Postgraduate study

Narrative Futures: Art, Data, Society (Online Learning) MSc, PgDip, PgCert

Awards: MSc, PgDip, PgCert

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Online learning

Funding opportunities

A new, interdisciplinary degree with the Edinburgh Futures Institute

We see and shape the world through narrative. The stories that mould our hopes and dreams, that direct our responses to climate change and our economic and political behaviour, are found everywhere: on the page, on the stage and on the screen, in offices, museums and classrooms, in computer labs and in the great outdoors, told by human beings and by algorithms.

If you want to investigate how narratives influence our lived realities and how they can create alternative ways of envisioning the future, then the Edinburgh Futures Institute Masters programme in Narrative Futures is for you. Whichever career you are based in or aspire to (creative, technical, governmental, academic), you will be able to apply the insights gained during your studies.

The programme will offer all the benefits of interdisciplinarity while maintaining a strong emphasis on integration by bringing together three broad areas of inquiry: art, data and society. You will learn how narratives are being transformed in a variety of artistic domains, from creative writing to game design; in different spheres of social life, from digital markets to religious or environmental discourses; and at the frontier of computational developments in artificial intelligence. And for your final project, you will apply your conceptual understanding of storytelling dynamics to produce a new narrative artefact of your own or to critically analyse an existing narrative medium or practice.

This bold new programme in Narrative Futures will combine hands-on creative and data skills development with research-led theoretical inquiry to help you master the narratives through which human beings perceive and (re)create the world.

Postgraduate Study at the Edinburgh Futures Institute

This programme is part of an interconnected portfolio of postgraduate study in the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI). EFI supports interdisciplinary teaching, learning and research that is focussed on complex global and social challenges. Our programmes are all taught by academic experts from many different subject areas, and as an EFI student you will develop creative, critical and data-informed thinking that cuts across traditional disciplinary boundaries. You will have the space to think deeply about questions linked to your own passions and professional goals, and will develop a project based on an issue that you care about.

As well as knowledge specific to your area of study, studying at EFI will give you the skills and understanding you need to become a creative, confident and critical citizen in a fast-changing world. These will include core data skills, data ethics, the ability to interrogate issues of global scope, and the creative and analytic approaches to knowledge that are vital for building better futures. You can join us regardless of whether you already have skills in the use and application of digital data.

The EFI model (which we call ‘fusion’ teaching) allows students to study on a fully online basis, or to combine online with on-campus study. Since online and on-campus students will be studying together, and we want to provide flexibility to move from on-campus to online study, we are charging the same tuition fee levels for online study as for on-campus study.

For more information, see section on Studying with the Edinburgh Futures Institute.

Students on the programme study the following:

  • A portfolio of EFI ‘shared core’ courses (40 credits) which teach the essential critical and hands-on data skills, enquiry methods, ethical and creative capacities needed to underpin your programme-based studies.
  • Core courses (20 credits) specific to your programme.
  • A project (taking the form of a 20-credit ‘integration and project planning’ course, and a 40-credit final project).
  • A wide choice of short 10 credit optional courses (60 credits), at least two of which must be on topics related to your programme, with scope to study across the entire EFI portfolio.

Core courses

You will take two 10 credit core courses for your programme:

  • The World of Story: Narrative, Creativity and the Arts will consider the prospective evolution of storytelling as an art-form.
  • The World as Story: Narrative, Self and Society will explore the social power of narrative.

You will also take the following 10 credit shared core courses, which are compulsory for EFI students on all programmes:

  • Interdisciplinary Futures
  • Insights Through Data or Text Remix (choose one)
  • Ethical Data Futures
  • Representing Data or Building Near Futures (choose one)

These shared core courses place you in cross-disciplinary teams with students from other programme areas. They will teach you to collect, manage and analyse computational datasets, and to use emerging methodologies for mapping and designing the future. They will also teach the fundamentals of data ethics, while supporting you to use your creative skills in the analysis and representation of data-informed and qualitative inquiry.

