a week, lift and carry canoes over uneven terrain, carry a day pack and hike over mountainous terrain for several days at a time - all the things you might imagine necessary from our website information on the PDP.
The Learning for Sustainability programme includes some outdoor field trips, but is not very physically demanding.
Examples of courses and physical fitness required by each course
Ecology and Field Studies (Academic Course for OE and OESE students)
Context: Takes place on the Isle of Rum for six full days. The programme is almost entirely practical and outdoors, with learning occurring mostly some distance from the bunkhouse where we stay.
The population is small (~30 individuals) and there are no medical facilities on the island, or on any of the other Small Isles. The nearest facility is in Mallaig and then Fort William.
Living arrangements are community living in a bunkhouse for the six days.
Walking distances, conditions and terrain:
- The island has no roads, and whilst we use some of the tracks, a lot of the walking is off these and in ‘rugged’ terrain
- Most days students must carry a rucksack with personal and field-work equipment
- The longest walk (mostly on rough tracks) is about 24 km - an all-day walk to the north-west of the island
- Another is a day walk about 8-10 km that involves some scrambling and walking over a rocky seashore (with seaweed-covered boulders)
- All other days involve walks of 4-8 km - one of these is on and through a boggy area; others are mostly off tracks and in and through a mixture of scrub, woodland and tussocks.
- One of the sessions involves a night walk (approximately 9pm to 3am the next morning) up a mountain, from sea level to about 700m. This involves walking in the dark (using a head torch) on mostly uneven rock and very steep ground, sometimes using hands to scramble rocky ridges. You will return the same way. All students need to carry extra personal and safety equipment in their rucksack and be confident in their walking ability, balance and fitness.
- Students have a set-programmed day during which they are encouraged to visit the south or west side of the island for their studies. This is usually a 20-25 km walk.
Context: Takes place on the West Coast of Scotland – Ardnamurchan Peninsula. The nearest medical facility is in Fort William. The programme involves sea kayaking skill development over five days with day trips building to an overnight expedition of one or two nights. Living arrangements are community living in a bunkhouse for five days.
Walking distances, conditions, terrain:
- The landscape is remote and the sea shore is extremely rocky with seaweed growing over rocks, making it slippery
- Tides are large; low tide can result in a long walk (e.g. 500m, sometimes more) with heavy boats making at least two trips to get equipment to the banks (sometimes more) necessary
- Lunch spots are usually on rocky shores requiring you to land boats and carry them short distances, then walk on rocky slippery ground for short distances
- Students are required to carry sea kayaks, equipment for camping, etc over rocky, slippery ground for various distances depending on launching places, campsites and exit options, all dependent on tides and weather.
Context: Two consecutive days of hillwalking in the Pentland Hills. Students return to their homes overnight.
Walking distances, conditions, terrain:
- The landscape is remote, rocky, and will include walking on and off tracks
- Minimum distance per day will be 10 km, including steep incline and descents
- Maximum distance per day will be approx. 15 km. This is difficult to predict and is determined by weather, conditions and meeting learning outcomes.
- There will be a lunch break if the weather’s suitable. If not, it will be eaten ‘on the go’.
- Students must carry all necessary emergency personal clothing and equipment as well as group items (approx. 5-8kg).
In terms of what equipment and clothing you should bring with you, we have prepared this list with the help of former students. Many students borrow from each other, hire and/or bring along their own personal equipment. The weather in Scotland is very changeable and where possible we conduct as much learning and teaching outdoors whether away on Residential Courses or when in Edinburgh.
Required/essential clothing and equipment
Items marked with (*) are available for loan from our stores, subject to availability.
- Robust, quick drying ‘walking/hiking’ trousers
- Thermal base layer i.e. tops and bottoms – such as polypropylene or smart wool
- Mid layer – fleece and/or soft shell
- Woollen walking socks (at least 2 pairs)
- Synthetic insulated jacket - synthetic insulation is better than down due to our damp climate but down is ok if you already have it, it just isn’t very warm if it gets wet
- Waterproof breathable shell jacket – must be a minimum of 10,000 mm Hydrostatic Head waterproof for British mountain conditions
- Waterproof breathable trousers (preferably with zip sides to allow them to be put on or taken off over boots)
- Robust three-season hiking boots, with soles which will grip on rock, grass and mud
- Thin gloves e.g. wool or polypropylene
- Warm, waterproof gloves / glove shells
- Fleece or wool hat
- Sun hat
- Head torch and spare batteries
- Digital watch with stop-watch - essential for navigation
- Sunglasses with UV protection
- Personal mini first aid kit, blister kit and tick remover
- Insect repellent – Smidge is excellent for our resident mini mosquitos the Midge and also protects against ticks
- ‘Midge’ net
- Rucksack (60-70 litres) - essential for Summer Hills course as we will be backpacking at times
- Rucksack (30-45 litres)
- Sit mat (small waterproof mat to sit on)
- Waterproof notebook (for notetaking outdoors)
For camping & residential
- Three season sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
- Mug, bowl, spoon
- 2 tea towels
Essential items for Covid protection
- Reusable Masks (minimum 2, so they can be washed and dried as necessary during the residential courses)
- Personal Hand Sanitiser container (able to be refilled as needed)
- Wool or ‘Buffalo’ mittens – for Winter Hills
- Synthetic gilet/vest
- Map case (Ortlieb is best)
- Compass - Silva Type 4 or one with the same size base plate (*)
- 0.5 litre thermos flask
- 20-30 litre dry bag
- Gaiters - advisable for Summer Hills but essential for Winter Hills (*)
- Walking poles
- A second, thicker fleece or insulated jacket
- Spare warm hat
- Neck warmer (Buff or similar, may also double as mask)
If studying OE/OESE (Diploma and Masters) programmes we strongly recommend taking “Interpreting the Landscape” as your first academic course in your first year of registration. The “Canoeing” is recommended for your first PDP course. We strongly recommend that “Ecology and Field Studies” is taken as your last course.
