Postgraduate Taught

Applied Arts and Social Practice - MA/PgDip

Do you have an interest in how artists can apply their skills outside the traditional spaces of galleries, theatres, and museums? There is a growing interest in how artists can work in health, education, social welfare or other sectors, and this MA in Applied Arts and Social Practice will allow you to understand how artists apply their skills in social contexts.

The course will appeal to a range of individuals. It may interest those who already – or wish to – work within social practice context and want to broaden their understanding of their professional social practice. It may interest those with significant workplace experience who want to gain a formal qualification. It is also particularly suitable for recent graduates of fine, contemporary or performing arts courses -  especially those who have developed a set of artistic skills and want to learn how to apply them to projects in a social context.

This course aims to help students develop their own freelance career and will explore the practical and enterprise skills that you need to develop a sustainable career in your chosen field. It also meet the growing needs of organisations with community-based outreach departments. 

The course is delivered both full and part-time with start dates in September and January and offers the flexibility to develop your skills and knowledge whilst in employment. 

Why QMU?

  • Unique course content designed to prepare you to work in arts and social practice: The combination of modules on this MA makes it unique in Scotland and will prepare you to play a key part of the growing creative health and wellbeing of the nation.
  • Flexible study options allow you to continue in employment whilst a student: The course is available both full and part-time and offers both a September or January start each year. It’s also possible to study single modules.
  • Our small class sizes are perfect for sharing experiences and fostering new ideas: We want to nurture a strong community sense on this course and while lecturers are experts in their fields, we believe it is vitally important to have a strong community of learners around you, not only will this be important to your learning and development, but also as future colleagues and support networks.
  • Teaching team with wide ranging expertise: Our staff have a wealth of experience in community art, applied theatre and socially engaged practices, and continue to advance the sector with their research and activities.
  • Great location for studying and future employment in this area: Our location in Edinburgh means rapid access to a variety of communities and arts organisations to work with, as well as the opportunity to travel further afield across Scotland and the UK due to our excellent travel connections.
  • You’ll be part of an international cohort of students: Students on this course come from across the globe and sharing your experiences will prove to be of real benefit.
  • Optimum balance of theoretical and practical learning: The course offers a variety of learning experiences, including industry-based learning, which are sure to enrich your studies.
  • Industry input and our professional links ensures you are up to date with key developments: You’ll benefit from a range of professional expertise as well as insight from key cultural organisations working this way across Scotland. Teaching staff have extensive professional experience and networks to draw from including local and national bodies. We also have formal partnerships with a variety of organisations such as Out of the Blue, Craigmillar Now, Artlink Edinburgh and North Edinburgh Arts that students can access as part of their learning.

Studying MA Applied Arts and Social Practice


Applied Arts and Social Practice (MA/PgDip): More information and what you will achieve

‘Applied Art’ is a contested term and we don’t aim to define a single approach, but instead seek to support creative processes/skills operating within particular social contexts. This could include any creative practice (such as theatre, art, music, dance or puppetry, just to name a few) that does not exist in traditional spaces (such as museums, theatres or galleries) but rather is based alongside and with individuals and communities in the public domain.

Over the past three decades within the UK, there has been a significant and sustained growth of the arts within a social context. Indeed, the current draft Cultural Strategy in Scotland looks at embedding artistic and creative practices across numerous sectors, inviting artists, theatre makers, musicians and all creative practitioners to be productive within industry, business, education and social settings.

Concurrently, the arts are becoming more important within health and wellbeing contexts and the recent national report ‘Creative Health: Arts for Health and Wellbeing’ calls for artists to play a vital role in the social health and wellbeing of the population to the extent that GPs in England can prescribe artistic activities in order to tackle social issues such as obesity, loneliness and depression. This MA will provide qualified students to service the growing demand for this type of creative practice.

The course focuses on the applied use of creative activities. It looks at the history of applied arts and how there has been a significant and sustained growth of the arts within a social context over the past three decades within the UK. It provide students with the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to best prepare them for applying the arts and creativity to areas such as third-sector organisations, public health, social welfare, education or criminal justice.

You will spend time exploring your own ethical frameworks of why and how such creative projects can operate in the social domain.

The course aims to provide students with the financial and enterprise skills to establish and market themselves as creative practitioners working in social contexts in a sustainably professional manner, including fundraising and finance skills as well as planning and marketing.

You can take up industry-based learning opportunities where you can put theory into practice.

You will be supported as part of a growing community of practitioners working in this way.

How will I be taught?

Structure and exit awards

You can opt to study for the full MA (180 credits), a PgDip (120 credits) or a PgCert Applied Arts (60 credits).

You can also register as an associate student to complete a single module for CPD. On completion of a single module, you may wish to complete further modules and progress your studies to a named award. Please contact Anthony Schrag for more information on single module study.

Teaching, learning and assessment

Teaching comprises a stimulating combination of lectures, seminars, workshops, tutorials, case studies, simulation exercises, field trips and projects, as well as a period of practice-based learning. Assessment throughout the course will take a variety of forms, including essays, reports, exams, group and individual presentations, as well as a practice-based dissertation for the final MA component. 