Optional courses

EFI will offer a wide portfolio of about 40-50 optional courses taught by academic staff from across many discipline areas including approximately six to eight courses on topics associated with your programme. The exact courses will vary from year to year – in 2022-23 the courses associated with your programme may include:

  • Writing Speculative Fiction
  • Creating Visual Narratives
  • Gamifying Historical Narratives
  • Narrative and Computational Text Analysis
  • Narratives of Digital Capitalism
  • Story Roots for Sustainable Futures
  • Religious Identity through Story
  • Pitching Your Stories, Services and Products

Optional courses from across the wider portfolio will cover a range of themes and topics, such as:

  • Critical perspectives on how new technologies are changing society
  • The causes and consequences of inequalities around the world
  • How new and rapidly changing technologies and data sources are transforming the future of democracy
  • What the future of education might look like
  • Current challenges and futures for the creative industries

The project

In your final project, you will be able to apply your learning in depth to a domain, issue or concern which drives you. It could be based on your own personal or professional interests, defined by your employer, or aligned to one of the EFI research programmes. You can submit your final project report as a written piece of work, or combine text with other forms as appropriate – video, visualisation, a digital artefact, performance, code. You will provisionally identify your project topic relatively early on in the programme, and work on it in parallel with the taught courses. We expect projects to take an interdisciplinary approach which connects with the creative, data and future-oriented nature of the EFI core.

Part-time and full-time options

Full-time students on the programme take these courses in one year. Part-time students take the same courses as full-time students, over either two or three years:

  • For the two-year version, students take 80 credits of courses in year one and 100 credits (including the project) in year two.
  • For the three-year versions, students take 120 credits of courses over years one and two (with up to 80 credits per year in each year), and then take the project (60 credits) in year three.

Students can also study towards a Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma:

  • Students have two years to undertake the Postgraduate Diploma, taking the same taught courses as students on the MSc, but not the project. They will take a total of 120 credits of courses - between 40 and 80 in each year.
  • Students have one year to undertake the Postgraduate Certificate, taking 60 credits of courses, including between 10 and 40 credits of the EFI ‘shared core’ courses, between 20 and 50 credits of programme-specific courses (either the programme core courses or optional courses), and up to 30 credits from the broader suite of EFI optional courses.

The programme aims to develop:

  • Understanding of the principles of story generation and interpretation across a range of traditional and digital creative media.
  • Knowledge of the uses and abuses of narrative in various spheres of social life.
  • Creative practice and data skills relevant to the analysis of existing and development of new narratives.
  • Research and critical capacity to put different academic disciplines into dialogue and to generate syncretic insights into the present functions and future possibilities of storytelling.

Narrative skills are in greater demand than ever before, and not just in the traditional ‘cultural industries’ such as creative writing, the performance arts and visual entertainment. Advertisers and fundraisers rely on storytelling to reach their target markets; those working in the tourism and heritage sectors need to know how to tell the story of local places to global audiences; communications, branding and design consultancies must build narratives for new products and companies; community groups, social enterprises, charities and arts organisations wishing to influence policy or raise funds must tell convincing stories in different ways to different demographics. Political activists, journalists, public advocates and science popularisers, medical clinicians, video game designers and computer scientists exploring new frontiers in artificial intelligence: all require insights into the processes and structures of narrative, its politics and ethics.

This programme will provide recent graduates or mid-career professionals with a good intellectual basis for professional development in a wide range of sectors, as well as for further academic study in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

The core elements of the programme address the data and higher-order skills we know are important for the future of work, confident and critical citizenship, and a thriving, just society.

What does interdisciplinary study mean?

Interdisciplinary study is at the heart of the EFI programmes. It means the ability to synthesise and apply knowledge and skills from across different disciplines, and is crucial to addressing many current complex challenges and planetary-scale issues. The EFI shared core courses draw on diverse disciplines to support you to work creatively and ethically with all kinds of data. Each programme develops interdisciplinary perspectives in the ways most appropriate to their specific domain and focus. And finally – because you will have such wide choice in the optional courses you choose to take in EFI – you will have the flexibility to design your own disciplinary pathway through your studies, integrating your insights and reflecting on their interdisciplinary power through your project-related work.

