Postgraduate Taught

Political Communication and Public Affairs - MSc

This unique MSc in Political Communication and Public Affairs is for those already working in communication or PR or those who wish to move into the area and will enable you to enter careers in public affairs, policy communication, campaigning, or advocacy.

The course offers highly relevant theoretical knowledge and strong vocational skills development. It focuses on the intersection of communication, media, and politics as the area of knowledge fundamental for communicators working across public, private and third-sector organisations as well as across a range of economic, social or cultural sectors.

The course is delivered full time or part time and offers a placement opportunity. 

Why QMU?

  • Unique focus: This course is unique in its focus on policy from a communication professionals’ point of view. Our location in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland with the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government, enhances students’ learning experience.
  • Tailor your learning to your future career: You will develop knowledge, skills and learning in a rich and diverse environment.
  • Placement opportunity: Many of our students find that this is a very valuable option that helps expand their learning and build personal connections.
  • Staff expertise and access to practitioners: Our academic team includes internationally published researchers and practitioners with years of professional experience, and in several modules students learn alongside and network with practitioners working in communication and public relations roles.
  • Our reputation: QMU has a track record in delivering specialist communication courses recognised by professional bodies (Chartered Institute of Public Relations and Public Relations and Communications Association).
  • Convenient delivery: This course is delivered in a manner that is ideal for people in full-time work or with caring responsibilities.

Studying MSc Political Communication and Public Affairs

Political Communication and Public Affairs (MSc): More information and what you will achieve

Communication, media, and culture not only shape people’s lives but are also pivotal to the way in which politics and policymaking work. Companies and brands have recognised this for some time now in their lobbying, advocacy, and social responsibility work. In this age of activism, so have ordinary people when they mobilise to advocate for ways—laws and policies—to change how governments and companies go about their business. There is politics (and policy) in the food we eat, in the education we get, in how we travel, how we build homes, in who makes our clothes and what happens to them when we no longer use them. And this is what this course is about.

We recognise the growing importance of specialist skills that combine communication with strategic management, and an understanding of public affairs, that is issues of interest to the public. Many organisations, from huge corporations to grassroots organisations, rely on public affairs specialists to be able to conduct their activities, to look after their reputation and, most importantly, to have a say in how the world is shaped by what governments and legislators do.

Students will develop communication expertise that combines strategic communication with an understanding of policy communication in the contemporary media landscape.

As you will learn, not all people who do these jobs think of themselves as public affairs specialists, some may be called policy officers, or public engagement managers, but whatever the job title, there are core competencies that you need, and that you will start developing with our help.

How will I be taught?

Structure and exit awards

You can opt to study for the full MSc (180 credits), a PgDip (120 credits) or a PgCert (60 credits). Whatever award you choose to study for, all students complete three core modules, on which they build further by choosing additional modules to achieve the required 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. Contact Magda Pieczka for more information on single study.

Teaching, learning and assessment

Students learn from an academic team that 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 comprises a combination of lectures, seminars, workshops, and tutorials. Teaching involves face-to-face and directed learning as well as your own self-directed activity. Face-to-face teaching is delivered on campus.

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). Many of these assessments can contribute to a portfolio that will support your search for employment.

Placements/industry-based learning

You can choose to do 150 hours on placement or other forms of experiential learning such as a work-based project, freelance working, development of a professional portfolio, or volunteering. 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. While it is students’ responsibility to secure the placement and arrange their own experiential learning, QMU provides support. We are proud of our strong links with organisations and industry partners, many of which agree to be placement hosts.

Teaching hours and attendance

We timetable most teaching to take place on Fridays and Saturdays to enable people in full-time work or with caring responsibilities to take part. Your specific timetable will depend on the electives you choose and whether you study full time or part time.

The two taught semesters run from September to December and mid-January to mid-April. Assessments are mostly due at the end of each semester. Full-time students attend classes for two semesters and then submit their dissertation/project in August. Part-time students normally attend classes for four semesters and then complete their dissertation.

