Debbie Morris loved her time studying in Edinburgh and has continued to live in the capital whilst progressing her career in the communications industry. Following graduation, Debbie secured a communications and marketing role at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She is now about to embark on a new role as Communications and Marketing Officer at the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. Debbie tells about her experience of studying on the course, life in Edinburgh and her career progression.
What did you do before going to QMU?
Before QMU, I worked briefly in an office administration role in a small college. I had completed an MA in English Literature and History at Edinburgh University, which I loved, however, I really wanted to specialise more and to do something creative.
Why did you choose to study MSc Strategic Communication and Public Relations at QMU?
I was keen to become more specialised and to further develop the transferable skills I had gained from my first degree. My initial degree involved a lot of writing, attention to detail and creativity and I knew that these sort of skills are always required in PR and communication roles, but in reality, more experience is often necessary to secure the post. I looked into a number of different communications courses but QMU’s MSc Strategic Communications and Public Relations offered some good practical experience. The chance to do a placement and take part in workshops with industry professionals, really appealed to me. I also welcomed the opportunity to design a communications/PR proposal and learn about the evaluation of organisational activities. I knew the skills I gained from these sessions would be invaluable when applying for jobs.
QMU was one of the few approved places offering CIPR modules and this meant that it was accredited and approved by the industry’s governing body.
Did you study full-time or part time? Did you work in a PR role whilst studying? Tell us more.
I studied full time. After several months on the course, I took on an additional communications placement at the NHS, having been offered the opportunity by a highly experienced fellow student. Fortunately, this NHS placement was entirely flexible and didn’t conflict with the course. I was then able to draw on the experiences gained during my placement and reference these as part of my placement module, as well as in other assignments.
What did you enjoy about the course and why?
The practical topics, which provided a real insight into the industry, were the most enjoyable. I liked designing a communications plan/proposal and doing creative modules which included making a video. It was also helpful to collaborate with other students who had industry experience. Master’s students can work with diploma students on projects, so people could learn from each. More experienced students could share their knowledge about how they dealt with difficult situations. I enjoyed learning about crisis communications, as it really highlighted how broad-ranging PR and communications can be, and there were Diploma students that gave examples of dealing with these scenarios. We also had a crisis communications’ simulation workshop where we put our new skills and knowledge into action.
The university is modern and well equipped with resources, and its small class sizes allows for a greater focus on the subject area, as well as student support.
The varied course modules gave a good insight into different areas of communication, PR and public affairs, and no prior experience or knowledge of communications/PR was required.
Did you feel supported by academic staff?
At the start of term, induction-style sessions provided helpful information about the course and the University. A designated drop-in day provided more clarity and guidance about the course. Lecturers were always friendly and encouraging, and drew on their own practical experiences to contextualise the theory. Extra resources and support materials were highlighted and there was a great deal of material available both online and in the University’s on-campus Learning Resource Centre. QMU’s Effective Learning Service offered guidance and structural support for your essays, as well as other aspect of your learning that you needed extra support with.
Did you take advantage of any personal development initiatives offered by QMU?
Yes, I was always keen to gain more practical experience and learn from industry experts, so I enrolled in the QMU Employer Mentoring Programme. This allowed me to gain valuable insights from a professional who was working in the industry.
Would you recommend this course to others?
Yes. The MSc provides the chance to study at a high level whilst also gaining excellent practical experience. It’s also a very accessible Masters, in that students don’t need prior knowledge of the subject in order to complete the modules. The course includes modules that combine theory and practice in different areas such as Public Affairs, so students develop a good all round knowledge base.
There are many opportunities to acquire practical knowledge through the placement module or by interacting with Diploma students on projects and learning from their experience. Staff also share placement and networking opportunities, which can lead on other things.
What is your top tip for future students on this course?
Make a plan to help you manage your studies and factor in some time for developing your work experience. Take full advantage of the opportunity to learn from industry professionals who are involved in the course. Enrol in the placement module and make sure that you listen to the insights from Diploma students/other experienced Master’s students with a background in communications/PR.
How did you find student life in Edinburgh? Did you remain after graduation?
Edinburgh is a fantastic city. It offers something for everyone and affords many opportunities for socialising and relaxing. QMU’s Students Union has many different student clubs and societies and being part of an organised group is a great way to meet people. However, Edinburgh’s city centre is just a six minute train ride away and students can enjoy a multitude of great cafes and restaurants. Edinburgh’s a very vibrant, bustling city and has lots of entertainment with cinemas, theatres, galleries and museums, and I enjoyed being like a tourist when I was a student.
I’m from the Highlands and don’t like feeling overwhelmed in a big city, but I was very comfortable in Edinburgh. Some parts feel like a village and you can easily walk around and enjoy beautiful architecture, vaults, closes and historical old buildings. It also has many green spaces, like Arthur’s Seat and Blackford Hill, where you can relax and unwind.
If you like sea and sand, QMU is close to the town of Portobello, which has a very nice beach and market to explore, as well as a beautiful Victorian pool.
I did remain after graduation, I find it difficult to leave this city.
Since graduating from QMU, what have you gone on to do and how has the MSc helped you?
I’ve have been working in a communications and marketing role at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on George Street. I am enjoying working in a digital role, evaluating the impact of our activities, creating and posting digital content, media monitoring, capturing the highlights from our events by tweeting and photo-taking, and generally promoting our activities, events and outreach programme in order to reach diverse audiences.
I will soon be starting a new role as a Communications and Marketing Officer at the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. This will involve traditional and digital media communications, editing publications, video, photography, content creation and media relations to promote Scottish country dancing.
Having an MSc reflects a high level of attainment, and the practical skills that I developed, such as creating digital content or planning a communications’ proposal, allowed me to strengthen my existing skills. It also boosted my confidence for interviews, as I knew I was capable of showcasing the skills and knowledge that would be needed to work at a certain level in a communications role.
"The MSc provides the chance to study at a high level whilst also gaining excellent practical experience. It’s also a very accessible Masters, in that students don’t need prior knowledge of the subject in order to complete the modules. The course includes modules that combine theory and practice in different areas such as Public Affairs, so students develop a good all round knowledge base."
[Published February 2019]