MSc Data Science for Politics & Policymaking

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Department information session, Tuesday 4 June 2024. Learn more about course content, teaching, research options, and what previous students have gone on to do after graduation.

Key facts

  • Start date: September
  • Study mode and duration: 12 months full-time, 24 months part-time
  • Work placement: client-based projects possible as alternative to standard dissertation

  • Funding: Data Lab Scholarship available

Study with us

  • develop the skills to use big data to solve complex political and social problems
  • understand the mechanics behind capturing and organising large amounts of data
  • undertake a research or client-based project

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Why this course?

The MSc in Data Science for Politics & Policymaking is designed to meet the growing demand for graduates with the ability to use big data to solve complex political and social problems. It's perfectly suited to those looking for careers in political campaigns, think tanks, interest groups associated with shaping public policy and the civil service.

This Masters-level course equips you with the ability to design, commission, and implement projects that capture and analyse large quantities of online data from a diverse set of sources. It combines advanced training in social science research design and policy analysis with classes that enable you to understand the mechanics behind capturing and organising large amounts of data.

The course looks to solve the key challenge of the use of big data in the public sphere, the lack of specified research and policy goals, by providing you with the know-how via core classes in Research Design, Public Policy and Qualitative Methods. Alongside these classes, you'll receive training that allows you to understand the mechanics behind capturing and organising large amounts of data.

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Interested in postgraduate study?

At the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, our friendly and knowledgeable team will be available to provide you with all the information you need to kick-start your postgraduate journey at the University of Strathclyde. Register for upcoming events below:

What you'll study

A distinguishing feature of this degree is that it is taught in collaboration with academic experts from both the School of Government & Public Policy and the Department of Computer & Information Sciences

In Government & Public Policy, you'll take classes in Research Design and Quantitative or Qualitative Methodology (depending on past experience). You'll have the flexibility to choose from a list of courses in public policy, international relations, or comparative politics that best meets your needs and future career aspirations.

In Computer & Information Sciences, you'll take classes covering the ethics of 'big data' and the information society and classes on database management, the technology behind 'big data' and machine learning.

Work placement

You may apply to do a client-based project as part of your dissertation research. Following a career workshop session, and on the advice of the School, you can contact host organisations including local, city, and national governmental organisations to arrange a work-based MSc dissertation.

These projects will normally be unpaid and may need to be developed further to meet the requirements of an MSc dissertation.



The School of Government & Public Policy and Computer & Information Sciences have a number of research centres that relate to the topics covered and the content of the course. For example, the European Policies Research Centre is a leading hub for the study of regional development policy and collection of such data in Europe, a centre that is of increasing importance in the wake of Brexit. 

Specialised policy centres focused on health and energy – such as the Centre for Energy Policy – also add to the applied policy environment at Strathclyde. The Institute for Future Cities' City Observatory, located in Strathclyde’s award-winning Technology & Innovation Centre, uses data to understand and address urban problems. The University also has many centres and institutes with projects that incorporate European governance and political issues, such as the Fraser of Allander Institute.

Guest lectures

Speakers at our weekly seminars include guest lecturers who come to Strathclyde as part of the Erasmus programme. They're also available for individual consultations with you as an MSc student here. Strathclyde’s organised research centres such as the European Policies Research Centre, routinely host their own 'Speaker’s Series' where talks relevant to the content of the course are common. You'll have time for networking with visiting speakers afterwards.

The MSc Data Science for Politics & Policymaking at the University of Strathclyde caught my attention due to its combination of data and social science modules. While I hadn't initially planned to pursue a career in data science, I was captivated by the potential of using data to gain deeper insights into the processes that shape our society and develop evidence-based policy solutions.
Vasilii Allenov
MSc Data Science for Politics & Policymaking student
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Course content

Legal, Ethical & Professional Issues for the Information Society

The aim of this class is: to appreciate the characteristics of professionalism as it relates to modern data management; to recognise and appreciate the professional aspects of other engineering and related classes in their curriculum, and how those aspects influence practice; and to form a sound basis on which they will subsequently be able to practise information Systems Engineering with a due regard for legal, ethical and social issues.

Big Data Technologies

This class will provide you with an understanding of the new challenges posed by the advent for big data, as they refer to its modelling, storage, and access; an understanding of the key algorithms and techniques which are embodied in data analytics solutions; and exposure to a number of different big data technologies and techniques, showing how they can achieve efficiency and scalability, while also addressing design trade-offs and their impacts.

Database Fundamentals

This class will help students develop skills in creating and managing database systems, including developing initial database specifications; formulating database queries using SQL; understanding the facilities and services which should be provided by a fully featured database management system; experiencing using a relational database management system in a client-server environment; and understanding future trends in database systems.

