MSc Data Science for Politics & Policymaking

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

  • Scholarships: fully funded places 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?

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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 a Qualitative Methodology, the latter taught by award-winning instructors who also teach short courses on the topic at leading international summer schools. You'll have the flexibility to choose from a list of courses in public policy 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'll have the opportunity to complete a client-based project as a part of your dissertation research. On the advice of the School, you can contact host organisations including local, city, and national governmental organisations for project-based MSc dissertations.

These projects will normally be unpaid, however, all costs such as travel and accommodation will be covered by the host organisation, if out of town.


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.

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Course content

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.


Principles of Research Design (ESRC Accredited for Students Seeing Entry to PhD programmes after the MSc)

The most important skill students should develop in graduate education is how to design research projects that withstand critical scrutiny. This module is designed to develop this skill at MSc level.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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
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.


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 equivalent, in social science. Students with lower class of degree will be considered if there is evidence of work and/or life experience related to the content of the degree. You do not need to have prior experience in computer science.

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 EU/UK) who do not meet the academic entry requirements for a Masters degree at University of Strathclyde. The Pre-Masters programme provides progression to a number of degree options.

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

International students

We've a thriving international community with students coming here to study from over 100 countries across the world. Find out all you need to know about studying in Glasgow at Strathclyde and hear from students about their experiences.

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Dean's International Excellence Awards: Humanities and Social Science

To recognise academic achievement, the Dean's Excellence Award offers international students a merit-based scholarship of £4,000 towards the first year of tuition fees of a full-time Masters, EdD Education or 1 year MRes programme in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. 

To apply for a Dean’s International Excellence Awards: Humanities & Social Sciences, candidates must:

  • Be available to commence their academic studies in the UK by the start of the academic year in September/October 2020.

Some scholarships have restrictions on other funding you can accept. This means that you have to decide which scholarship to accept. For any University of Strathclyde award you are successful in applying for, you will receive the higher value award only.

Apply for the International Excellence Award
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Fees & funding


All fees quoted are per academic year unless stated otherwise.



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Additional costs

Poster presentation £10.

Available scholarships

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 and non-UK EU postgraduate students

Scottish and non-UK EU 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.

Strathclyde Alumni

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences Alumni Discount

Alumni from undergraduate programmes who graduated between 2014-2019 can receive 10% off the fee for full-time programmes.

Find out more about our alumni discount
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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.

Glasgow is Scotland's biggest & most cosmopolitan city

Our campus is based in the very heart of Glasgow, Scotland's largest city. National Geographic named Glasgow as one of its 'Best of the World' destinations, while Rough Guide readers have voted Glasgow the world’s friendliest city! And Time Out named Glasgow in the top ten best cities in the world - we couldn't agree more!

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.

Find out what some of our students think about studying in Glasgow!

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Data Science for Politics and Policymaking

Qualification: MSc
Start Date: Sep 2020
Mode of Delivery: part-time

Data Science for Politics and Policymaking

Qualification: MSc
Start Date: Sep 2020
Mode of Delivery: full-time

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Contact us

Postgraduate Enquiries

Telephone: +44 (0)141 444 8600


Have you considered?

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