Graduate School of Social and Political Studies

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Graduate School of Social and Political Studies

The Graduate School of Social and Political Studies is the postgraduate division of the School of Social and Political Studies, which is recognised as a centre of excellence in research and teaching in the social sciences. Its postgraduate programme offers opportunities for students to develop their interests in core academic disciplines as well as to pursue interdisciplinary studies in a large and intellectually stimulating community.

The School of Social and Political Studies offers a range of research degrees (MSc by Research, MPhil, PhD) as well as a large MSc/Diploma programme. MSc degrees and Diplomas are offered in the following subjects: African Studies, Childhood Studies, Economic and Social History, European and Comparative Public Policy, International and European Politics, Nationalism Studies, Policy Studies, Science and Technology Studies, Scotland: Society and Politics, Social Anthropology, Social and Political Theory, and Social Research.

MSc/Diploma in Childhood Studies

The University of Edinburgh is well-placed to capitalise on the strengths of childhood studies, with its extensive research and teaching in childhood studies across its Departments and Faculties. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this intensive degree provides an advanced understanding of how theories, policies and practice conceptualise 'childhood' and opportunities for critical review and analysis of how well they meet the needs and rights of children. It provides the opportunity to develop skills in research and consultation with children and young people.

The degree serves both as a conversion course for recent graduates who wish to pursue careers working with children and/or children’s issues and as a career development opportunity for those with experiences in these fields. It is thus ideal for those who work now or will work in the future as children’s policy specialists and/ or development at international and local levels, professionals working directly with children, non-governmental and voluntary groups that work with children, and researchers working on children’s issues.

The degree has been designed to cut across subject areas and explore themes of general interest. Through seminars and class discussions, directed reading, essay and dissertation work, students investigate a range of topics in depth. It provides many opportunities for students to consider topics in which they have a special interest and to bring their own experiences to bear upon the issues, problems and processes addressed within the degree.

Why Childhood Studies?

The study of ‘childhood’ has burgeoned over the past decade, with an increasingly inter-disciplinary focus. Disciplines as widespread as philosophy, sociology and geography have 'rediscovered' childhood, while developmental psychology has generated new strands of theorising about childhood and adolescence. Present studies of childhood are influenced by reconceptualising children as 'social actors': that is, as having competencies beyond those traditionally expected of them, and as active and interactive members of society and not simply passive recipients of socialisation and culture.

This new emphasis can be attributed to various reasons (e.g. increased childhood survival rates, changes in labour markets and/or the decreased number of births in most Western countries) but one of the most influential has been the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child. This has galvanised not only academia but policy and practice to re-consider and address children's needs and rights. The UN Convention has had an international impact and is key to international development agendas. The UK is no exception, with legislation, policy and practice addressing key articles of the Convention such as listening to children, prioritising their welfare and non-discrimination.

In theory, research and policy activities, 'childhood' has become a major field of academic study. Its strengths lie in its openness to an inter-disciplinary approach and its potential usefulness to policy and practice.

What are the Entrance Requirements?

The Graduate School welcomes both international and UK students. No specific academic background is required but applicants should normally have, or expect to graduate with, a good degree in a relevant discipline. For UK applicants this would normally be an Upper Second-class Honours degree. Eligibility from outwith the UK is based on the National Academic Recognition Information Centre scheme used by British Universities.

Candidates whose employment or other educational experience provides evidence of intellectual ability of an equivalent standard are strongly encouraged to apply.

Applicants whose first language is not English are required to pass an IELTS or TOEFL test at a prescribed level in order to satisfy the University's entrance requirements.

When Does It Begin and How Long Does It Last?

The programme of study begins in October. For full-time students, it extends over 12 months for the MSc and over 9 months for the Diploma (which may be awarded on the basis of taught courses alone). For part-time students, the MSc degree lasts for 24 months and the Diploma degree for 21 months. Teaching sessions take place during the University's autumn and spring teaching terms (i.e. from October-December and from January-March). MSc students spend the summer term and summer vacation (i.e. from April-September) working, under supervision, on their dissertations. These are marked in October and students who are successful graduate in November/December.

How Much Will It Cost?

Information about University fees are available from the Registry ( and will be stated with the offer of admission. In addition, students need at least £7,500 to meet their living costs and a smaller sum for the purchase of essential books and materials.

Is Any Financial Support Available?

UK students often obtain financial support by obtaining a Career Development Loan. The Career Development Loan Scheme involves a partnership between the government and a number of banks which provide loans for courses of education and training. Students can borrow up to £8,000 which has to be repaid, at relatively low rates of interest, when they have completed the course.