Machine Learning for Data Analytics

The aim of the class is to understand the aims and fundamental principles of machine learning; understand a range of the key algorithms and approaches to machine learning; be able to apply the algorithms covered and interpret the outcomes; understand the applicability of the algorithms to different types of data and problems along with their strengths and limitations.


Students with no quantitative experience:

Quantitative Methods 1

This class introduces participants to the use of quantitative methods in social research; in particular, the logic and language of empirical analysis, the principal types of quantitative data (official statistics and surveys), and the use of software packages for statistical analysis.

Students with quantitative methods experience:

Quantitative Methods 2

This class trains participants in the design, application, presentation, and critical evaluation of quantitative political research using relevant software packages for statistical analysis.


Qualitative Methods

This class provides an overview of the ever-expanding field of qualitative methods in social science. This includes the examination of a wide variety of approaches, including case studies, small-N comparisons, ethnographies, historical research, and discourse analysis.

It also includes the study of a range of data collection and data analysis techniques such as observation, document analysis, elite interviews, and qualitative comparative analysis (QCA).

Perspectives on Social Research

The class introduces students to the theoretical and practical issues they will need to address when designing and conducting research in social and public policy and related areas. During this module students will critically evaluate empirical research, develop an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different research designs, and build a foundation for their research projects and master theses.


Welfare Concepts & Ideas

This class introduces students to some of the most important concepts which have shaped our understanding of social policy as an academic discipline, including such concepts as need, citizenship and entitlement, equality and justice, and happiness and wellbeing.

It also looks at issues surrounding the governance and implementation of social policy and the variety of ways in which our needs for welfare provision can be addressed. We also look at some of the main theoretical perspectives which have informed the development of social policy, such as social democracy, liberalism, conservatism, feminism, environmentalism, Marxism and the New Right.

The final part of the class looks at some of the main challenges facing social policy-makers today.


Principles of Research Design

This class covers key research design issues and enables you to evaluate alternative research designs and create appropriate research proposals. The class is designed to help you decide a research topic and a design that you will use for your dissertation. Topics covered include formulating research questions, developing concepts, and how to select cases to study.


Policy Analysis

Public policy is the study of how governments and other agencies acting in the name of the general public deliberate on and enact policy.

The class examines the theoretical, empirical and practical issues involved in conducting policy analysis. Included are discussions of major concepts, processes, and types of policy issues, all studied in a comparative manner. Major classics in the field will be read.


Can Democracy Deliver?

Semester 1 and 2

This course is part of the university’s new initiative in Vertically Integrated Projects for Sustainable Development (VIP4SD). VIPs are designed to provide students from second-year through to postgraduate with an opportunity to work with teams of other students on projects related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Undergraduate students may participate in a project for up to three years.  In this VIP we will examine the linkages between the quality of democratic governance, citizenship, service delivery, and quality of life in developing countries, with a focus on Africa.  Students will have the opportunity to investigate important policy-relevant questions using various forms of survey, administrative, national accounts, and spatial data to track progress toward the sustainable development goals and investigate factors that facilitate or retard sustainable development.

The complexity of the research project will differ according to the level of the student.  At Masters level, students might investigate connections between various factors, such as the nature of the political regime, the quality of the public service, geography, ethnicity, the quality of citizenship, or violent conflict, and their impact on service delivery and quality of life. The course will also provide post-graduate students with an opportunity to identify data and develop analyses for their theses and dissertations.

Mark Shephard
University of Strathclyde prides itself in being the place of useful learning and to that end we offer a range of MSc programmes combining methods training with subject-specific knowledge so that our students can equip themselves with skills to make a real-world difference.
Mark Shephard
Course Director

Learning & teaching

The course is delivered in various ways. Classes will be a mixture of regular lectures, tutorials and hands-on software sessions. This unique MSc is designed not only to give you research skills but also to enhance your ability to choose appropriate research methods and confront the issues of research design, implementing projects in a data-intensive environment.

As with other MSc courses offered by Government & Public Policy and Computer & Information Sciences, you'll receive training with a strong empirical focus, and supervision in small-group seminars and in individual sessions. As class sizes are small, you'll receive considerable time and attention from our staff.

Meet our experts


Methods of assessment include written assignments, blogs, podcasts, practical team projects, presentations, individual projects, and exams. Most classes involve more than one method of assessment to help you realise your potential.

Taught classes make up two thirds of the total assessment. Your dissertation, produced over the summer, accounts for the remaining third.


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Entry requirements

Academic requirements/experience

First or upper second-class Honours degree, or overseas equivalent, in any discipline.

English language requirements

Please check our English requirements before making your application.

