Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

MA Learning in Communities

UCAS code: X321

Duration: 4 years (with possible exit after Year 3)

School: Education and Sport, The Moray House School of

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences


Introducing MA Learning in Communities

Moray House has been making a major contribution to the field of education for almost 200 years, and professional pre-service programmes in the field of Community Learning and Development (CLD) have been a part of the Moray House portfolio since 1961.

This new programme inherits and builds on this extensive expertise. The programme produces graduates who are professionally competent, ethically informed, critical and reflective Community Learning and Development (CLD) practitioners.

In Scotland, the term Community Learning and Development (CLD) is used to incorporate community-based adult learning, youth work, and community capacity building under a single professional rubric. Known as the empowering profession, CLD is an informal educational practice that seeks to serve people in communities.

Drawing on a range of educational concepts and approaches, practitioners work alongside individuals and groups to promote their engagement in life-long learning. CLD practitioners work to build peoples' capacity in applying this learning to help think critically about their world, with a focus on bringing about change in their own lives, their communities, and in society.

Working in this way CLD practitioners seek to help people learn about, and build, a vibrant democratic culture in their communities and wider society, and work towards social justice.

This programme will be of interest to those who want to develop their educational knowledge and skills in working alongside young people and adults in communities. It will also appeal to those who have a desire to help people and communities achieve their full potential, and who have a commitment to facilitate individual and collective change and action for social justice.

This degree programme is tailored to the needs of those who want to enter this sector of education. It provides both a well-rounded and rigorous academic grounding in education and the social sciences, with appropriate professional preparation through work based learning placements in the field of practice.

A developed base of theoretical understandings supports the practices of CLD work, and in particular the programme seeks to develop your understanding of the complex and dynamic relationship between theory, policy and practice.

The programme’s aims are achieved through four distinct learning strands focused on:

  • Informal and non-formal educational methods and approaches
  • Theoretical ideas and conceptual frameworks
  • Research capacity
  • Professional practice placement experiences

As a professionally approved programme, informed by research and the developing contexts of practice, graduates of this programme will be well prepared to enter employment. You will be equipped with educational knowledge and skills to work alongside people in communities.

As a result, graduates will be able to apply for a broad range of education and development jobs in a wide variety of contexts in the public, voluntary and third sectors.

Students on this programme will be taught by staff who have extensive fieldwork practice experience in a range of settings. Staff also contribute to both the academic literature and research knowledge in this dynamic field of professional educational practice.

The programme staff draw on this practice experience, research and academic knowledge to inform students' teaching and learning experience.


This programme has two possible exit routes leading to two qualifications:

  • BA (Ordinary) - exit after Year 3
  • MA (Honours) - exit after Year 4

The BA (Ord) Learning in Communities degree, awarded after three years of study, is professionally approved by the CLD Standards Council for Scotland (CLDSCS).

Students can also graduate after Year 4 with an MA (Hons) Learning in Communities degree.

However, progression to Year 4 and graduation with the MA (Hons) degree can only be achieved by the successful completion of the first 3 years of study, leading to the professionally approved BA (Ord). This is unconditional.

All graduates with the MA (Hons) Learning in Communities degree will be professionally qualified and eligible to register with the CLDSCS, as the full qualification includes the professionally approved BA (Ord) degree.

This programme is only offered as a full-time, campus-based degree. It is delivered mainly at the Moray House School of Education and Sport campus in Edinburgh. Although campus-based, the programme will include some elements of blended learning.

As standard, students will enter on the four year degree programme, graduating with an MA (Hons) degree. However, there is an option for students to exit at the end of year 3 with a BA (Ord) degree.

This flexible exit route is designed to enhance the student experience and to facilitate the needs of individual students and their particular career and academic aspirations.

Year 1

Year 1 has an important formative and foundational function, building on the existing experience of students.

The programme includes a broad introduction to theory and practice in Community Learning and Development (CLD). This is intended to help you to extend your thinking as preparation for critical reflection on policy and practice.

You will be introduced to frameworks for locating practice in the wider policy context, and encouraged to consider some of the implications. You will be prepared for the task of developing disciplined and systematic approaches to practice, and will be introduced to a range of teaching and learning strategies in CLD settings.

Students will also undertake their first supervised professional practice placement which focuses on developing professional identify and studying the CLD agency in the context of community.

Year 2

Year 2 will enable you both to consolidate previous learning, and to develop a critical understanding and awareness of core theoretical concepts and principles.

Your existing knowledge and skills will be developed in relation to the four learning strands of the curriculum. You will study the principles and practice of working with people and groups. You will also explore the historical development of, and debates relating to, the distinct domains of practice. You will research the structure, culture, operation and resourcing of community-based agencies.

You will undertake a second professional practice placement where you will further develop and understand the relationship between theory and practice.

Year 2 gives you the opportunity to study an outside subject, chosen from the wider University.

Year 3

Year 3 will enable you to develop a critical understanding of the defining features and scope of the professional sector. This will nurture your capacity as an autonomous practitioner, to draw on a range of theoretical sources to make competent, confident and defensible judgements in practice.

You will deepen your understanding of the domains of practice through critical analysis of contemporary issues arising from forefront developments. You will apply your knowledge, skills and understanding of practice through the use of routine methods of enquiry and research.

You will learn how to design, plan and implement programmes of education and action in communities.

The final professional practice placement offers the opportunity for you to complete your professional portfolio of evidence and present a professional viva as evidence of your overall learning.

Exit after Year 3

After successful completion of Year 3, you will have the option to exit with a BA (Ordinary) degree and a professional Community Learning and Development (CLD) qualification.

The BA (Ord) degree is professionally approved by the CLD Standards Council for Scotland.

Year 4

Year 4 is a summative year which draws many strands of study together and focuses on the Honours Dissertation Project. You will enter a more autonomous mode of study in which you take a more active role in the development of content.

An Honours seminar programme offers you the opportunity to share research relevant to your Honours project. You will enter a more collaborative relationship with academic staff as you share your research with the student group.

A series of research workshops allows you to share the practical approaches you are taking to your research projects and to draw on academic knowledge and advice.

An advanced policy analysis course will encourage you to interrogate specific policy and policy discourses. This will engage you in theoretical debates about community, equalities, social justice, citizenship and democracy and how these both open up and constrain the possibilities for professional action.

The Honours research project is an opportunity for you to focus on a particular area of interest that is relevant to the field of CLD. The form of presentation could be:

  • A dissertation
  • A fully developed research proposal
  • A written submission in the form of an academic journal article; or
  • A systematic literature review

Our facilities

Most of the teaching will take place at Moray House School of Education and Sport, located at the Holyrood Campus within the University's Central Area.

You will also have access to the University's libraries and computing facilities.

Future study abroad opportunities

There are currently no opportunities for study abroad as part of this programme. This opportunity is restricted due to the professional requirement to study a range of specific core courses and appropriate professional practice placements.

Programme staff are working to identify collaborators and develop partnerships with equivalent programmes in other international institutions. The ambition is that once these partnerships are established then students will have opportunities to either study or possibly undertake placements aboard.


This degree programme is professionally endorsed by the Community Learning and Development (CLD) Standards Council for Scotland. The programme is required to contain a significant element of professional practice learning, in the form of work-based placements.

As part of your professional preparation, placement involves the provision of opportunities for you to encounter and develop the skills, attitudes, and values present in professional contexts. You will also develop your sense of professional competence as a result.

Professional practice placements take place in a range of settings that represent the diverse scope of contemporary CLD practice. This will help to prepare you for the multiple future roles that you may encounter after graduation.

On this programme you will undertake three significant practice-based learning placements in Years 1, 2 and 3 of study (there is no placement requirement in Year 4 of study).

You are required to complete 370 placement hours. You will be on placement in Semester 2 of each year and will normally attend your placement on a part-time basis 3 days per week, for 17 weeks. You will have access to an extensive and diverse range of appropriate professional practice placements.

Your family commitments, as well as learning and development needs, professional interests, and career aspirations are taken into account as far as possible when identifying your placement.

The identification of each placement begins with a one-to-one meeting between you and a programme tutor. While on placement you will work closely alongside, and be supported by, a placement supervisor who is a professionally qualified and experienced practitioner. Supervisors have also undertaken a placement supervisor training programme provided by the University.

Whilst a University tutor will offer support on placement, the crucial element of each placement is the relationship developed between you and your placement supervisor.

How will I learn?

Teaching and learning are mutual experiences and this programme reflects this pedagogical approach.

The teaching staff aim to build a trusting relationship with you by valuing and drawing on your personal and professional experience. Teaching staff will also apply participative, interactive and dialogical approaches to stimulate discussion, debate and critical thinking.

The programme as a whole is designed to engage you in the exploration of the key theoretical concepts, policies and policy discourses which shape professional interventions in this field of educational practice.

The individual courses and associated learning and teaching materials will draw on a range of relevant concepts and policies to promote critical thinking and analytical skills. This will enable you to develop a firm grasp of these theoretical concepts and policies and the interaction between them.

Course content will also help you recognise the complex and contested nature of the CLD discipline, encouraging you to draw on and value your own experience to identify and locate your personal position within this contested professional terrain.

Across all years of the degree programme, teaching staff adopt an array of teaching and learning approaches which include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials
  • Workshops and seminars
  • Individual and peer group self-directed learning
  • Participative enquiry and action learning
  • Problem based learning activities
  • simulations (e.g. funding applications or needs assessments)
  • Online and blended learning
  • Online blogs and discussion boards
  • Supervised professional practice placements

Your learning and teaching is supported and enhanced by regular one-to-one meetings with Personal Tutors and placement supervisors.

How will I be assessed?

All courses within the programme are assessed by a diverse range of methods. Assessment often takes the form of formative work which provides you with on-going feedback. You will also have summative assessment which is submitted for credit.

Assessment methods used in the programme include:

  • Oral Presentations
  • Online professional portfolio (Years 1, 2 and 3)
  • Essays and other written tasks
  • Case study analysis
  • Group projects
  • Practical assessments (professional practice placement)
  • Dissertation/professional research project (Year 4)

Formative feedback: tutor feedback throughout individual classes and online blogs as well as feedforward and formative assignments.

Summative feedback: Detailed tutor feedback on all summative assessments via the online platform LEARN.

Peer feedback is encouraged and opportunities to do so are incorporated into all courses.

Graduates are eligible for employment in a wide range of settings in the UK and beyond.

Local authorities in Scotland and across the UK recruit graduates for various of roles in their Community Learning, Youth Services and related departments.

Local and national voluntary sector organisations also employ CLD practitioners in a wide variety of education and development roles. As do national and international NGOs.

Typically, our graduates will go on to work with young people, adults and communities in generic or specialist settings such as:

  • Youth work in communities, schools or criminal justice
  • Community development
  • Community capacity building
  • Community engagement and inclusion
  • Community health and housing
  • Adult literacy and lifelong learning
  • Citizenship and democracy

In whichever setting they engage, our graduates bring a clear professional identity and a practice grounded in the theory and practice of community-based informal education.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or AABB/ABBBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: English at C.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at 5.

Additional requirements

Adult returner applicants

We welcome applications from adult returners and accept a range of qualifications.

Adult returner applicant qualifications accepted for MA Learning in Communities

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

We recognise that some applicants may not be able to evidence that they meet the entry requirements through the qualifications detailed on this page, but can provide substantial and relevant alternative evidence that they have the potential to succeed on this programme. If you think that this could apply to you, you must contact us before submitting an application.

(Revised 07/01/21 to provide information for adult returners)

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

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.


For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • SQA Standard Grade at 3
  • SQA Intermediate 1 at A
  • SQA Intermediate 2 at C
  • GCSE/IGSCE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate Grade C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

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

  • IELTS Academic module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition) 92 or above with 20 in each section. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components.

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

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

English language requirements

*(Revised 27 April 2020 to include TOEFL-iBT Special Home Edition.)

Protecting Vulnerable Groups

All successful applicants will be required to join Disclosure Scotland's Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme before starting the programme. In addition, all applicants who don't live in the UK, or who have spent more than a year abroad, will need to provide equivalent verification from the relevant national authority.

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Additional costs

All successful applicants will be required to join Disclosure Scotland's Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme with the University of Edinburgh as the Registered Body.

You must cover the cost of joining the PVG Scheme, which is currently between £18 and £59.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding