Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Future Governance MSc, PgDip (ICL), PgCert

Awards: MSc, PgDip (ICL), PgCert

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

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Future Governance

An innovative, interdisciplinary degree with Edinburgh Futures Institute

Technology and data are transforming governance across the globe. How we apply ethical and innovative use of data and technology to society’s most pressing challenges is key to how we govern our future world. This new MSc programme in the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) explores and analyses the challenges and opportunities that big data brings to the future of democracy.

This is a unique, new interdisciplinary programme offering an innovative approach to study that will help you develop advanced thinking in governance and policy-making for the future. It is for critical thinkers who seek to develop leading-edge knowledge to help them shape the world, and their careers, by driving positive change through policy and decision-making.

You will gain the skills and knowledge required to evaluate and use diverse data sources and emerging technologies to understand, critique and shape the future of governance. The cross-sector, interdisciplinary approach used within the Futures Institute showcases the very best the University of Edinburgh has to offer and includes collaboration with policy and communication experts and decision-makers across the public, private and third sectors.

You will:

  • develop a deep understanding of democracy and participation in an era of rapidly developing technological change and data-driven decision-making
  • interrogate the challenges and opportunities that new and big data sources bring to the future of governance
  • increase your knowledge of ethical decision-making in the context of data-driven policy-making, and your confidence in using new and big data
  • learn to identify the most appropriate methods required to address policy issues and learn how to apply a strong, critical and interdisciplinary understanding to the challenge of our democratic futures

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 focused on complex global and social challenges. Our programmes are taught by academic experts from many different subject areas.

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 Edinburgh Futures Institute will give you the skills and understanding you need to become a creative, confident and critical citizen in a fast-changing world.

These include:

  • core data skills
  • data ethics
  • the ability to interrogate issues of global scope using methods from across disciplines
  • creative and analytic approaches to knowledge

You can join us regardless of whether you already have skills in the use and application of digital data.

Students on this programme study the following:

  • Core courses (20 credits) specific to your programme.
  • Edinburgh Futures Institute core courses (40 credits) which teach the essential, critical and hands-on data skills, methods, ethical and creative capacities needed to underpin your programme-based studies.
  • A wide choice of short 10-credit optional courses (60 credits), at least 2 of which must be on topics related to your programme, with scope to study across the entire portfolio.
  • A project (taking the form of a 20-credit ‘knowledge integration and project planning’ course, and a 40-credit final project).

Core courses

In addition to the Edinburgh Futures Institute shared core courses, you will take the following core courses for your programme:

  • Future Governance –This future facing course critically examines how data and technology are used within governance and the policy process.
  • Digital Democratic Innovations – This course explores the potential transformative effect of digital technology for democratic innovation.

Edinburgh Futures Institute core courses

On our core courses you will work in cross-disciplinary teams with students from other Futures Institute programmes. You will learn to collect, manage and analyse computational datasets, and to use emerging methodologies for mapping and designing the future. You will also learn the fundamentals of data ethics, and how to use creative skills in the analysis and representation of data-informed and qualitative inquiry.

Optional courses

Edinburgh Futures Institute offers a wide range of more than 40 optional courses taught by academic staff from many different discipline areas, including those associated with your programme. The exact courses offered vary from year to year. In 2024-25 the courses associated with your programme may include:

  • Digital Influence
  • Evidence, Argument and Persuasion in a Digital Age
  • Text Mining for Social Research
  • Data Civics
  • Datafication, Accountability and Democracy
  • The Neuropolitics of Decision Making

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
  • data, programming and research skills that advance the skills taught in the Futures Institute shared core
  • the causes and consequences of inequalities around the world
  • what the future of education might look like
  • how narratives drive the way we understand the world
  • bringing service design and service management together to build change in a data-driven society
  • current challenges and futures for the creative industries

The project

In your final project, you will apply your learning in depth to a domain, issue or concern which drives you. Your final project can be based on your own personal or professional interests, defined by your employer, sponsored by one of the Futures Institute’s industry, government or community partners, or aligned to one of our research programmes.

You will submit your final project as a written piece of work or combine text with other forms – for example, video, visualisation, a digital artefact, performance, or code.

You will identify your project topic relatively early on in the programme, and work on it in parallel with the taught courses. We expect you to take an interdisciplinary approach to your project in order to connect with the creative, data and future-orientated nature of the Futures Institute.

Part-time and full-time options

Full-time students on the programme complete their full credit requirements in one year. Part-time students take the same number of courses as full-time students, over two or three years:

  • For two-year part-time study, students take 80 credits in year one and 100 credits (including the project) in year two.
  • For three-year part-time study, students take 120 credits 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 ‘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 Edinburgh Futures Institute optional courses.