Pre-Masters preparation course

The Pre-Masters Programme is a preparation course held at the University of Strathclyde International Study Centre, for international students (non-UK/Ireland) who do not meet the academic entry requirements for a Masters degree at University of Strathclyde.

Upon successful completion, you'll be able to progress to this degree course at the University of Strathclyde.

Please note: Previous Maths & English qualifications and your undergraduate degree must meet GTCS minimum entry requirements as well as the pre-Masters course and an interview will be conducted before an offer can be made.

Chat to a student ambassador

If you want to know more about what it’s like to be a Humanities & Social Sciences student at the University of Strathclyde, a selection of our current students are here to help!

Our Unibuddy ambassadors can answer all the questions you might have about courses and studying at Strathclyde, along with offering insight into their experiences of life in Glasgow and Scotland.

Chat to a student ambassador

International students

We've a thriving international community with students coming here to study from over 140 countries across the world. Find out all you need to know about studying in Glasgow at Strathclyde and hear from students about their experiences.

Visit our international students' section

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences Scholarships

View all our scholarships
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Fees & funding

All fees quoted are per academic year unless stated otherwise.

Fees may be subject to updates to maintain accuracy. Tuition fees will be notified in your offer letter.

All fees are in £ sterling, unless otherwise stated, and may be subject to revision.

Annual revision of fees

Students on programmes of study of more than one year (or studying standalone modules) should be aware that tuition fees are revised annually and may increase in subsequent years of study. Annual increases will generally reflect UK inflation rates and increases to programme delivery costs.

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Scotland, England, Wales & Northern Ireland

Full-time: £8,700
Part-time*: £4,350

*Please note: Year 2 fee will be subject to an increase



Additional costs

Poster presentation £10.

International students may have associated visa and immigration costs. Please see student visa guidance for more information.

Available scholarships
  • Five full tuition scholarships available to Home (Scottish) students and those whose ordinary place of residence is in Scotland. Deadline is June 30 2024.

Take a look at our scholarships search for funding opportunities.

Please note: The fees shown are annual and may be subject to an increase each year. Find out more about fees.

How can I fund my course?

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Scottish postgraduate students

Scottish postgraduate students may be able to apply for support from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). The support is in the form of a tuition fee loan and for eligible students, a living cost loan. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

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Students coming from England

Students ordinarily resident in England may be to apply for postgraduate support from Student Finance England. The support is a loan of up to £10,280 which can be used for both tuition fees and living costs. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

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Students coming from Wales

Students ordinarily resident in Wales may be to apply for postgraduate support from Student Finance Wales. The support is a loan of up to £10,280 which can be used for both tuition fees and living costs. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

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Students coming from Northern Ireland

Postgraduate students who are ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland may be able to apply for support from Student Finance Northern Ireland. The support is a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

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International students

We've a large range of scholarships available to help you fund your studies. Check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Richard Johnson, politics lecturer
As a political science scholar, I believe it's my duty to educate and inspire students in political science. My goal is to ensure that our students are able to leave our MSc programs and follow their passion in politics and public policy so that they may make a real-world difference.
Richard Johnson
Senior Lecturer
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The world is in the midst of a 'big data' revolution, with many companies and organisations seeking personnel who are able to interpret datasets that often appear as by-products of human-computer interaction.

Political campaigns, think tanks and interest groups associated with shaping public policy, and the civil service increasingly need graduates with the ability to design, commission, and implement projects that capture and analyse large swaths of online data from a diverse set of sources. 

The expert training you will receive on this degree is in high demand as graduates of data analytics programmes often do not have the research design skills necessary to ensure successful project implementation while those trained in policy analysis lack the skills necessary to analyse the newer types of large, disconnected datasets that now are possible to mine. This course provides you with both skill sets.

Emma Wright Data Science for Politics & Policy-making student
I was lucky enough to be awarded one of their [The Data Lab Innovation Centre] scholarships for the programme this year, meaning they covered almost all my tuition fees. This really motivated me to accept my offer on the MSc programme as it reassured me I was on the right path, and that other people thought I would succeed!
Emma Wright

Glasgow is Scotland's biggest & most cosmopolitan city

Our campus is based right in the very heart of Glasgow. We're in the city centre, next to the Merchant City, both of which are great locations for sightseeing, shopping and socialising alongside your studies.

Life in Glasgow

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Start date: Sep 2024

Data Science for Politics and Policymaking

Start date: Sep 2024

Start date: Sep 2024

Data Science for Politics and Policymaking

Start date: Sep 2024

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Contact us

Prospective student enquiries

Contact a member of our team on LiveChat between 10am and 4pm (GMT)

Telephone: +44 (0) 141 444 8600

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