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Politics and International Relations (PIR): Study



Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Parliamentary Placement Programme are below. If you have any questions concerning admissions please contact the Visiting Student Office.

When can I have a placement with a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP)?

The Edinburgh University Parliamentary Placement Programme offers the opportunity to be placed with an MSP during two periods every year, from mid January to end of April; and from beginning of September to mid-December. The placement lasts for nine weeks and students are assigned to MSPs by the Programme staff.

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How many places are available on the programme?

The programme has a ceiling of 20 placements per period in order to safeguard efficient tuition and placement.

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How is the placement structured?

The first five weeks focus on three classes, six hours each week, on Scottish Politics, Government and Politics in the UK and Public Policy in Scotland. Week six of the programme, consists of assessments and examinations. This is followed by a nine week placement in Scottish Parliament working full-time with an MSP and his/her staff.

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Do I have any choice in which party or which MSP I work with?

All applicants are asked to state their party political preferences during the application process. During the first few weeks of the programme, students have an interview with the Programme Director to determine (a) the policy area(s) the student is interested in, and (b) the party and perhaps even individual MSPs the student would like to work with. Not all MSPs want to, or can, take placement students, so choice is limited. And experience shows that placement students have had an interesting and rewarding time in all political parties. The programme also tries to distribute placement students fairly among the parties.

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When will I meet my MSP for the first time?

Introductory meetings are usually arranged between weeks 4 and 6 of the programme so that the transition to actually being placed with the MSP can smoothly start at the beginning of week 7. The introductory meetings are scheduled depending on the MSPs availability.

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How many credits do I get?

The placement provides students with 70 credits. 30 credits result from the three courses (essays, exams & course presentations), and 40 credits are given for the research project (final report agreed by both  MSP and Programme Director).

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What kind of project am I supposed to do for the MSP?

A research project agreed between MSP, student and Programme Director. Research projects can cover a wide range of subjects and topics (see the list on the Parliamentary Placement Programme page). Many entail a comparative element - looking at best practice in other self-governing regions or small states. There is always an element of document research; surveys might be undertaken, and evidence and opinions gathered from sources inside and outside of the Scottish Parliament. The research project is the backbone of the placement, other daily or occasional 'duties' might be added - but we make it clear to MSPs that placement students are not additional filing clerks and coffee makers. Contributing to the policy-making process gives the students a touch of ownership in the evolving Scottish Parliament.

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Where do I live in Edinburgh?

The University offers student accommodation across Edinburgh includuing at  Robertson’s Close and College Wynd (only a short distance from the Scottish Parliament).

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Will I have time to enjoy Edinburgh?

The placement programme is a serious academic programme - students are expected to be on a steep learning curve! - and working in the Scottish Parliament can be intensive. Still, there certainly is time to partake of the rich diversity of leisure and cultural activities on offer in Edinburgh and beyond.

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