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Politics and International Relations (PIR): Study


Parliamentary Placement Programme

Since the establishment in Edinburgh of a Scottish Parliament in 1999, the University of Edinburgh has been offering, to qualified undergraduates, the opportunity to take part in an educational programme involving university taught courses followed by a placement in the Scottish Parliament working in the office of a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP).

Programme Aims 

The Parliamentary Placement Programme’s aim is to introduce students to key aspects of Scottish politics; UK politics; and public policy by means of formal tuition followed by placements in the Parliament.  A research project is completed while on placement with an MSP’s office.  This project is agreed with the Programme Director in consulation with the host MSP. The objective of the course is to give students an understanding of how devolved government and parliament operate, how devolution operates within the wider politics of the UK, and the public policies challenges and issues faced by the devolved Parliament.   

Assessment is through the academic courses in each of the three taught elements of Scottish politics, UK politics and public policy.

Enrolment into the programme is restricted to fourteen students in any semester. Entry is open to students who have completed at least two years of study at their home institution.

The applicants' standard of English has to be very high - full competency in writing and speaking English is an indispensable prerequisite to a successful parliament placement.

Academic Courses

In the first six weeks of the programme, students enrol in the following three courses; Scottish Politics, Government and Politics of the UK and Public Policy in Scotland. Academic work (comprising 30 contact hours per course) and project work will be examined. The academic element of the of the programme continue throughout the placement.

Placement at the Parliament

Following the completion of course work, students will be assigned to an MSPs. A research project (on a topic agreed between the student and Programme Director in consultation with the MSP/MSP’s staff) will be undertaken.

Recent research projects by parliamentary placement students have included a wide range of subject matters and topics, including:

  • Access to green transport for low income persons in Scotland?
  • Rural tourism across Scotland 
  • The inequalities that exist in the palliative care system 
  • A register of interests for judiciary in Scotland
  • Brexit and its impact on the Highlands and Islands Economy
  • High Street/Waterfront redevelopment
  • The effect of universal credit on women in Scotland
  • Childhood rights in Scottish courts
  • Analysing differences and inequalities between rural and urban Scotland's health services
  • Exploring the challenges that climate change may pose for crofting in the Western Isles
  • Health inequality within Scotland
  • Universal credit/food banks

Students will be based in the Scottish Parliament building during the placement and maintain weekly contact with the University. Students will carry out responsible work, and will contribute meaningfully to the development of Scottish political life.  The placement lasts for nine weeks and there is the possibility of some travel to the constituency/regional office of the MSP.

Credit Transfer

The programme is designed specifically to provide students with 70 credits (30 credits for the three courses and 40 credits for the project).

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