Placements/industry-based learning

We require students to take up industry-based learning opportunities where they can put theory into practice. Although we support students to find opportunities, you are responsible for securing your own arrangements in line with your personal interests. We have numerous connections across a wide variety of organisations and we are particularly well considered by our industry peers in the cultural sector. If you are already working in the sector, you can use your existing employment as the location for your industry based-learning.

Teaching hours and attendance

Your specific timetable will depend on whether you are studying full-time, part-time or an individual module, but all teaching on the course occurs on either a Thursday or Friday. Each module involves approximately 20 hours of face-to-face teaching over a 10-week semester. This will be a mixture of weekly classes combined the possibility of some field trips outside of regular teaching time. Timetables will normally be available to matriculated students around one month before you commence your studies.

Class sizes

Normally, we would expect around 10 to 15 students enrolling on the course each year.

Teaching staff

You can read more about the teaching staff on this course at the bottom of this page. You can also click on the staff profiles immediately below. Please note that teaching staff is subject to change. 

Dr Andy Henry

Irvine Allan

Dr Anthony Schrag

Dr Victoria Bianchi



Practice Research (20 credits): This module is driven by reflective considerations on the student’s own practice, and explores how to position this work as ‘research.’ It will consist of exploring broader theoretical reflections on the purpose of research, but also case-studies and insights from guest speakers and experts in the field who can speak of their own practical experience of engaging in Applied Arts/Social Practice projects

Applied Arts: Theories and Histories (20 credits): Taking a historical perspective as a grounding, this module examines the theoretical justification of Applied Arts, using case studies and past projects. It grounds the students thinking about the types of histories and legacies that can be drawn from to complicate the practices of engagement

Social Practice: Working With People (20 credits): This module examines the practical skills required to engage with people, examining concepts such as dialogue, inter-personal skills, group facilitation skills. The most practical of the modules, students get to try out and engage with groups and communities in order to expand their skillsets and experience in working with people. 

Fundraising, Finance and Development (20 credits): This module will equip students with a critical understanding of the principles and practices of fundraising, development and financial management. The assessments invite students to examine financial support mechanisms (eg, completing a funding application or designing a sponsorship pack) as well as financial literacy exam. This module marks our course as quite unique in this regards. 

Planning and Marketing Cultural Projects (20 credits): This module will provide students with a critical understanding of the principal skills, techniques and practices necessary to manage and market a cultural project. This modules looks at the practical realities of managing and marketing cultural projects and learning occurs around hypothetical projects that the students plan and market in groups. 

The Only Way is Ethics: Art Representation and Ethics (20 credits): The module is designed to develop critical and practical skills needed for students to engage with the public in the delivery of cultural projects. It looks at examples from history as well as contemporaneous projects that engage with people at the ethical edges of participation to challenge the student to develop their own ethical frameworks. 

For the MA, you will also complete a final Practice-Based Dissertation (60 credits). This consists of enacting a real-world project with a community/context of your choice, or working with the wide-range of QMU partners (eg, Out of The Blue, or Craigmillar Now). It should consist of all elements of social engagement including framing concept, ethical approval, planning, delivery as well as reflecting on practice. This is a fantastic opportunity to develop a portfolio-piece of social practice arts for the first time, or to explore different elements of your own pre-existing practice.

NB The modules listed are correct at time of posting (October 2022) but are subject to change. In the event that modules change, QMU will seek to use reasonable endeavours to ensure that there is no detrimental impact on students.

Career opportunities

This course aims to help students develop their own freelance career, but will also meet the growing needs of organisations with community-based outreach departments. Even though the course is relatively new, our current graduates have already gained work with, for example, the Lyceum Theatre, or have set up their own organisations, or are working in the field as successful freelance artists. 


Applied Arts and Social Practice (MA/PgDip): Entry requirements and application information

Entry requirements

A UK honours degree (or equivalent) in a creative subject area OR significant work experience in arts-led community projects.

You will be required to outline your creative practice as part of the application so that we can ensure we have suitable expertise and facilities to support the type of work you wish to undertake. If you don't have an honours degree, we may ask you to provide this in the form of a portfolio.

International: You will be required to provide evidence of English language competence at no less than IELTS 6.5 with no individual component score less than 6.0.

Applying for this course

For more information on applying, or to apply for this course, please follow the links in the 'Start your application' box at the top right of this page.

Application deadline (January 2024 entry)

  • Home students: 17 December 2023
  • International students: 31 October 2023

Terms and Conditions

The delivery of this course is subject to the terms and conditions set out in our 2023/24 Entry - Terms and Conditions (Postgraduate).

More information and QMU contacts

Contact Dr Anthony Schrag (Programme Leader) or contact Admissions 

We would be delighted for you to visit us on campus to find out more about our MA Applied Arts and Social Practice course.

MA Applied Arts and Social Practice student interviews

Become your best you: study at QMU

Course Overview

At QMU with some industry-based learning
1 year full-time OR 2-7 years part-time
Start Date
January 2024
School of Arts, Social Sciences and Management
Fees & Funding
SCQF Level

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