Class sizes

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


To obtain a PgCert, you will complete:

  • Contemporary Issues in Political Communication (20 credits): The aim of this module is to enable students to develop a sound understanding of political communication understood as a range of professional and institutional communication practices operating in contemporary democratic systems of government.
  • Public Affairs (20 credits): The aim of this module is to enable students to: develop knowledge of public affairs as a strategic organizational function focused on political environment; develop a sound conceptual framework for professional public affairs practice, combining fields of policy analysis and communication (with special attention to aspects of political communication)
    ; develop a number of strategic planning and public affairs competencies (research and problem definition, argumentation, campaign planning); and to reflect on public affairs as a professional practice (ethics and regulation).
  • Research Methods (20 credits): The module aims to provide students with a deep understanding of the way that research is designed, conducted, and communicated and to use this to develop a viable proposal for future research.

To then obtain a PgDip, you will select three further 20 credit options, which may include one of the following popular choices:

  • Industry-based Learning and Professional Development (20 credits): The module aims to provide students with a deep understanding of the way that research is designed, conducted, and communicated and to use this to develop a viable proposal for future research. It includes a placement.
  • Strategic Communication and Digital Practice (20 credits): This modules aims to develop: a critical understanding of the role of strategic communication within wider contexts including business and organisations, agencies, campaign groups and NGOs; a critical understanding of ethics, social responsibility and social justice and how strategic communication can impact on society; and the ability to apply theory to create creative PR campaigns including a range of communication activities and digital tactics.
  • Media Theory and Campaigning (20 credits): This modules aims to: provide solid disciplinary orientation to key problems and theories in the field of mass communication and media studies in a historical perspective; introduce persuasion and theories of learning to contribute to students’ ability to engage critically with media campaigning and public communication; enable students to apply their theoretical knowledge to media /public campaigning, both analytically and practically; and enable students to reflect on the ethics of professionalised/expert media and communication practice.
  • News-based Media Content Creation (20 credits): This module will: provide students with a practical understanding of the principal skills, techniques, and practices necessary to manage & create and a digital project; and facilitate critical understanding of the impact of communication practice and the importance of ethical and social responsible objectives through researching, identifying, planning, and implementing a campaign film / photography project.
  • Visual Storytelling for Media Campaigns (20 credits): This module aims to: enable students to plan, manage and produce campaign films, appropriate for submission to an organisation, client, or broadcaster; and facilitate critical understanding of narrative techniques.

If undertaking the MSc, you will also complete a Dissertation (60 credits).

Specified module exemptions may be awarded to applicants who already hold CIPR Specialist Public Affairs Diploma and those who join the course from an established pathway.

NB The modules listed are correct at time of posting (October 2023) 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 educate public affairs specialists, a strategic communication function used by organisations to manage their relationship with the world of politics and policy making. This course is built on our previous experience of educating professional for public relations and communications roles in a range of organisations, both in the UK and internationally. Our graduates have an impressive track record in achieving their career aspirations.

Political Communication and Public Affairs (MSc): Entry requirements and application information

Entry requirements

The course is suitable if you:

  • are interested in public affairs, media, and communication, irrespective of the subjects in which you already have an academic qualification;
  • already work in a communication or PR role and want to specialise in public affairs and/or
  • aim to progress to a research career in communication or strategic communication.

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: 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.

Other information

Students are required to pay for any additional expenses that may occur whilst on placement (eg travel or accommodation).

Disability/health conditions

If you have a disability, long-term physical or mental health condition, or learning disability, it should not stand in the way of your studying at QMU. However, if you are not sure whether your disability might be a barrier in your studies or in relation to the professional standards, please contact the disability service who will be able to have a conversation with you about reasonable adjustments and supports available to you.

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

Home: End of August for September 2024 start and end of December for January 2025 start.

International: End of June for September 204 start and end of October for January 2025 start.

Terms and Conditions

The delivery of this course is subject to the terms and conditions set out in our 2024/25 Entry - Terms and Conditions (Postgraduate).

More information and QMU contacts

Contact Magda Pieczka (Programme Leader) or Admissions

Become your best you: study at QMU

Course Overview

On campus at QMU
1 year full time OR 2-7 years part time (or 18 months full-time with a January start)
Start Date
September 2024
Start Date
January 2025
School of Arts, Social Sciences and Management
Fees & Funding
SCQF Level

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