Strategic Public Relations & Communication Management

Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma, MSc


The MSc/Dip in Strategic Public Relations and Communication Management equips students with the necessary practical and analytical skills for a professional career and it examines how to design, implement and evaluate public relations (PR) and programmes.


The MSc/Dip in Strategic Public Relations & Communication Management is recognised by the UK Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

Key information

  • Degree type: Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma, MSc
  • Study methods: Part-time, Full-time
  • Duration: Full-time: MSc, one year Diploma: nine months Part-time: MSc, two years Diploma: 21 months
  • Start date: September
  • Course Director: Dr Derek Hodge
Download course leaflet

Derek Hodge Division of Communications, Media and Culture,
University of Stirling
+44 (0) 1786 466215

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  1. The programme’s emphasis on how theory can help inform practice is a very useful tool for those seeking to progress their careers and gain management positions within the public relations industry.
  2. We are approved by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, which provides important networking opportunities and boosts the chances of gaining employment.
  3. We keep up to date with new advances, including how digital media is used in public relations.
  4. The programme at the University of Stirling is one of the longest established public relations Masters programmes in Europe.
  5. Our industry links are second to none. We have an excellent guest speaker programme and we provide students with the opportunity to work for real clients as part of the course.

Course objectives

Public relations courses at the University of Stirling are designed for students from a variety of degree backgrounds to develop the appropriate intellectual skills at Master's level for a management-level career in Public Relations, Communication Management, Corporate Affairs or Public Affairs. The course helps students develop a critical appreciation of the role of public relations in society and to develop key analytical and professional skills. 

Our approach is founded on the following principles:

  • Public relations contributes to the effectiveness of organisations by improving organisational relationships and facilitating public conversations and debate.
  • Public relations has a remit for corporate social responsibility through its issues management function and responsibility for reputation, which necessarily means that it has to help organisations change to meet new agendas of sustainability.
  • Teaching strategic public relations can facilitate better public understanding of the occupation, and thus mitigate contemporary cultural stereotypes and prejudice (much fostered by journalists who have an interest in purveying negative images), as well as diffusing core concepts that can benefit Scotland’s private and public sector enterprises: small, medium and large. Improved understanding of this organisational function can aid government and NGOs in political and policy communications.
  • In understanding public relations practitioners as being, in some aspects, ‘discourse workers’ it becomes easier to see that the functional role has the potential to contribute to a more enlightened and better-informed society.

Public relations takes place at points of change and moments of transformation in complex contemporary societies. Typically, public relations activity clusters around (i) public policy formation (ii) organisational change and development (iii) public issues such as the environment (iv) major global shifts such as conflict, unstable international environments, globalisation, natural disasters or human disasters such as war or global financial collapse.

Bearing all this in mind, public relations education is necessarily embedded in the contemporary issues of the day in a very wide range of environments (political, economic, technological, socio-cultural, regulatory/legal) and contexts (sports, health, religion, tourism, development, regeneration).

Our courses are regularly restructured to improve their effectiveness and efficiency in meeting both academic and professional requirements. Modules relate to the Public Relations Education and Training Matrix developed with, and endorsed by, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and the Public Relations Consultants Association.

What makes us different?

World-class library and teaching facilities

Studying for a degree means learning in different ways; managing your own time; conducting research; mastering new computer skills. We have the facilities and advice on hand to help you do all this - and do it well.

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Life at Stirling

Of the many reasons students come to Stirling, such as academic reputation and research standards, one factor is always cited: the outstanding beauty of the University's Stirling campus.

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Entry requirements

Academic requirements

A minimum of a second class Honours degree (2.1 preferred) or equivalent in a relevant subject.  Applicants without these formal qualifications but with significant appropriate/relevant work/life experience are encouraged to apply.

INTO University of Stirling offers a Graduate Diploma for those students who do not meet the required criteria for this course. If you successfully complete the Graduate Diploma in Media, Humanities and Social Sciences and meet the required progression grades, you will be guaranteed entry onto year one of this Master's degree.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence of your proficiency such as a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 (6.0 in all bands).

If you don’t meet the required score you may be able to register for one of our pre-sessional English courses. To register you must hold a conditional offer for your course and have an IELTS score 0.5 or 1.0 below the required standard. View our range of pre-sessional courses.

Structure and teaching

Structure and content

The course includes six compulsory modules, two optional modules and a dissertation. The taught elements of the course are in two semesters which run from September until December and from January until the end of May. Master's students are then expected to spend the summer carrying out a Research Project and to submit a 12,000-word Dissertation in August.

Delivery and assessment

Lectures, seminars and workshops. Methods of assessment include exams, essays, case studies, presentations and practical reports. For some of the more practical modules students are required to produce a portfolio of work which they can present to potential employers at job interviews.


