Postgraduate Taught

MSc Strategic Communication and Public Relations

Equip yourself with in-demand skills, craft a professional portfolio, and forge industry connections on this flexible, forward-looking course that offers an internationally recognised postgraduate qualification.

Complex, digital and global – today’s world can be daunting in its scope and speed of change. Yet for communications and public relations (PR) professionals with the right blend of skills and the confidence to grapple with any challenge, now is a thrilling time to build a career. This highly respected course can help you turn your communications or PR ambition into a rewarding future.

As QMU is a Partner University of the PRCA, our PR and Communications students can take the PRCA Online Certificate for free.

 See 19/20 Student Handbook (please note that 20/21 course details, particularly timetabling, may vary)

Why QMU?

  • Develop the modern strategic communication skills that employers are looking for.
  • Create a professional-standard piece of work to showcase your skills, and make connections with influential industry figures.
  • Earn an internationally respected postgraduate qualification on a course that is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA).
  • Tailor your learning to your future career, developing knowledge, skills and learning in a rich and diverse environment from tutors who are internationally published researchers and practitioners with years of professional experience.

Course overview

Social media, smartphones and the internet have changed how we talk to each other – and how organisations talk to their customers – forever. Stories spread round the world in the time it takes to order a latte. Word of mouth has never been more powerful at generating interest for organisations. But how can this wave of change be harnessed? In our digital age there is a rising demand for communications professionals with the skills to plan strategic PR campaigns and drive success for businesses, charities and government organisations.

On this course you will develop the specialist skills needed to communicate effectively across a range of media and digital platforms. It’s important to understand the bigger picture, and you will study within a framework that emphasises strategic thinking and a critical stance, enabling you to make an effective, ethical and responsible contribution to your organisation.

You can tailor your learning to your career aspirations and gain practical experience – and always-valuable contacts – on an industry placement.
You will learn from tutors who have many years of experience in communication and public relations roles and who are widely published. Most of our staff continue to work in professional practice and undertake fresh research.

The course is suitable if you:

  • Want to start a career in communication and PR – you can do an industry placement (optional) and we’ll support you in developing industry relevant knowledge and skills, help you to produce a professional portfolio, and provide you with opportunities to meet, work alongside and network with current practitioners
  • Already work in a communication or PR role and want professional development — you can study part-time and tailor your learning to your own development needs
  • Aim to progress to a research career in communication or PR – members of QMU’s teaching team author key texts and regularly present at conferences all over the world.

Exit awards

 MSc (180 credits)/ PgDip (120 credits)/ PgCert (60 credits)


To obtain a specific postgraduate award at QMU you must complete a number of credit-bearing modules. You can opt to study for the full MSc or a PgDip. If you can’t manage to spend the time studying for a full MSc or PgDip, you can complete our PgCert. Individual modules on this course can be taken on a standalone CPD basis and credits subsequently applied to a higher award.

Teaching, learning and assessment

Students learn from an academic team which includes internationally published researchers and practitioners with years of professional experience. In many modules students learn alongside and network with practitioners working in communication and public relations roles.

Teaching involves face-to-face and directed learning (normally delivered online) as well as your own self-directed activity.

Face-to-face teaching is delivered on campus. You can choose to undertake an industry placement. We are proud of our strong links with organisations that agree to be placement hosts. Core module assessments may include case studies, essays, projects, blogs, proposals, campaign materials and briefing documents of between 1,000 and 5,000 words. There is also a Dissertation (12,000 words) or a Master’s Communication Project (project plus 5,000 words). Many of these assessments can contribute to a portfolio that will support your search for employment.

Teaching hours and attendance

Students take six 20-credit modules as well as the Dissertation/ Project (60 credits).

Full-time students attend classes for two semesters and then submit their Dissertation/ Project in August (for September full-time starts) or April (for January full-time starts). Part-time students normally attend classes for four semesters and then complete their Dissertation/ Project.

Our carefully designed delivery pattern provides continuous and frequent face-to-face teaching for full-time students. Part-time students benefit from a delivery pattern that requires attendance at intensive day blocks and which you can fit alongside other commitments. Your own timetable will depend on what you choose and whether you study full-time or part-time. The two semesters run from September to December and mid January to mid April. Assessments are mostly due at the end of each semester.

Class sizes

Class sizes will depend on the modules chosen but will normally be between 15 and 30 students.

Links with industry/ professional bodies

QMU is an accredited teaching centre of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and a partner institution of the Public Relations Consultants’ Association (PRCA).


Digital Communication (20 credits): The evolution, diffusion, and adoption of digital technologies have fundamentally altered the way we live, work, relate to one another, and conduct business. These technological and societal changes are having a far-reaching impact on the communications, public relations and marketing disciplines, presenting huge challenges as well as opportunities to the industry. This module provides a sound theoretical and practical knowledge of digital communications based on a critical understanding of current and emerging technologies, digital strategies and social media platforms. The module examines a number of topics including: digital strategy; social media; search engine optimisation; online community building and management; stakeholders analysis; issues management; web analytics and big data; content marketing; web design; online customer journey; ethical and legal aspects of digital communications; and more. 

