CLL web banner

Genealogical Studies Postgraduate Programme

main content

Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and MSc in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies

by distance learning

The Centre for Lifelong Learning has, for a number of years, offered adult education courses in aspects of family history research and related subjects. The Postgraduate Programme builds upon and expands these to offer an intensive practioner-led University qualification in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies.

The courses, intended for those with an existing interest and some experience in genealogy, have been developed by academics and genealogy professionals to provide a thorough grounding in the theory and practice of genealogical research, family history, records, archives and heraldry.

On completion of the Certificate and Diploma courses you should have a suitable portfolio to submit to various certification boards and other bodies for professional accreditation. ASGRA (Association of Scottish Genealogists and Researchers in Archives) has agreed to admit PG Diploma graduates upon application as Probationer Members.

Who is the course for?

The programme is aimed at existing or intending professional genealogists and those who wish to be recognised as such, or those who wish to study the area in detail to further their experience and understanding particularly for potential use in their careers.

It will be especially appropriate for the following professionals:

  • Archivists
  • Museum staff
  • Land agents
  • Lawyers and paralegals
  • Librarians
  • Records agents
  • Historians
  • Geographers
  • Heritage sector staff

and for those who are interested in:

  • developing, evaluating or refreshing their expertise in genealogy, records, archives, documents, palaeography and heraldry
  • advancing their academic and professional achievement in these subjects
  • gaining a deeper, more critical understanding of the field, its literature and professional practice
  • providing more expert knowledge and advisory capacity to employers and members of the public, such as in Family History Centres.
Entry Requirements

The course requires computer access at home and familiarity with the use of computers in genealogy. Students will need to subscribe to or pay for certain online databases and services. (For more details please consult the FAQ document.)

PG Cert: Normally a degree or evidence of study skills at a suitable level is required. However, non-standard educational or professional qualifications will be considered. Some relevant genealogical or related experience is necessary.

The Centre for Lifelong Learning offers a number of eight-week courses, available both online and on-campus, which are intended to provide the basic skills and knowledge required to facilitate progression to the Postgraduate Certificate. Successful completion of one or more of these courses, may serve as evidence of the necessary study skills and/or relevant genealogical experience. More information on these courses can be found on the Online Scottish Genealogy webpage or within the Evening and Weekend brochure.  

PG Dip: Entry requires successful completion of PG Cert course,  or equivalent.

MSc: Entry requires successful completion of Pg Dip course at a standard deemed appropriate for progression to MSc level.

Course Structure

All delivery is online, using the University's Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), MyPlace. Individual results are based on continuous assessment with tutor support and feedback. Online discussion forums, written and audio lectures, multimedia presentations and (optional) real time audio chat sessions are also used throughout the course.

There is no attendance requirement. However, there may be optional opportunities to visit Scottish and English archives

There are three course levels within the Programme and most students begin with the PG Certificate before moving to the PG Diploma and then onto the MSc year. There are a few external equivalents to the PG Certificate which would allow direct entry onto the PG Diploma; if you are interested in learning more about these, please view the FAQ document and/or contact the Programmes Administrator.

Postgraduate Certificate

The Postgraduate Certificate consists of six modules, running from October to July. Students explore a wide range of record sources (mostly British focused) and develop expertise in searching, recording and presenting research, with additional units covering genetic genealogy, Latin, palaeography and heraldry. Students complete substantial study and work on their own, guided by the course tutor team.

The Certificate is where most students begin. The main aim of this level is to produce genealogists with an in-depth knowledge of a broad range of (mainly) British resources who have experience in searching, assessing, recording and presenting research results. There is a focus on the research process and the importance of referencing your sources. The course timetable will give an idea of the specific areas covered throughout the course.

Assessment is done continuously throughout the Certificate programme; there is no final exam. You are asked to complete shorter written work (Assignments) for each module, as well as six summative Assessments, the fulfilment of which should help advance your learning and indicate to your tutor the possession or development of the requisite knowledge and skills. There is more information on assessment in the FAQ document.

Once the Certificate is successfully completed, there is an option to progress to the Diploma level. This can be done directly after completing the Certificate or after taking a break from study. There is, however, no requirement to go onto the Diploma level.

Postgraduate Diploma

This advanced course extends the range of record sources used both in area of the world and time frame covered; develops a greater understanding of social and historical contexts; and provides an in depth study of the professional and academic aspects of genealogical work.

The Diploma consists of three modules: 1. Genealogy, history and social history, 2. Documents and palaeography, 3. Methods of Professional Enquiry.