Flexible study choices

You will have a lot of flexibility in how you choose to study in EFI.

All the core and optional courses offered for this programme, and almost all the broader portfolio of optional courses, are taught in ‘fusion’ mode: a distinctive approach which allows you to combine on-campus with online study, and teaches on-campus and online students together as a single cohort. You can choose at the level of each individual course which mode you prefer. As a full-time, on-campus student you may choose to study most of your courses on-campus, but you will have some freedom to choose to study online when preferred. Please note however that full-time students on study visas will have particular attendance and engagement requirements and will need to be based entirely on-campus. Part-time students will also be able to choose to study either entirely on-campus, online or via a combination of the two.

You can choose to study on a full-time basis over one year, or part-time over two or three years. You can register for a full MSc, or for a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate. EFI also offers the opportunity for students to study individual courses on a ‘lifelong learning’ basis without signing up to study to a full award.

How you will learn in EFI

The EFI approach to teaching places student experience and choice at its heart and connects global cohorts in new ways. Students will study in teaching spaces and digital learning environments designed to enable on-site/online sharing of all teaching and learning activity. Your classes and contributions will be recorded and livestreamed so that they can be shared – and learning communities built – across modes and time-zones. Students studying online will have a presence in on-site classrooms (via video, audio and text in different forms), and students studying on-campus will be able to work with diverse teams located across the globe. All students will have a presence in the digital spaces where teaching happens – video-based classes, real-time collaboration spaces, live chats, asynchronous forums, shared exhibition and blogging spaces and more. * Fusion Teaching Privacy Notice

Teaching methods will include group work, expert lectures both live and livestreamed, data skills and programming workshops online and on-campus, on-site and virtual drop-ins, hybrid seminars, interactive journal clubs, external stakeholder challenges and code-alongs, and data visualisation exercises. Apart from the shared core, most EFI courses are delivered in intensive two-day blocks of teaching and learning activity, combined with pre- and post-intensive wraparound activity that will include a range of scheduled and self-directed activities (for example, group project activities, reading, assessment).

These entry requirements are for the 2022/23 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2023/24 academic year will be published on 3 October 2022.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in any discipline.

We will also consider your application if you have other professional qualifications or experience; please contact us to check before you apply. In particular, we welcome applications from any area or sector that focuses on narrative creation or interpretation. This includes but is not limited to: the creative industries, journalism, public advocacy, communications, PR and marketing, tourism and heritage, education.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified*:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: 70 overall with at least 62 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

(*Revised 17 November 2021 to add accepted PTE Academic qualifications.)

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Information on tuition fees for EFI programmes is available here: EFI fees

General information on tuition fees and studying costs:

Featured funding

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences PG Admissions Office
  • 57 George Square
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU

We operate a number of selection deadlines. We may make a small number of offers on an ongoing basis, but we will hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline before deciding which applicants to make offers to. If we have not made you an offer by a specific selection deadline this means one of two things:

  • your application has been unsuccessful, in which case we will contact you to let you know, or
  • your application is still being considered and will be carried forward for consideration in the next selection deadline and we’ll be in touch once a decision is made.

If you are applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

Deadlines for applicants applying for study in 2022-23 are:

Round Application Deadline Decisions by
1 17 March 2022 26 April 2022
2 23 May 2022 23 June 2022
3 25 July 2022 11 August 2022

(*Revised 8 November 2021 to update application deadline information.)

You must submit one reference with your application.

We will decide which applications to offer places to on the basis of:

  • Educational achievement
  • Professional experience (where relevant)
  • Quality of personal statement

Your personal statement should include why you are interested in studying on this particular programme and – if relevant – how it will support your career development. The Edinburgh Futures Institute provides a space where students can pursue projects on issues they care about, so it would also be helpful (though not essential) if you could indicate the area on which you would most like to focus during your time in EFI.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences PG Admissions Office
  • 57 George Square
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU