Undergraduate study - 2025 entry
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

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

Do you want to work alongside young people and adults in communities?

Do you have a desire to help communities reach their full potential and promote social justice?

This programme offers an excellent route into the empowering profession of Community Learning and Development (CLD).

Our degree produces practitioners who are:

  • professionally competent
  • ethically informed
  • critical and reflective

Our graduates go on to work in CLD roles in several areas, including:

  • community-based adult learning
  • youth work
  • criminal justice
  • community capacity building
  • community development

Our approach

When studying with us, you will:

  • gain a well-rounded grounding in education and the social sciences
  • learn different educational concepts and approaches in your practice
  • get professional practice experience through work-based learning placements
  • develop the skills to help people build vibrant communities and work towards social justice
  • build your understanding of the relationship between theory, policy and practice

Why Edinburgh

Moray House School of Education and Sport has been contributing to the field of education for almost 200 years.

The school has included community learning and development since 1961. Our degree builds on this extensive expertise.

We have tailored our programme specifically to the needs of those who want to enter this sector of education.

Our staff have extensive knowledge and experience in fieldwork and research in a range of CLD settings.

As a professionally approved degree, our degree will prepare you well for employment.


This programme can lead to two qualifications:

  • BA in Learning in Communities, if you leave after Year 3
  • MA (Hons) degree in Learning in Communities, if you leave after Year 4

BA degree

The three-year BA degree is approved by the Community Learning and Development Standards Council for Scotland (CLDSCS), and equivalent bodies in the rest of the UK under the UK-wide Joint Education and Training Standards.

CLDSC is the only professional body specifically for people working in the CLD field.

MA degree

The MA (Hons) qualification includes the approved BA degree. This means all MA graduates will be professionally qualified and eligible to register with the CLDSCS.

This programme is only offered as a full-time, campus-based degree.

As standard, students will enter 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 degree.

This flexible exit route is designed to:

  • enhance the student experience
  • 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 your existing experience.

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

You will:

  • learn about frameworks for locating practice in the wider policy context, and start to consider some of the implications
  • prepare for the task of developing disciplined and systematic approaches to practice
  • discover a range of teaching and learning strategies in CLD settings
  • complete your first supervised professional practice placement

Your placement this year will focus on developing a professional identity and studying the CLD agency in the context of the community.

Year 2

In Year 2, you will build on previous learning and develop a critical understanding and awareness of core theoretical concepts and principles.

You will develop your existing knowledge and skills in relation to the four learning strands of the curriculum.

You will:

  • study the principles and practice of working with people and groups
  • explore the historical development of, and debates relating to, the distinct areas of practice
  • research the structure, culture, operation and resourcing of community-based agencies
  • have the opportunity to study option courses from subjects in the wider University
  • complete a second professional practice placement

Your placement this year further builds and develops your knowledge of the relationship between theory and practice.

Year 3

In Year 3, you will develop a critical understanding of the defining features and scope of the professional sector. This will help you develop independence as a practitioner.

You will:

  • learn to draw on a range of theoretical sources to make competent, confident and defensible judgements in practice
  • deepen your understanding of the domains of practice through critical analysis of contemporary issues
  • apply your knowledge, skills and understanding of practice through routine methods of enquiry and research
  • learn how to design, plan and implement programmes of education and action in communities

Your final professional practice placement offers the opportunity to:

  • complete your professional portfolio of evidence
  • present a professional viva (oral exam) as evidence of your overall learning

Three-year degree option

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

Year 4

Year 4 draws many strands of study together and focuses on your honours research project. This is an opportunity for you to focus on a particular area of interest that is relevant to the field of CLD.

You can present your project in many ways, including:

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

How you will study

In Year 4, you will:

  • study more independently and develop your research project
  • share your research, and related research, with the student group
  • benefit from research workshops where you can share and discuss practical approaches and draw on academic knowledge and advice

You will also take our advanced policy analysis course, which encourages you to discuss specific policy and policy discourses.

This will engage you in theoretical debates about:

  • community
  • equality
  • social justice
  • citizenship
  • democracy

You will consider how these factors both open up and close off the possibilities for professional action.

Our facilities

Most of your teaching will take place at Moray House School of Education and Sport. The school is part of the Holyrood Campus within the University's Central Area.

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

Take a virtual tour

You can take a closer look at Moray House School of Education and Sport and explore our facilities and campus on the University's Virtual Visit site.

Take a virtual tour of Moray House School of Education and Sport


You will complete three significant practice-based learning placements during the programme. These take place in Years 1, 2 and 3, normally in Semester 2 each year.

You will:

  • need to complete 370 placement hours
  • normally attend your placement on a part-time basis (three days per week for 17 weeks)

Finding a placement

Your programme tutor will help you to identify a placement.

As far as we can, we will account for personal factors including your:

  • family commitments
  • learning and development needs
  • professional interests
  • career aspirations

On placement, you will work closely alongside, and be supported by, a placement supervisor.

Our supervisors are professionally qualified and experienced practitioners. They have also completed our placement supervisor training.

How will I learn?

Teaching staff use a range of teaching and learning approaches, including:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • workshops and seminars
  • individual and peer group self-directed learning
  • participative enquiry and action learning
  • problem-based learning activities
  • simulations (for example, funding applications or needs assessments)
  • online and blended learning
  • online blogs and discussion boards
  • supervised professional practice placements

Your learning and teaching will be supported and enhanced by regular one-to-one meetings with student advisers and placement supervisors.

How will I be assessed?

We will assess you with a range of methods, including:

  • oral presentations
  • your online professional portfolio in Years 1, 2 and 3
  • essays and other written tasks
  • case study analysis
  • group projects
  • practical assessments linked to your professional practice placement
  • dissertation/professional research project in Year 4

Our graduates can work in a wide range of settings in the UK and beyond.

Local authorities across the UK recruit CLD graduates for various roles in their community learning services, youth services and related departments.

Local, national and international voluntary sector organisations also employ CLD practitioners in a range of roles.

Typically, our graduates will go on to work with young people, adults and communities in 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

Wherever they work, 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.

Find out more about entry requirements


Admission to this degree includes an interview process. Further details on the process will be sent to candidates shortlisted for interview.

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 for MA Learning in Communities

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

If you are unable meet our minimum entry requirements for mature students, for example your qualifications are more than three years old, we may consider your application if you are able to provide substantial and relevant evidence that you have the potential to succeed on this degree.

You may be eligible for consideration under the following criteria:

Admissions criteria for applicants with qualifications up to 5 years old (PDF)

Admissions criteria for applicants with qualifications more than 5 years old or who are seeking RPL (PDF)

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.


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
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at 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: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 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 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 65 with at least 54 in each component. We do not accept PTE Academic Online.*

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

Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start of the month in which the degree you are applying to study begins. If you are using an IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE test, it must be no more than two years old on the first of the month in which the degree begins, regardless of your nationality.

English language requirements

(*Revised 24 May 2024 to change PTE Academic requirement from total 62 with at least 54 in each component, and to clarify that we do not accept PTE Academic online.)

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 need to join Disclosure Scotland's Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme with the University of Edinburgh as the Registered Body.

You must pay the cost of joining the scheme:

  • 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