Many students from abroad receive scholarships from their government or from a charitable foundation (e.g. Rotary International) or, where they have previously been employed, come on secondment and continue to receive a salary from their employers. Some suggestions for scholarships can be found at the University of Edinburgh international office web-site ( and on the Childhood Studies website ( or

Will It Contribute To My Career Development?

The knowledge students acquire and the greater level of understanding they achieve from taking the course will be of lasting value. Although the degree is intended to provide an opportunity for academic study rather than vocational training, employers are likely to recognise the knowledge gained and commitment shown by successful completion of the degree. Importantly, the degree contains not only theoretical content but skills development, in such areas as consultation and research with children and policy analysis. Past students have gone on to a variety of posts, such as employment with national and international non-governmental organisations, research posts and Ph.D. study, and national and local government positions.

What Is The Programme Of Study?

Students will normally take six term-length courses (or their equivalent) as follows:

a. A core content element comprising of courses on:

Term 1: Children, Childhood and Children's Rights: Theory into Practice

This course explores complementary and contrasting conceptualisations of 'childhood' developed historically and co-currently in a range of academic disciplines (e.g. law, philosophy, psychology, sociology and social anthropology). The exploration is grounded in practice and policy examples to illuminate their assumptions and potential impact.

Term 2: Children, Childhood and Children's Rights: Law, Policy and Practice

This course uses the concepts of 'childhood', 'rights' and 'children's rights' to consider critically law, policy and practice that affect children, within such areas as economic well-being/ standard of living, education, juvenile justice and other social work services.

b. One course on core research skills from the following:

Terms 1 and 2: Research Skills in the Social Sciences (minimum requirement of modules equivalent to 1 unit)

These modules together provide training for social science postgraduate students in a range of key research skills. The range of research methods and tools covered include quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection and analysis. Modules are selected by the degree convenor and the student, depending on the student’s research background.


Term 1: Research Methods (through the Faculty of Education)

This module is designed to provide course members with the knowledge and skills necessary for undertaking a dissertation/ extended study at postgraduate level. It will offer an overview of the concepts and techniques which underpin research and provide students with an opportunity to practice certain research skills. The module is assessed by undertaking and reporting a small-scale investigation.

c. A core advanced research skills course:

Term 2: Listening to Children: Research and Consultation

This course explores the ethical issues and practical skills in undertaking research and consultation with children and young people, both individually and in groups.

d. Two options from the following

Africa: Methodological and Practical Issues

The Anthropology of Childhood

Child and Adolescent Development

Children, Childhoods and Disability

Controversies in Educational Theory, Policy and Practice

Curriculum: Context, Change and Development

Education and Training Systems of the UK

Education in Developing Countries

Ethical, Legal and Social Issues in Child Health

Family Policies in Comparative Perspective

International Perspectives on Education and Training

Intimate Relationships

Issues in Family Law

Kinship: Structure and Process

Social Work and Juvenile Justice

Please note that not all options are offered every year. In determining whether a candidate will be permitted to take Issues in Family Law and/or Social Work and Juvenile Justice, account will be taken of the nature of the candidate’s first degree and its relevance to the subject-matter of the course.

With the agreement of the degree convenor, students may also select for their options from among the courses offered within the programme of the Graduate School of Social and Political Studies or, exceptionally, from another degree programme.

Students who reach a satisfactory level in their coursework may undertake a MSc dissertation on an approved topic. The dissertation, which would be a subject in which the student has a particular interest, provides an opportunity to study an issue in-depth and develop particular skills.

Dissertations should be about 15,000 words long. Students are expected to keep in close contact with their supervisor who will give advice on reading and research design, comment on drafts of the dissertation and offer encouragement. Dissertations must be submitted by the date specified in the University Calendar.

How Are Courses Taught?

Most course options will be taught in the form of seminars. There is no standard format amongst the various options but seminars usually include an introduction to the topic, structured discussion and student involvement. Options will generally be taught for 2 or 3 hours during weeks 1-10.

The core courses take a similar approach, with additional methods such as observation and/or participation in policy activities (e.g. attending and analysing a Scottish Parliament debate on a child-related issue) and use of video and media materials. The exception is Research Skills in Social Sciences, which is offered on a modular approach.

Students will be expected to undertake independent study, including preparation for taught sessions, attendance at relevant seminars, and encouraged to attend relevant external events relating to children's issues (e.g. public debates and conferences).

How Are Courses Assessed?

Candidates will be assessed on each course through coursework (equivalent to a 4,000 word long essay) and/or examination. The Diploma pass mark is 40%, the MSc pass mark is 50%, while 70% represents work of distinction standard. To obtain a MSc, students must also pass the dissertation, which is assessed on a distinction/ pass/ fail basis. In addition to the internal examiners drawn from the teaching team, external examiners from other universities scrutinise the marking.

To proceed to the MSc, full-time students must have an overall average of 50% for the 6 courses. Part-time students must have an overall average of 50% in the 3 or more courses they have undertaken in their first year. No individual course mark should be below 40%. The Diploma is awarded if the overall average is between 40% and 50%. In addition, at least 4 of the marks must be 50% or more and none of the marks less than 40%. There are no ‘resits’ possible for the MSc but resits are possible for the Diploma.

The degree itself may be awarded with distinction. The criteria are an outstanding performance (70% or over) in the dissertation, normally combined with 70% or over in a minimum of half the papers. The remaining coursework should not normally fall below 60-69%. The board of examiners have discretion to vary these criteria.

Who Teaches On The Degree?

Staff from across the University Faculties teach on the degree and undertake supervision of dissertations. These and other staff may be available for dissertation supervision. Staff teaching on the core courses include:

Michael Adler is Professor of Socio-Legal Studies. His main interests are in the legal aspects of social policy and, more generally, in socio-legal studies. He has directed major research projects on parental choice in education, the computerisation of social security, and the management of long-term prisoners in Scotland and carried out research on the assessment of special educational needs and on public attitudes to begging. His publications include two co-authored books: Parental Choice and Educational Policy and Discourse, Power and Justice: Towards a New Sociology of Imprisonment. He is currently carrying out research on administration grievances and access to administrative justice

Viv Cree is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social and Political Studies and Associate Dean (Admissions) for the College of Humanities and Social Science. She is a qualified social worker and community worker and worked for 16 years as a practitioner before coming to the University of Edinburgh in 1992. Viviene's research interests lie in historical research, gender and social work and research with children. She has worked on two research studies to date with children and young people: the first with children with a parent with HIV and the second with young carers.

John M. Davis a Project Development and Evaluation Consultant in the area of Children and Social Inclusion. He is presently developing projects for Barnardos (Newcastle), The Liverpool Bureau for Children and Young People and Newbattle Cluster New Community School (Midlothian). He has carried out ethnographic research projects at various Departments in the University of Edinburgh on a variety of topics including curriculum innovation, disability, education, health and sport. Two of his major projects were the ESRC Health Variations Programme project entitled 'The Socio-Economic and Cultural Context of Children's Lifestyles and the Production of Health Variations' and the ESRC Children 5-16 Programme Project entitled 'Life as a Disabled Child'.

Ian Dey is a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy. His research interests include family and employment policies and he is especially interested in issues of prejudice and discrimination. He has undertaken research projects in Chile and Kenya as well as Britain. His publications include two books: Qualitative Data Analysis: a User-Friendly Guide for Social Scientists and Grounding Grounded Theory: Guidelines for Qualitative Enquiry. Ian Dey is on study leave autumn 2002.

Janet Draper is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education & Society, in the Faculty of Education and is Director of the Graduate School of Education. She teaches developmental psychology and her main research interests relate to adult personal and professional development. Current key research interests are teachers’ experiences of work and professional development, teachers’ careers and career decision-making, and links between personal and professional development.

Neil Fraser is Senior Lecturer in Social Policy and has taught the Economics of Social Policy for several years. His research has included work on social investment criteria and evaluations of breast cancer screening, childcare, and employment training. He is the author of Economic Policy Analysis: A Rights Based Approach (with Henry Neuburger) and of Childcare in a Modern Welfare System (with Bronwen Cohen).

Anne Griffiths is a Reader in the Faculty of Law. She has done extensive research on family law in Botswana, southern Africa and is author of the book In the Shadow of Marriage: Gender and Justice in an African Community (1997). She is also co-author of a book on Scots Family Law (1997) with Lilian Edwards. She has just completed data collection on research on the Scottish children’s hearing system in Glasgow which forms part of a comparative research project on “The Child’s Voice in Legal Proceedings” funded by the Annenberg Foundation in the U.S.A.

Rachel Hinton is a Fellow with the School of Social & Political Studies, having previously been a Lecturer in the Department of Social Anthropology. She works for the Department for International Development providing social development input to the Education Department. She draws on field experience in Brazil, India, Nepal and Kenya to provide child rights advice. Before joining the department she worked on the 'Partnership in Action' initiative with UNHCR. She is the editor of articles on issues of participation in development and the ethics of research with children. Her recent research includes collaboration with Tribuvian University, Kathmandu to manage multi-disciplinary team in ethnographic research on child labour.

Lynn Jamieson is a Professor in Sociology and co-director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships. She researches personal relationships and social change, often focusing on childhood and young adulthood. For example, ‘Theories of family development and the experience of being brought up' (in M Drake (ed) Time, Family and Community, Open University Press, 1994) explores the gap between urban oral histories of childhood family relationships and academic histories of ‘the family'. Her book with Clarie Toynbee, Country Bairns (1992, Edinburgh University Press), looks at the history of rural childhood. Her most recent book is Intimacy: Personal Life and Social Change Polity Press, 1998. Lynn Jamieson is on sabbatical 2002-2003.

