Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Social Research MSc, PgCert

Awards: MSc, PgCert

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

This programme will provide you with a rigorous introduction to the key issues, approaches and techniques in research methods and design in the social sciences. Our programme instils key skills in qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis. It also offers additional study in research methods from the computational social sciences. This qualification will enable you to become an independent researcher who can engage and tackle pressing social issues through the application of rigorous social science 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 study 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

You can take it as either a free-standing degree, or during the first year of doctoral study.

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.

Our curriculum has three essential components, which provide a framework for your learning over the course of the year. They are:

  • a core courses in semesters 1 and 2
  • a set of specialist elective courses
  • your dissertation

Core courses

Your three core courses introduce you to quantitative and qualitative data collection, research design, and quantitative data analysis.

You will learn how to design and execute research that is able to respond to contemporary social challenges.

Elective courses

You are able to choose three elective courses from a list of recommended options. Your elective options allow you to strengthen your research skills through developing further specialisation in qualitative, quantitative and computational social science research methods and analysis. In addition, your elective courses also allow you to explore the connections between social theory and research methods.


The third element of your programme is a dissertation, an extended, independent research-based project. This is your opportunity to undertake independent research, under the supervision of an appropriate member of academic staff.

Previous dissertation topics have included:

  • Do Humanitarians and Academics Differentially Construct Accountability to Crisis-Affected People?
  • Climate Change, Conflict and Migration in West Asia and North Africa
  • Floating ‘Permanent’ Migrants: Determinants of Multiple Internal Migration Behaviours in China
  • Managing Hybrid Social Media: A Case Study of Employees’ Boundary Management Strategies in WeChat

Placement-based dissertation

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

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)

Chiara Fehr, MSc Social Research 2022-2023

“Studying Social Research at the School of Social and Political Sciences has been both challenging and rewarding. The course has provided me with vast knowledge of methods and theory, allowing me to learn new skills, fine-tune already existing knowledge and apply what I learned in assessments where I was able to explore my own research interests. It furthermore gave me ample opportunity to engage in a range of academic interests beyond the course through elective courses. Overall, I feel that this course prepared me incredibly well for my pursuit of an academic career."

“Since completing my MSc, I have gone on to pursue PhD studies”

Xueshi Zhao, MSc Social Research 2022-2023

“One of the aspects of my programme that has been particularly appealing to me is the diversity of course offerings. Beyond the core curriculum, students have the opportunity to choose from a wide range of courses offered by the university. For instance, I opted for the course "Internet, Society, and Economy," which allowed me to delve deeper into the impact of algorithms on emerging professional groups, such as food delivery riders. This course ultimately became the focal point of my dissertation. Another feature of the programme that I greatly appreciate is the multiple instructors for certain courses. Having different professors with distinct academic backgrounds teaching the same course has enriched my learning experience. It has provided me with diverse perspectives and a well-rounded understanding of the subject matter. This diversity has not only strengthened my social research skills but has also heightened my awareness of the complexity and diversity of the subjects I investigate. Lastly, I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop-style classes that some courses offered. These smaller group settings, where a handful of students come together to discuss the material covered in lectures, facilitated meaningful interactions and communication among peers. It was in these workshops that I formed lasting friendships with fellow students. In summary, my time in the social research programme has been both intellectually stimulating and personally rewarding. The programme's flexibility in course selection, diverse teaching faculty, and interactive workshop experiences have all contributed to my growth as a social researcher”

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.

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. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • 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 five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Tuition 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

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 01 November 2023 21 December 2023
2 08 January 2024 14 March 2024
3 18 March 2024 28 May 2024
4 03 June 2024 31 July 2024

(Revised 18 October 2023 to update the 'places awarded by' date for round 3)

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