This programme explores political activism, movements and campaigns, from community-based action to global movements like Me Too and Black Lives Matter. It examines how and why campaign activism is on the rise, the forms it takes, and the factors that determine success or failure in a rapidly changing world.

Study Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
12 months or 24 months
Study Mode
Full Time or Part Time
Start Month
Location of Study
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This is a programme for all those interested in the links between political activism, campaigns, and policy change. How do campaigns, from community-led initiatives to high-profile global movements like Me Too and Black Lives Matter, effect real change?

We live in an era of political activism and public protest. In recent decades, traditional political parties and politicians have become widely maligned, and established democracies have experienced a growth in alternative forms of political participation. These include micro-activism like the signing of online petitions orchestrated on social media, support for non-governmental organisations, and taking part in mass street protests and marches.

This MSc programme explores these changes in political activism, movements and campaigns. It examines how and why campaign activism is on the rise, the forms it takes, and the factors that determine success or failure in a rapidly changing world.

How does protest and campaign activism turn to power?

Three key perspectives are developed:

  • The activist - who participates? Why do they get involved? How do they participate?
  • The campaign organiser - what tactics do they employ? How do they mobilise support and develop campaign strategies?
  • The policymaker - why do they listen and respond to some campaigns? What types of campaigns succeed and lead to policy change?

In this way, the programme analyses individual citizens, how and why they participate in democratic action like a protest or signing of a petition, asking why more people are now active (or prepared to be). It explores the nature of campaign organisation and communication – how campaigners, groups and movements like Greenpeace and Black Lives Matter mobilise support.

Finally, we examine campaign effects and system responses. How do campaigns affect change in society, in business and in governmental decision-making? Why, for example, did UK policymakers listen and respond to the Living Wage campaign?

What You'll Study

Semester 1

Semester 1

Compulsory Courses
Protest to Power: how to Campaign and Win (PI5030)

30 Credit Points

We live in an era of campaign activism, public protest and movement politics. While traditional politicians are maligned, political activism is on the rise, from the signing of online petitions to street rallies and public marches. This course examines the history of political activism and campaigning with a focus on how protest turns to power. Combining theoretical understanding and empirical investigation, it analyses how and why political activism takes place, and the factors that determine campaign success or failure. How do individual campaigners, groups and movements mobilise support? How do they effect change? How is the art of political activism and campaigning evolving?

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Protest and Peace in Divided Societies (PI5031)

30 Credit Points

This course explores the role of political protest in societies marked by deep divisions among identity groups. Reviewing historical cases and with a focus on contemporary examples, it asks why groups resort to protest to secure political change. It investigates state responses: why the government might agree to reform or resort to coercion and violence. The course draws on theories of peace and conflict and looks at examples of protest movements in deeply divided places including Bosnia, Iraq, Lebanon and Northern Ireland.

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Semester 2

Semester 2

Compulsory Courses
Campaigns, Activism and Political Parties (PI5532)

30 Credit Points

This course explores the role of political parties as a channel of political activism and linkage from the general public to the policy making process. It will examine direct forms of activism and influence-making through political parties, primarily party membership. In addition, however, less conventional forms of activism and influence-making via parties will be explored. These can involve populist parties, and take non-conventional forms such as blockades, burning of books, etc.

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Communication Technologies and Campaigning (PI5533)

30 Credit Points

This course is about activism as communication. It studies how activists pursue their causes by persuading publics of their ideas. It studies how they bring these ideas and causes into being. In particular this course is about contemporary activism, which means activism in the digital age(s). It puts technologies of communication at the centre. It focuses on how media enable activisms to campaign in different ways. It studies these issues around the globe.

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Semester 3

Semester 3

Compulsory Courses
Dissertation in Political Activism and Campaigning (PI5909)

60 Credit Points

Students conduct independent research supervised by the coordinator or other staff members teaching on the programme into an area of political activism and campaigning. The dissertation is expected to apply the foundational theories and concepts learned in the programme’s component courses and to design a case-study driven research-based project. Students are expected to demonstrate skills in research design, methodology, analysis, critical thinking and writing appropriate to the postgraduate level. The exact research design will be decided in consultation with the supervisor and will reflect the interests of the individual student.

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We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

How You'll Study

Learning Methods

  • Group Projects
  • Individual Projects
  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials

Assessment Methods

The programme combines theoretical and empirical investigation with policy-focused, problem-solving, case study analysis. Each course uses innovative assessments (no exams) including podcasts, blog posts, reflexive reports and research papers.

Why Study Political Activism and Campaigning?

  • Learn about campaigns and movements from all parts of political life, from feminism to climate change, racial equality and social justice
  • Taught by experts with international reputation in their respective fields
  • This programme emphasises practical, policy-focused campaigns which gives you the skills you need for activism or employment within a public organisation
  • The programme draws extensively from real-world events, making use of detailed case study analysis and review

Entry Requirements


The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

Applicants for admission will normally be expected to hold a relevant Honours degree with a 2:1 standard from a recognised university or body.

Applicants without this qualification may be admitted subject to having an alternative qualification, or an approved level of work experience appropriate to the field of study. Also taken into careful consideration is the trajectory of results, an applicant without an overall 2.1 but with 2.1 results in their final two years of study may be admitted.

Please enter your country to view country-specific entry requirements.

English Language Requirements

To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.5 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0


OVERALL - 90 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 62 with: Listening - 59; Reading - 59; Speaking - 59; Writing - 59

Cambridge English B2 First, C1 Advanced, C2 Proficiency:

OVERALL - 176 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Document Requirements

You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme. If you have not yet completed your current programme of study, then you can still apply and you can provide your Degree Certificate at a later date.

Degree Transcript
a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
Personal Statement
a detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme

Fee Information

Fee information
Fee category Cost
EU / International students £22,400
Tuition Fees for 2022/23 Academic Year
Home / RUK £10,600
Tuition Fees for 2022/23 Academic Year

Additional Fee Information

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.


Eligible self-funded international Masters students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Visit our Funding Database to find out more and see our full range of scholarships.


The programme combines theoretical and empirical investigation with policy-focused international case study analysis. It is particularly relevant to those keen to work in the public sector, the third sector, or in non-governmental organisations, at a local or international level. It also provides a potential route into PhD study of politics and the social sciences.

Our Experts

Programme Coordinator
Dr Lynn Bennie

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Student Recruitment & Admissions
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
AB24 3FX