Postgraduate study
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Public Policy MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

The MSc Public Policy covers both the theories and approaches to understanding and engaging with policy work, as well as applying these theories and approaches to policy making in a practice-oriented way through case study learning.

What are the factors that shape the policy decisions taken by governments at supranational, national and local levels? How do these decisions interact with and impact society and the economy?

Answering such questions effectively requires an interdisciplinary understanding of the field of public policy, drawing insights from politics, social policy, sociology and economics.

With a particular focus on the social and economic policy fields that are at the heart of modern welfare states, the MSc Public Policy offers an advanced understanding of the political, social and economic context of policy-making and government activity in modern societies.

This programme, based in the School of Social and Political Science, draws on the School's multi-disciplinary expertise across different fields of public policy, with a focus that ranges from the local to the global.

The MSc in Public Policy is offered as a one-year full-time or two-year part-time programme.

The programme will be delivered through:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • group work
  • guided independent study

You will complete three taught courses per semester, one of which is compulsory, the other two optional.

Compulsory courses

  • Political Issues in Public Policy (Semester 1)
  • Policy in Action (Semester 2)

Dissertation

After successfully completing the taught modules you will work towards an independently researched dissertation.

You can undertake a standard dissertation or potentially a placement-based dissertation, which can be undertaken in the UK or abroad.

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
MScPublic Policy1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
MScPublic Policy2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/24

By the end of the programme, you will have:

  • a firm grounding in a broad set of literatures on policy making and public policy
  • knowledge and understanding of core explanatory theories, concepts, and issues in analysing policy
  • an awareness of different models of the policy process
  • an understanding of the use of concepts and measures in analysing policy
  • skills to analyse and evaluate policy decisions and outcomes in a wide range of policy areas
  • the ability to draw on a variety of disciplinary paradigms in understanding policy and policy making.

You will also develop a range of highly transferable skills, such as communication and project management, which can be applied to roles in any field.

The MSc in Public Policy can be used as a gateway to a range of employment opportunities and further study.

Graduates from the School's postgraduate Policy programmes have gone on to employment in:

  • social research organisations
  • local government
  • civil service
  • think tanks
  • voluntary and community sector organisations
  • political and policy advisor roles
  • work in other public and private sector bodies

Others have gone on to pursue further study at doctoral level or to take up internships.

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, preferably in a social science or other relevant discipline. (Revised 14 November 2023 to add information on relevant degrees.)

Entrance to this programme is competitive. You can increase your chances of a successful application by exceeding the minimum programme requirements. Relevant work experience is not required but may increase your chances of acceptance.

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 6.0 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:

Application fee

This programme requires a non-refundable application fee.

  • £50

Your application will not be processed until we have received your application fee.

Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScPublic Policy1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScPublic Policy2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

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
9 September 2024 3 June 2024

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines. We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline when we will offer a proportion of the places available to applicants selected through a competitive process.

Please be aware that applications must be submitted and complete, i.e. all required documents uploaded, by the relevant application deadline in order to be considered in that round. Your application will still be considered if you have not yet met the English language requirement for the programme.

Deadlines for applicants applying to study in 2024/25:

Round Application deadline Places awarded by
1 13 November 2023 30 January 2024
2 12 February 2024 11 April 2024
3 15 April 2024 13 June 2024
4 03 June 2024 31 July 2024

Application fee

You must have paid the application fee before the deadline for the round you wish to be considered in.

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