Usher Institute

BLOG: A great opportunity for part-time MPH students

Maria, final year MPH student, reflects on their experience of the student-led course offered in place of a traditional dissertation in the online, part-time MPH programme.

By Maria Mensonen | Master of Public Health student at The University of Edinburgh

multicultural women smiling

Do you want to challenge yourself in a real life experience? As a final year MPH student, you have an opportunity to take the Student-Led Individually Created Course (SLICC) instead of a traditional dissertation. In this route, you will explore a topic of your interest from different public health perspectives, which will make you an expert on your chosen topic at the end, or at least that is what happened to me!

What can you learn?

Although at first I felt a little nervous and it took me some time to understand what the SLICC entailed, the fact that it would test the skills learned from the MPH and build on them really appealed to me.

Through volunteering in a children’s charity project last year in Finland, I recognised that migrant women with child-caring responsibilities were at high risk of social exclusion. This was my motivation for choosing my SLICC topic of challenges that refugee mothers face in the integration into Finland and the impact on their mental health. My SLICC covered a range of activities such as taking part in webinars and joining organisations related to the integration of migrants in Finland.


I developed several skills including:

  • stakeholder engagement skills
  • influencing skills
  • building a good rapport with others
  • analysing information from statistics
  • literature search
  • reflexivity
  • presentation skills
  • blogging skills
  • and many, many more

Can you adapt to changes?

A major turning point occurred half way through the SLICC and tested my flexibility and adaptability. Due to COVID-19, the work with a children’s charity started to take place online. I looked for other opportunities and soon landed on a job in a refugee reception centre that I had only planned to visit in my SLICC year. This resulted in narrowing my topic down to asylum seekers and I had to adapt to the changes really quickly.

During the SLICC, I broadened my network in the field and used that to obtain useful resources and to engage in interesting conversations. I made regular contacts with an inspector from the Finnish Immigration Service to discuss my literature review (first part of the SLICC) findings, gaps in literature and areas for development. Before the SLICC, I had very little knowledge of the high prevalence of mental health problems that asylum seekers experience, often caused by the long asylum process, which also impedes the integration into the country.

seed growth image

Is it worthwhile?

The challenges I experienced during the SLICC helped me to grow both personally and professionally and I became more resilient. The continuous reflective blog writing and the final self-reflective report that are a large part of the SLICC, improved my self-awareness, self-management and writing skills. I have also increased my confidence to the level that I am able to display my ideas and join public conversations on the topic. Towards the end of the SLICC I formed a proposal for peer-support groups for asylum seekers in the aim to improve their well-being. I used this opportunity to build on my written and verbal presentation skills. As a result, I am now designing a women’s well-being group that is about to commence this autumn at my workplace.

Before the SLICC, I had not focused on mental health as such in my career. The SLICC experience gave me a wider understanding and several tools for practice on the psychological health of not only asylum seekers but in the population as a whole. It resulted in me being offered a role with a mental health focus where I am able to apply and develop my expertise in everyday practice. Therefore I can genuinely say that it has been worthwhile!

Although challenging, the SLICC was a very rewarding life-changing experience that resulted in a range of new valuable skills that I plan to use in the future. I can truly recommend the SLICC route for any future students.

Read more about Student-Led Individually Created Courses (SLICC)s at The University of Edinburgh