Postgraduate study

Social Research MSc, PgCert (ICL)

Awards: MSc, PgCert (ICL)

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time, Part-time Intermittent Study

Funding opportunities

This programme will provide you with an understanding of the key issues in approaches to, and techniques of, research in the social sciences. It can be taken either as a free-standing degree, or preparatory to doctoral study.

Whatever your subject or methodological background, the MSc in Social Research is a flexible and comprehensive qualification. You will graduate as a sought-after researcher combining strong quantitative, qualitative and computational social research skills with the theoretical training to identify and address problems in social research.

This programme is for you if want to:

  • improve people’s lives using research and evidence
  • work for a government, company or an international organisation involved in social research
  • undertake further research and build a firm methodological foundation on which to proceed
  • build a solid foundation for a PhD
  • formalise your existing skills as an analyst on a part-time or full-time basis

SPS Research Training Centre

The MSc Social Research is the flagship postgraduate degree of the SPS Research Training Centre (RTC).

The RTC applies expertise in a diverse set of social science methods through teaching and research to contribute new insights to the key challenges in society.

It is a hub for additional resources and workshops that MSc Social Research students can access to supplement their programme training, for example, in preparation for their dissertations.

Social Research with Quantitative Methods pathway

Within this programme we offer a specialist pathway - Social Research with Quantitative Methods.

You can join this pathway subject to an assessment of prior training (determined during welcome week).

Closely linked to Edinburgh Q-Step Centre, you will undertake training in advanced social statistics and data science, always including hands-on opportunities to tackle social research questions using data from a variety of sources.

You will be embedded within the wider research environment of quantitative social science within Edinburgh Q-Step Centre, one of the largest collections of quantitative social scientists in the UK, and will be welcome to attend our thriving seminar series.

The rise of Big Data and the increasing linkages that are being made between social, administrative and biomedical data-sets make this an exciting time to study quantitative social science.


All candidates will take six semester-length courses (or their equivalent). These normally consist of 3 compulsory courses and three further courses selected from advanced research methods and/or a range of substantive courses from across the social sciences.

Optional courses

Candidates will be required to show that their optional courses reflect an appropriate breadth of interest. With the agreement of the degree convener, you may substitute one of your optional courses with one taken from the doctoral programme of any subject area within the School of Social and Political Studies and potentially other Schools within the University.


The dissertation represents a chance to get to grips with a topic of your own choosing, supervised by an appropriate member of academic staff.

Previous dissertation topics have included:

  • The Political Participation and Mobilisation of Refugees in Glasgow
  • The Greek-Muslims of Rhodes: Aspects of their co-existence with the Greeks
  • What Happens After 'Hello'? A Study of the Long-Term Effect of Contact(s) and Meeting(s) Between Adult Adoptees and their Birth Relatives

Candidates who reach a satisfactory standard in the taught courses may proceed from the diploma to an MSc by undertaking the dissertation, defined as supervised project on an approved topic of approximately 15,000 words, to be submitted by the date in August specified.

There is a dual dissertation option. Students have the option of either:

  • the standard dissertation
  • a placement-based dissertation

Placement-based dissertation

The aim of the placement-based dissertation is to provide students with the opportunity to work on their dissertation within a workplace context of their choosing, which could be within a public sector, voluntary, charitable or private organisation, subject to the approval of the Programme Director.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScSocial Research1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
MScSocial Research2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/24

On successful completion of this course, you will understand many of the key philosophical and theoretical debates in social-scientific research, as well as mastering a number of methodological skills and approaches to data collection and analysis.

The MSc in Social Research has high employability rates. Our graduates have strong quantitative skills to undertake data analysis and strong research methods training in qualitative methods.

They go on to work in:

  • national and international organisations
  • civil service
  • voluntary sector
  • commercial research sector
  • policy development, analysis and evaluation
  • further academic study (PhDs)

These entry requirements are for the 2023/24 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2024/25 academic year will be published on 2 October 2023.

A UK 2:1 honours degree or its international equivalent.

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 6.0 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 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.

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 (non-MESC).

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:

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScSocial Research1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScSocial Research2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
PgCert (ICL)Social ResearchUp to 2 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Graduate School of Social & Political Science
  • Chrystal Macmillan Building
  • 15A George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LD
Programme start date Application deadline
11 September 2023 30 June 2023

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

References are not usually required for applications to this programme.

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

Further information

  • Graduate School of Social & Political Science
  • Chrystal Macmillan Building
  • 15A George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LD