Module 1: Genealogy, history and social history covers topics such as: Irish records in depth, Australian and New Zealand sources; genetic genealogy and British Empire sources. This module has shorter assignments designed to get students working directly with resources for each topic.

Module 2: Documents and palaeography is a series of shorter written work allowing students to explore records in depth. There are two set pieces of work around Scottish and English documents; one of these is a group project and then there are four pieces of work for which the student can choose the focus within set parameters (an area, a house/building, a geographical area/migration study and a client study).

Module 3: Methods of professional enquiry and final project is a University requirement for those undertaking postgraduate study. As well as integrating aspects of Module 2, this Module provides practical skills in record keeping, analysis of evidence and professional ethics, standards and practice. The final project is the major piece of assessed work here but there are shorter assignments included which are milestones towards the final project. The final project topic is chosen by the student (with guidance from the tutor team) and is a 5,000 word research report.

Once the Diploma is successfully completed, there is an option to progress to the MSc level with tutor agreement. This can be done directly after completing the Diploma or after taking a break from study. There is, however, no requirement to go onto the MSc level.


Masters Degree (MSc)

Students undertake focused research on a topic of their choice from October, with the dissertation (12,000-16,000 words) submitted the following June/July. There is tutor guidance on academic writing, study and research skills.

FAQ & Timetables

You can find further information about the course by downloading the documents below:

FAQ 2014-15  

Genealogy Timetables 2014-15

About Us

The Postgraduate Programme in Genealogical, Heraldic and Palaeographic Studies represents a major advance in the process of academic certification of genealogy and related studies. This course was the first in the field to place the various genealogical disciplines within a rigorous academic framework while carrying credit at a postgraduate level from a UK university. The PgCertificate, PgDiploma and MSc are awarded at SCQF Level 11.

There is collaboration with the National Records of Scotland (previously National Archives of Scotland and the General Register Office for Scotland), the National Archives (Kew, England), and various professional and commercial bodies including the Association of Scottish Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (ASGRA), DC Thomson Family History (formerly brightsolid), Deceased Online and FamilyTreeDNA.

Academic input is provided by the Centre for Lifelong Learning, the University’s Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences and appropriate external specialists.

For Programme enquiries, please contact Jennifer Campbell, Programmes Administrator on or+44 (0)141 548 2392.

The course tutor team are as follows:

Carol Bannister, BA (Hons), MSc (Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies)

Andrew Douglas, BA (Hons) MSc Advanced Professional Studies (Genealogy), ACMA,  CGMA, MCMI

Graham S Holton, BA, MCLIP, FHEA, LRAM, LTCL

Alasdair Macdonald, MSc (Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies)

Ian G Macdonald, BSc, PhD, MSc (Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies), PGCE, CITP, CEng, FBCS, MIoD

Tahitia L McCabe, BA, BFA, PGDip (Genealogical Studies), MLS, FRSA

Toni Sutton, PG Dip Education, BA (Hons) Criminology, MSc (Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies)


Current Visiting Fellow: 

Dr. Bruce DurieBSc (Hons) PhD OMLJ FSAScot FCollT FIGRS FHEA

How to Apply

Apply using the links below for the relevant course and entry year. 

The (pdf) Applicant Guide to PG Taught Admissions provides an overview of the application process and the information you need to provide in order for your completed application to be considered.

Most applications should be only be made for the Postgraduate Certificate level, not the Postgraduate Diploma or MSc, unless you are already a holder of the Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma. Please see the Course Structure section for details on how students progress through the Programme.

Applications will be accepted until early September. Early application is advised as numbers are limited on these courses. (Applications may be considered beyond this time if there are still places available.)

for Oct 2015 entry to part-time PG Certificate genealogical, palaeographic and heraldic studies (Admission Code : EDPGC2)

Study Location : OFF CAMPUS

Postgraduate entry requirements are in our prospectus.

for Oct 2015 entry to part-time PG Diploma genealogical, palaeographic and heraldic studies (Admission Code : EDPGD3)

Study Location : OFF CAMPUS

Postgraduate entry requirements are in our prospectus.

for Oct 2015 entry to part-time MSc genealogical, palaeographic and heraldic studies (Admission Code : EDMSC9)

Study Location : OFF CAMPUS

Postgraduate entry requirements are in our prospectus.

Entry-level classes

See entry-level (on-campus and online) classes in the Evening & Weekend Programme Genealogy section

Bannockburn Project

Genealogy Resources

For helpful links and resources to assist you in your genealogical research, visit our Resources page

Supported by

ScotlandsPeople logo 

Deceased Online logo

FTDNA logo