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
MScFuture GovernanceUp to 3 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyProgramme structure 2023/24
MScFuture Governance1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
MScFuture Governance2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
PgDip (ICL)Future GovernanceUp to 2 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyProgramme structure 2023/24
PgCertFuture Governance9 MonthsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/24

On successful completion of this programme, you will be able to:

  • develop a critical understanding of the role of diverse data, new technologies and the need for methodological excellence in the shaping of future governance and democracy 
  • increase your data literacy and confidence in handling new and big data sources and learn to confidently identify the most appropriate technologies, data and methods required to address a policy puzzle
  • become aware of the ethical implications of methodological decisions and how to make appropriate ethical and methodological choices
  • become a confident and curious learner able to shape your own learning journey; to communicate your research findings to diverse audiences, using different media; and be equipped to take the knowledge and skills developed into a range of professional and educational contexts 

Future Governance graduates will have a robust understanding of data-driven decision-making in governance processes. They will be ready to make positive change in the decision-making environment. 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.

Our data-literate graduates will be well placed to offer the cross disciplinary skills that are in demand from decision-makers and researchers in the public, private and third sectors. We expect our graduates to take up posts or to seek promotion in these sectors, equipped to carve out a niche in the rapidly transforming field of governance.

For mid-career professionals from the private, public, and third sectors, the programme will support them to become leaders on new or existing governance projects with a strong data aspect or to transition to such careers and/or seek promotions within their own institutions.

What does interdisciplinary study mean?

Interdisciplinary study is at the heart of Edinburgh Futures Institute 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.

We support you to develop interdisciplinary perspectives in different ways. For example, our 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.

Because you have such wide choice in the optional courses you choose to take with us – 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 have a lot of flexibility in how you choose to study at the Edinburgh Futures Institute.

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 employing a range of collaborative and creative synchronous and asynchronous activities.

Which mode of study should you apply for?

At Edinburgh Futures Institute you can choose to study full time, part time and different levels of flexibility between online learning and on-campus. However, this flexibility may be dependent on your visa requirements. It is important to understand your situation and visa requirements before you apply. Please contact us to discuss your options if you have any questions.

  • If you are an international student, you may require a Student Visa to study in person in Edinburgh. If this applies to you and you wish to apply for a Student Visa, you must apply for the full-time, on-campus programme. Please note that as a full-time student on a study visa you are required to study entirely on-site.
  • Student Visa sponsorship is not available for part-time on-site or any online programme and any CAS requests in support of a Student Visa application will not be considered.
  • As a full-time, on-site student you will study most of your courses on-campus, but you will have some freedom to choose to study some courses online if you do not require a Student Visa.
  • Full-time or part-time online students may also choose to come to Edinburgh for some courses, subject to course availability and visa requirements – for instance, you may be eligible for a Standard Visitor visa for short study periods, up to a maximum of one course per semester. Please contact our Student Immigration Service to confirm your personal visa requirements, and contact Edinburgh Futures Institute to confirm course availability, before booking any travel to Edinburgh.
  • If you are considering full-time online study, please note that all courses require significant synchronous engagement in the classroom and significant asynchronous engagement online. Get in touch with us with questions before applying.
  • 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. Part-time students can choose to study either entirely on-campus, online or via a combination of the two.

How you will learn at the Futures Institute

Our approach to teaching puts student experience and choice at its heart and connects global cohorts in new ways.

You will study in teaching spaces and digital learning environments designed to enable shared on-site and online teaching and learning activity. Your classes and contributions will be recorded and livestreamed so that they can be shared – and so you can build a learning community – across modes and time-zones.

Students studying online have a presence in our on-site classrooms (via video, audio and text), and students studying on-campus are able to work with diverse teams located across the globe.

All of your courses require significant synchronous engagement in the classroom and significant asynchronous engagement online. While there will be opportunities to engage in some activities asynchronously from different time zones, applicants should be aware of the requirement to join live classes at particular times. Please get in touch with us to discuss your particular circumstances before applying.

All students 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.

Teaching methods 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
  • data visualisation exercises
  • creative and collaborative whiteboard activities
  • online discussion
  • blogging

Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) uses a distinctive timetabling model in which the programme core and options courses are delivered over five weeks. Four of these weeks involve asynchronous activities, interactions and tasks.

In the middle of the course, an intensive two-day block of synchronous activity is held, building on the early weeks of the course and enabling the class to work together intensively to develop knowledge and skills that support the final weeks of course activity. Shared core courses are taught alternate weeks throughout the semester.

(Revised 26 October 2023 to update online learning and on-campus study options)

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

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.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

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

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.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 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.

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:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScFuture GovernanceUp to 3 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyTuition fees
MScFuture Governance1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScFuture Governance2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
PgDip (ICL)Future GovernanceUp to 2 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyTuition fees
PgCertFuture Governance9 MonthsPart-timeTuition fees

Scholarships and funding may be available to help you pursue your ambitions.

Search for postgraduate scholarships and funding opportunities:

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Edinburgh Futures Institute
  • University of Edinburgh
  • 1 Lauriston Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH3 9EU
Programme start date Application deadline
9 September 2024 11 July 2024

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 2024-25 are:

Round Application Deadline Decisions by
1 16 November 2023 31 January 2024
2 18 January 2024 28 March 2024
3 04 April 2024 13 June 2024
4 11 July 2024 30 July 2024

You must submit one reference with your application.

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

  • Edinburgh Futures Institute
  • University of Edinburgh
  • 1 Lauriston Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH3 9EU