Media Theory and Campaigning (20 credits): This module aims to provide a solid disciplinary orientation to key problems and theories in the field of mass communication  and media studies in a historical perspective.  It introduces persuasion and theories of learning to contribute to students’ ability to engage critically with media campaigning and public communication.  Students apply their theoretical knowledge to campaigning and reflect on the ethics of professional practice.  The module provides students with the theoretical expertise needed to examine critically the concept and practice of public relations.

Strategic Communication and Digital Practice (20 credits): On this module students develop a critical understanding of the role of strategic communication within wider contexts including business, organisations, agencies, campaign groups and NGOs. They take a critical perspective to ethics, social responsibility and social justice and explore how strategic communication can impact on society.  Theory is applied to produce creative PR campaigns including a range of communication activities and digital tactics.

Public Affairs (20 credits): On this module students to develop knowledge of public affairs as a strategic organizational function focused on the political environment.  It enables students to develop a sound conceptual framework for professional public affairs  practice (with special attention to aspects of political communication) and strategic planning and public affairs competencies including research and problem definition, argumentation and campaign planning.  Students reflect on public affairs as a professional practice including consideration of ethics and regulation.

Elective modules: You will also select two further 20 credit options, which may include a Communication Placement as well as a choice from a range of other modules. Some popular Electives include:

  • Industry-based Learning and Professional Development (20 credits): Industry-based learning will occur in a professional context and will provide either new core vocational skills or provision of experiences that will improve already existing skills and knowledge. Students are expected to be undertaking some sort of work/volunteering/placement in the media and communications industries commensurate with their own interests and career stage. Students will take personal responsibility for developing and arranging their own experiential learning, although teaching staff will provide support and advice where necessary. Students will meet with the module co-ordinator (or another member of the programme team as appropriate) to discuss the production of the portfolio of work that demonstrates their knowledge, skills, professionalism and competencies and to discuss how this can be tailored to their career aspirations.
  • Markets, Innovation and the International Consumer (20 credits): This module will enable students to develop a firm understanding of markets and consumers so that they can analyse current and likely future environments to evaluate the potential of new ideas. The module will be assessed using an online portfolio which profiles current examples of practice and requires critical evaluation of contemporary practice. This module will provide students with practical skills and knowledge to be able to evaluate consumers and markets in order to develop better marketing strategies and practices. Innovation will be critically explored as both a process and a product of embedding good practice into organisations, and contemporary examples of innovative products, services and organisations will be embedded in the teaching. Practical and transferable skills in information literacy and market research will be developed.
  • Designing Qualitative Research (20 credits): This module will prepare students to undertake a postgraduate research project by developing their knowledge and understanding of qualitative research methodologies and methods
  • Research Methods (online) (20 credits): This module is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills required to carry out successfully a dissertation at master’s level. Topics include the philosophical underpinnings of research, good research design, data collection and analysis methods, and research ethics. 

If undertaking the MSc, you will also complete a Dissertation (60 credits) or a Master’s Communication Project (60 credits). Students taking the Dissertation will normally be required to take a research module in one of the optional slots.

Specified module exemptions are awarded to applicants who already hold some CIPR diploma level awards and those who join the course from an established pathway.

The modules listed are correct at time of posting (September 2019) but are subject to change. In the event that modules are changed, QMU will seek to use reasonable endeavours to ensure that there is no detrimental impact on students. 


Single modules for CPD

Register as an associate student to study single modules in areas of interest. Contact Paolo Casteltrione for more information.


You can choose to do a 20-day placement. Many of our students find that this is a very valuable option that helps expand their learning and build personal connections. If relevant, you can arrange to do this with your current employer. It is the student’s responsibility to secure the placement, but QMU provides support.


Where this course takes you is up to you. Our graduates have an impressive track record in achieving their career aspirations, going on to take key roles in a wide range of organisations across the globe. The course has also provided professional development for those already working in consultancy and in-house roles and is a pathway to an academic career in the subject area.

Entry requirements

Students will normally possess an honours degree or equivalent from a relevant subject area (eg Arts, Humanities or Social Sciences). Students without an honours degree may be admitted (subject to interview) to the course if they have other relevant qualifications and appropriate work experience.

International: Where your honours degree has not been studied in English, you will be required to provide evidence of English language competence at no less than IELTS 6.5 and no individual component score below 6.0.

Application deadline


More information and contacts

Contact Admissions or contact Paolo Casteltrione on tel: +44(0)131 474 0000.

Please Note:  

The delivery of this course is subject to the terms and conditions set out in our 2020/21 Entry - Terms and Conditions (Postgraduate).





Course Overview

On campus in short intensive blocks
Full-time: 1 year; Part-time: 2-7 years
Start Date
September 2020
January 2021
Study Abroad
School of Arts, Social Sciences and Management
Fees & Funding

Related Professional Bodies

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