Public Policy, MSc

Public Policy, MSc


New Programme Starting September 2025. Applications opening soon.

This programme equips future policy analysts and policy makers working in local or national government, think tanks or charities with the theories and concepts that underpin the practice of public policy.

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

The MSc Public Policy examines the complexity of public policy, including the policy-making process itself, in a variety of economic, social and cultural settings. You will develop the theoretical knowledge, frameworks and tools to analyse, evaluate and develop policy relating to contemporary issues and challenges including poverty, climate change, and energy transition.

One of the distinctive features of this programme is the ability to select optional courses from a wide range of courses to suit your career interests. Courses related to international political economy or policy evaluation will interest students looking at careers in public service, while other courses relating to the EU, migration, political sociology and maritime security are particularly relevant to students with interests in these wider aspects of public policy.

We welcome applications from students from a wide range of backgrounds, including politics, business, economics, international relations, law, and sociology who are looking to develop the skills necessary for a career in public policy at local, national or international level, or in policy consultancy.

Join us to learn how to undertake research, communicate your findings and work with senior decision-makers, members of the public, and government bodies on policies to address the issues faced by many different sectors of society today.

What You'll Study

Semester 1

Candidates must take the following compulsory courses:

  • PD5006 Getting Started at the University of Aberdeen (0 credit points)
  • PI50xx Approaches to Public Policy (30 credit points) [new course]

PLUS 30 credit points from following optional courses:

  • SL5011 Advanced Qualitative Methods in Social Science (30 credit points)

  • SO5014 Advanced Social Theory (30 credit points)

  • SO5015 Policy Evaluation (30 credit points)

  • PI5007 International Political Economy: Theory and Themes (30 credit points)

Compulsory Courses

PI50xx Approaches to Public Policy (30 credit points)
This course provides an overview of the main frameworks and theories applied to the study of public policy, along with practical examples of their application. It aims to introduce students to the systematic study of public policy, as well as to bring to them a range of empirical cases that illustrate the approaches in the field. This course will take students through the main approach to the study of public policy, illustrating each with empirical examples from around the world. The course will include frameworks and approaches including:

  • Definitions of policy
  • The policy cycle and its problems
  • Power and public policy
  • Rationality and public policy
  • Institutionalism and new constitutionalism
  • Policy failure and collective action problems
  • Multi-level governance
  • Agenda-setting
  • Networks and advocacy coalitions
  • The role of ideas in public policy
  • Policy learning and policy transfer
  • Evidence-based policymaking
Getting Started at the University of Aberdeen (PD5006)

This course, which is prescribed for all taught postgraduate students, is studied entirely online, takes approximately 5-6 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks.

Topics include orientation overview, equality and diversity, health, safety and cyber security and how to make the most of your time at university in relation to careers and employability.

Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’.

Optional Courses

Advanced Qualitative Methods in Social Science (SL5011)

30 Credit Points

Qualitative Sociology: Philosophy and Methods: This course introduces students to a range of methods used in qualitative social science research (such as participant observation, qualitative interviewing, focus groups, diaries, photography and film, and archived data sources). The emphasis will be on the research process, from project design to analysis and presentation, with methodological issues raised in the context of researchable questions. Issues of reliability, representativeness and validity, and the potential for combining methods will be addressed. Students use the course work to develop their research interests and reflect on their research practices.

Advanced Social Theory (SO5014)

30 Credit Points

Karl Popper argued, wisely, at least this time, that all languages are theory-laden. In other words, if we are doing social science, it is impossible not to do theory, but we have a choice to do it well or poorly, informed by the thinking of others who have gone before us, or in ignorance of it. In this course we learn to reflect explicitly about that which may otherwise simply remain implicit in empirical sociological examination. In this project, we are assisted by important thinkers who have developed distinctive and influential ways of considering the social. We begin with classical sociological theory before moving on to the work of more recent social thought, giving students an advanced working knowledge of the most important theoretical tools available to jobbing social scientists.

Policy Evaluation (SO5015)

30 Credit Points

Institutions and organizations are today commonly demanding evidence-based policy formation. As a result, the necessary social research methods for Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) are in high demand. This course in Policy Evaluation is the core course in the MSc in Policy Evaluation and will equip graduates with the knowledge necessary to understand the current demand for, existing practices of, and substantial challenges to monitoring and evaluation of policy, implementation procedures, and impacts. The course serves as the primary topical course for this MSc and provides student with the theoretical and conceptual understanding of policymaking and programme implementation necessary to put M&E practices in context, and to better understand the need for specific M&E skills and how they might be best utilized across an array of work environments.