Janice McGhee is a Lecturer in Social Work. She is a qualified social worker with substantial practice experience within social services for children and adults. Her main teaching responsibilities are in relation to law and psychology. Key research interests lie in child care policy and law, the children’s hearings system and child protection. Recent research includes a study of the characteristics and outcomes of 1,155 children referred in 1995 to the hearings system (Waterhouse, L., McGhee, J., Whyte, W., Loucks, N., Kay, H. and Stewart, R. (2000) The Evaluation of Children's Hearings in Scotland. Vol. 3 Children in Focus. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive Central Research Unit).

Kay Tisdall is Lecturer in Social Policy. Until March 2003, she also worked as Director of Policy & Research at Children in Scotland (the national umbrella agency for organisations working with children and their families). Current and recent research projects include girls and violent behaviour, children with living with parents who are HIV+, integrated services for children and their families, and the 'voice of the child' in Scottish family law. Recent books include Children & Society (with Malcolm Hill) and The Children (Scotland) Act 1995: Developing Policy and Law for Scotland's Children. She is Programme Director of the MSc/Diploma in Childhood Studies.

Fran Wasoff is a Reader in Social Policy and co-director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships. Her interests are in gender and social policy, family law and socio-legal studies, family policy, the economic consequences of divorce, child support and research methods. She has recently conducted research on informal agreements in divorce actions, on lawyers and mediators and on child support. Her book Family Policy (co-authored with Ian Dey) was published in 2000.

Nick Watson is a Lecturer in the Sociology of Health and Illness in Nursing Studies. He has recently directed a major research project on the lives of disabled children. His main interest is in what the children themselves say about their lives, examining the social experiences of disabled children. He has published extensively in this area and, more generally, in disability studies.

Jo Williams is Lecturer in Psychology in the Department of Education & Society, in the Faculty of Education. She is a developmental psychologist and teaches a range of courses on childhood and adolescent development within the Faculty of Education and the Department of Psychology. Her current research interests and journal publications focus on: early cognitive development in naive biology, physics and psychology; social development including bullying and delinquency; puberty and psychological and behavioural adaptation; and adolescent risk behaviour and health.

The City of Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It became Scotland's capital in the 11th century and the centre of the city, with its castle and mediaeval pattern of streets and buildings, retains much of its original character. It is renowned for its Georgian architecture, especially in the 18th century 'New Town'. A compact city of some half a million inhabitants, Edinburgh is an important cultural centre. It boasts many art galleries, museums, theatres and festivals, including the Edinburgh International Festival. Equally important are the many facilities it offers for social scientific research. Many major private and public organisations have their headquarters in Edinburgh. The National Library of Scotland (a copyright library which receives every book published in Britain) and the Scottish Records Office are within easy reach of the University.

The University was founded in 1583 and is now one of Britain's largest with over 20,000 students. It has a strong tradition of research, housing many prestigious research centres and units alongside its seven teaching faculties. The main library and most social science departments in and around George Square, less than a mile from the city centre.

The School of Social and Political Studies includes the following subject areas, units and centres: Economic and Social History, Politics, Social Anthropology, Sociology, Social Policy, Social Work, the Science Studies Unit, the Research Centre for Social Sciences, the Centre of African Studies and the Centre of Canadian Studies. All postgraduate students and academic staff in the School of Social and Political Studies are members of the Graduate School with full access to its facilities.

The Graduate School of Social and Political Studies

For further information and application forms, contact:

The Graduate School of Social and Political Studies

Adam Ferguson Building,

George Square,

Edinburgh EH8 9LL

tel: +44 (0)131 651 1560 / 651 1777

fax: +44 (0)131 651 1778


If you would like to discuss the degree or ask further questions, please contact the Programme Director:

Dr. Kay Tisdall, School of Social & Political Studies, Adam Ferguson Building, George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LL Scotland (telephone 0131 650 3930; e-mail

The degree web-site is or

This booklet has been published by the Graduate School of Social and Political Studies to give information to applicants about the MSc/ Diploma programme. It should be read in conjunction with the Code of Practice for Taught Postgraduate Programmes that is issued at the start of the academic year. This programme booklet does not supersede the University regulations and the formal requirements for the programme are as set out in the University’s Postgraduate Study Programme.

Please note that every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this booklet is correct at the time of going to press. However, the booklet does not form part of any contract between the University and a student or applicant and must be read in conjunction with the Terms and Conditions of Admission set out in the Postgraduate Prospectus.

January 2003

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