Academic Year 2015/16

  • Public Relations and Public Communication Theories
  • Media Relations and Production
  • Research for Dissertation/Research Design
  • Strategic Public Relations Planning
  • Public Relations Contexts

Plus two of the following optional modules:

  • Public Relations and Digital Media
  • Health and Science Communication
  • Public Diplomacy
  • Tourism and Public Relations

(Optional modules to be confirmed)


Recommended reading

You will be provided with detailed reading lists for each module. These will all contain core texts and suggestions for further reading and revised every year to ensure that they are up-to-date. 

Students coming on the courses who wish to familiarise themselves with the basic concepts of public relations should read Tench, R., & Yeomans, L. (Eds.). (2009). Exploring public relations (2nd ed.). Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education Ltd.  

We suggest that all students buy Heath, R. (Ed.). (2010). The SAGE handbook of public relations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage. This text covers the range of range of theory, research and practice  in the field of public relations and will be of great use throughout the course. 

Study method

Full-time, Part-time

Example timetable

The timetable below is a typical example, but your own timetable may be different.

During each of our two semesters you can expect to spend around two to four hours in lectures, seminars or workshops for each of the four modules. In the summer you will have regular meetings with your dissertation supervisor. Students can conduct their research overseas, communicating with their supervisor using email, the telephone and Skype.

Why Stirling?



In REF2014 Stirling was placed 6th in Scotland and 45th in the UK with almost three quarters of research activity rated either world-leading or internationally excellent.

RAE rating

In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise around half of the research submitted from the subject areas that now make up the School of Arts and Humanities was judged to be world-leading or internationally excellent in quality, with over 10% of that research placed in the highest (world-leading) category. 85% of the assessed research from the Arts and Humanities was judged to be recognised internationally.

Study abroad opportunities

No formal study abroad opportunities at present.


Teaching staff on the course have been nominated for a number of RATE (Recognising Achievement in Teaching Excellence) awards since they were launched at Stirling.

Our students

I decided to come to Stirling because I knew that a Master’s Degree would help further my career in the Communications industry. With a background in professional sales and advertising, I was seeking a change and the PR programme at Stirling has provided the gateway I need to advance my career.

The experience has proven to be a challenging yet rewarding one and the programme has allowed me first-hand access to real world experiences and to some of the leading scholars in the field.

It is multi-cultural, allowing me to meet people from all over the world and to build lifelong relationships that will undoubtedly benefit me for many years to come. The lecturers at the University are world class and are always willing to provide a helping hand. There is nothing that they won’t do to help you succeed – because your success is their success.

Elizabeth Pippin Ouaala, MSc graduate 2012


Careers and employability

Career opportunities

The degrees offer necessary conceptual skills for managerial careers in public relations, organisational communication, corporate communications and communication management and related posts in a variety of contexts and sectors.

Graduates of our Master's level courses in public relations have successfully established careers in the public relations field working for a wide range of organisations all round the world. Recent examples include Nike, the UK Government, Office Depot, Police Scotland and the National Museum of Wales.

Many of our graduates work in public relations consultancy, including some of the big names in the PR world, and some have even gone on to start their own businesses. Others stay in academia, going on to gain PhDs and then work as lecturers, teaching and researching public relations in universities all over the world. 

Skills you can develop through this course

By studying this course you will gain a solid understanding of the theory behind public relations and you will have many opportunities to put this theory into practice. You will gain practical skills in campaign planning and the production of public relations materials such as news releases, feature articles and blog postings. This material can make up the basis of a portfolio of work which can be shown to potential employers.

Chances to expand your horizons

Guest lectures from public relations practitioners provide networking opportunities and expose students to current practice in the industry. The course is recognised by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and students can attend CIPR Scotland events, allowing them to meet practitioners working in the field and to extend their network of contacts.

Where are our graduates now?

Graduates of our Master's level courses in public relations have successfully established careers in the public relations field working for a wide range of organisations all round the world. Recent examples include Pfizer, Nike, the UK Government, Office Depot, Police Scotland and the National Museum of Wales.

Many of our graduates work in public relations consultancy, including some of the big names in the PR world, and some have even gone on to start their own business. Others stay in academia, going on to gain PhDs and then on to work as lecturers, teaching and researching public relations in universities all over the world.

Online application process

Please choose a start date and study method from the drop-down list below, and click the Apply Now button below to begin the online application process. (Please make sure you have consulted the Postgraduate Study pages on the University website and the Online Application Guidance Notes before continuing).



2016/17 Overseas £13,950
2016/17 Home/EU £6,100
2015/16 Overseas £13,500
2015/16 Home/EU £6,000


You should expect to pay fees for every year you are in attendance and be aware fees are subject to revision and may increase annually. Students on programmes of study of more than one year should take this into account when applying.

Scholarships & funding

The University of Stirling is offering any UK or European Union student with a First Class Honours degree (or equivalent) a £2,000 scholarship to study full-time on any taught Master's course or £1,000 for part-time study.  Further information on the scholarships is available here.

Scholarship finder
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