If studying the OE/OESE (Certificate) programmes we recommend you take “Interpreting the Landscape” as your first academic course in your first year of registration. You can choose the order of the remaining courses to suit your personal needs.
When in doubt, contact the programme director via email with specific questions.
This depends on the pathway you choose. As a full-time student, the MSc in Outdoor Education or the MSc Outdoor Environmental and Sustainability Education take 15 months to complete. Part-time students take 30 months. Part-time intermittent students can take anywhere from 2 up to 6 years to complete the MSc programmes. The programmes usually begin in the first week of September each year (or the Monday closest to September 1. This is before the official start to the academic year.
The courses in the Outdoor Education and Outdoor Environmental and Sustainability Education programmes are taught in blocks. Courses range from 3-7 days long and are timetabled across the academic year.
For more information on the courses we offer, please follow the links below.
Yes, that is possible. On the part-time intermittent pathway (ICL), students can build up credits one course at a time. As the courses are taught in blocks, working part-time intermittent students can use their annual leave to complete their studies. If you would like more information about recommended pathways, do not hesitate to get in touch. We do request you begin with “Interpreting the Landscape” as your first course, and “Ecology and Field Studies” as your final course where possible.
Yes, that is possible. On the part-time intermittent pathway (ICL), students can build up credits one course at a time. As the courses are taught in blocks, students from other places can travel to Edinburgh for the duration of the course they are planning on taking.
Please note that while accommodation and transport are included in residential courses this is not the case for courses based in Edinburgh. Transport to Edinburgh and finding accommodation in the city for the duration of an Edinburgh-based course is up to the student. This also applies to travel and accommodation students might need to undertake before and after a residential course.
A residential course is a course that is taught away from the Edinburgh city campus. Residential courses in the Outdoor and Environmental Education programmes take place across different locations around Scotland, for example, the West Coast or the Highlands. As stated above, accommodation and transport to residential courses are provided and included in the programme/course fees. Please note, some courses are core and included in academic fees, others are optional and incur an additional course fee. Refer to the Programme Structure pages for more information.
Every year we aim to finalise a draft calendar in January prior to the upcoming academic year. We recommend you check regularly and take note of the information in the calendar. When confirmed, the information in the calendar will be updated indicating confirmation. Please note, due to a range of reasons, we may need to move courses, hence we assume all students are based in Edinburgh for the duration of the full time programmes.
In short, no. The Outdoor and Environmental Education (OEE) programmes are designed to be taught in person and there is currently no plan to create OEE online degrees. If this is of interest to you, please feel free to email us (use the link below or email: email@example.com) and indicate your interest in a fully online programme.
For current programme costs, please follow the links below. Please note that programme costs usually increase slightly from year to year. That means, potential applicants thinking about starting a programme in future years should take this cost increase into account.
Although the two programmes are similar, there are some key differences between the two. Common to both programmes are 4 academic courses, with 2 academic courses specific to each programme. In addition, we have the Professional Development Programme courses which complement the academic courses. In the OE programme, there are more practical courses scheduled throughout the year than in the OESE. You can find the specific courses and information on the webpages.
In terms of work opportunities and career progression post-graduation, students tend to take very different pathways regardless of having completed the OE/OESE programmes. The choice of direction is often linked to the Undergraduate degree(s) and prior work experience. Given this is very diverse within the cohort, it is difficult to predict your direction post study. We provide some suggestions:
Outdoor experience is an entry requirement to the programme; however, we are quite flexible in what that outdoor experience looks like specifically. We are interested to know about your personal and professional experience in the outdoors, and also your passion for pursuing a career in outdoor and environmental education. If you are unsure whether your experience meets the requirements of the programme, please email us (use the link below or email: firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll be happy to advise you.
You maybe able to network with incoming and existing students on our Facebook page. Some students stay in hostels for their first week and make flat-sharing arrangements with classmates they meet during Induction. Please be aware that because the MSc OE and MSc OESE programmes start earlier than most of the University, special arrangements need to be put in place if you wish to take up university accommodation. The usual arrangement is that temporary university accommodation is provided for the first two weeks or so until your permanent accommodation is ready from about mid-September onwards.
It will also only be available for 12 months so full time OE/OESE students will need to arrange something for the last three months while completing their dissertations. Students rarely have difficulty arranging something and generally group together to arrange alternative private accommodation for the last three months.
Most of your classes will be in the Charteris, Paterson’s Land and Thomson's Land buildings, which are close to the Education library. University postgraduate accommodation exists very close by, as does private rented accommodation. Edinburgh is a compact city with good public transport. Many people buy a bike to get around.