Semester 2

Candidates must take 60 credit points from the following courses:

  • PI55XX: US Foreign Policy and Diplomacy (30 credit points)
  • SL5512: Advanced Quantitative Methods in Social Science (30 credit points)
  • SL5513: Advanced Quantitative Analysis in Social Science (30 credit points)
  • PI5518 International Energy Security (30 credit points)
  • PI5532 Campaigns, Activism and Political Parties (30 credit points)

Optional Courses

Advanced Quantitative Methods in Social Science (SL5512)

30 Credit Points

All researchers need to understand quantitative research, not only those who carry it out themselves. Everyone comes across quantitative research in literature reviews and even in the press. In this course students will acquire an understanding of the most common quantitative methods they are likely to use or come across in published social science research. The module will encompass different types of quantitative study and address issues such as when quantitative methods are appropriate, how quantitative questions are formulated, research design, sampling (both online and offline), scale construction, reliability and validity and ethical practices in quantitative research and design.

Advanced Quantitative Analysis in Social Science (SL5513)

30 Credit Points

This course familiarises students with quantitative research techniques commonly used in the social sciences. It begins by covering the basic concepts underlying quantitative methods and the fundamental statistical techniques used for analysing relationships between two variables. The main part of the course focuses on multiple regression analysis, perhaps the most widely used technique in quantitative social science research. Students gain practical knowledge by undertaking two research reports to assess a substantive topic of their choosing.

International Energy Security (PI5518)

30 Credit Points


Oil and Security – how oil crises have occurred since 1973, with a focus on the energy demand and supply pressures and the political factors triggering the 1973 and 1979 oil crises. OPEC and IEA. The factors underpinning the oil crisis of 2008 and its relationships to world economic crisis. The role of China in oil politics.

Natural Gas, the EU and Russia. How conceptions of (natural gas) energy security are constructed and implemented in the EU and Russia –Nuclear Power and energy security;– eg Iran .

Climate Security

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.

Semester 3

Compulsory Courses

PI590x Dissertation/Research Project in Public Policy (60 credit points)


SO5916 Dissertation in Policy Evaluation (60 credit points)

Dissertation in Policy Evaluation (SO5916)

60 Credit Points

The Dissertation in Policy Evaluation can be completed either as a research project or as a collaborative Monitoring and Evaluation project for a partner organization in the community seeking to have one of their policies or programmes assessed. In either case, this project is a major piece of independent work undertaken by the student with the guidance and supervision of a member of the teaching staff of the department. The project gives students an opportunity to investigate a policy or programme that excites their interest to a depth not otherwise available in the curriculum, and to develop either their research and gain experience of independent study or their M&E skills and gain experience working with a artner organization in the community. If choosing to complete a traditional dissertation the topic may derive from interests developed in other courses, or from subjects not otherwise covered in the curriculum. If choosing to conduct the hands on M&E project, then the topic will be driven largely by the needs of the partner organization. In either case, the project should involve the use and development of the research skills provided by the programme. Students and staff should attach appropriate effort to this important piece of work.

Optional Courses

PI590x Dissertation/Research Project in Public Policy (60 credit points)


SO5916 Dissertation in Policy Evaluation (60 credit points)

We will endeavour to make all course options available. However, these may be subject to change - see our Student Terms and Conditions page.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
EU / International students £23,800
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year
UK £11,100
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year

Fee Information

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 Tuition Fees page.


Self-funded international students enrolling on postgraduate taught (PGT) programmes will receive one of our Aberdeen Global Scholarships, ranging from £3,000 to £8,000, depending on your domicile country. Learn more about the Aberdeen Global Scholarships here.

To see our full range of scholarships, visit our Funding Database.

Entry Requirements


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

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

Aberdeen Global Scholarship

Eligible self-funded post graduate taught (PGT) students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Explore our Global Scholarships, including eligibility details, on our dedicated page.

Aberdeen Global Scholarships


This programme provides thorough training in the concepts, frameworks and methods required in the design and development of public policy.

Graduates of this programme therefore be well prepared for a career in various policy roles in the public sector (e.g. the civil service) at local and national level, in international organisations as well as in consulting roles supporting the work of private sector organisations, trade unions, charities and not-for-profit organisations.

Career Opportunities:

  • Policy Analyst
  • Policy Manager
  • Public Affairs Specialist
  • Community Relations Advisor
  • Research Analyst
  • Social Policy Advisor
  • Government Relations Manager

Our Experts

Dr Malcolm Harvey
Head of School
Prof Ian Greener

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. However, these may be subject to change - see our Student Terms and Conditions page.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

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