MSc Public Relations and Strategic Communication (Online)

Combine study with work or other personal commitments with our flexible online Masters. Gain a thorough understanding of the role of public relations in modern society while developing key analytical, management and communication skills.

Public Relations and Strategic Communication (Online)

Key facts

  • Award Masters / MSc, Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate
  • Start date September 2022, January 2023, September 2023, January 2024
  • Duration MSc full-time: 12 months (16 months if starting in January) MSc part-time: 32 months
  • Mode of study part time, full time
  • Delivery online

Overview

This online Masters in Public Relations and Strategic Communication will help you to develop a critical appreciation of the role of public relations in contemporary societies, as well as key analytical, management and communication skills. You’ll gain a solid understanding of the theory behind public relations and communications, and have many opportunities to apply this theory to everyday communications and public relations practice.

The course is delivered online via MS Teams and Canvas, the University of Stirling’s online learning environment. You will also have an opportunity to attend on-campus sessions and field trips, including our Public Relations Residential School. 

By the end of your studies, you’ll have the necessary skills to work at a managerial level in public relations. You’ll be able to analyse environments, issues, organisational cultures and relationships – as well as set objectives, carry out research and evaluation, and design and implement public relations strategies.

We’re continually updating this well-established course in line with new advances in theory and practice, including how communication campaigns may successfully integrate digital media. Guest lectures offer opportunities to discuss strategic communication issues with leading practitioners and scholars. These also give you networking opportunities and an understanding of current best practice.

This course was established in 1988 and was the first degree in public relations in the UK and one of the first in Europe. Several prominent public relations academics and practitioners have completed their education at Stirling.

Top reasons to study with us

Course objectives

On successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  1. develop an advanced and critical understanding of complex communication phenomena and theories underpinning them;
  2. develop, execute and evaluate strategic communications plans and campaigns;
  3. communicate effectively to a wide range of audiences, using appropriate communications tactics, technologies and terminology;
  4. advise on appropriate channels and messaging to meet strategic communications objectives;
  5. integrate theory, research findings and awareness of communications technologies into campaign planning;
  6. recognise and respond appropriately to the ethical challenges associated with strategic communication and public relations;
  7. set objectives and design and implement public relations activities and tactics to meet those objectives;
  8. carry out research and evaluation appropriate to public relations and strategic communications activities.

Professional accreditation

The course has been awarded CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) Recognition. We're also members of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), EUPRERA (European Public Relations Educaiton and Research Association) and ECREA (European Communication Research and Education Association).

 

Work placements

You can choose Strategic Communications Research Placement module, which has been designed to provide you with applied research experience. You will undertake, in partnership with a non-academic organisation, a research-led ‘virtual’ or real placement.

Flexible learning

If you’re interested in studying a module from this course, the Postgraduate Certificate or the Postgraduate Diploma then please email Graduate Admissions to discuss your course of study.

Research overview

Communications, Media and Culture at the University of Stirling was ranked 2nd in Scotland overall in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), with 100% of our research environment and 88% of our overall research classed as world-leading or internationally excellent.

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.

International entry requirements

View the entry requirements for your country.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your English language skills:

  • IELTS Academic or UKVI 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each sub-skill
  • Cambridge C1 Advanced (CAE) 176 overall with a minimum of 169 in each sub-skill
  • Cambridge C2 Proficiency (CPE) 180 overall with a minimum of 169 in each sub-skill
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic) 62 overall with 60 in each sub-skill
  • IBT TOEFL 80 overall with 18 in reading, 23 in writing, 19 in listening and 21 in speaking
  • IBT TOEFL Special Home Edition Test 80 overall with 18 in reading, 23 in writing, 19 in listening and 21 in speaking
  • Trinity ISE II Pass overall and Merit in all sub-skills, ISE III Pass overall and in all sub-skills, ISE IV Pass overall and in all sub-skills
  • Aptis (4 skills) CEFR B2 overall and B2 in all sub-skills
  • LanguageCert International ESOL B2 Communicator - High Pass with a minimum of 152/200 overall and 33 in each sub-skill

Last updated: 23 August 2022

For more information on ways that you can meet our English language requirements, including options to waive the requirement, please read our information on English language requirements.

Course details

The course includes three compulsory modules, three optional modules and a dissertation. Modules include: 

Core modules

  • public relations and public communications theories
  • strategic public relations planning
  • research methods

Optional modules

Optional modules may include (subject to availability):

  • public affairs and advocacy
  • media relations and production
  • communication and democracy
  • tourism and strategic communication
  • research placement and more

Masters students will then carry out a research project and will submit a 12,000-word dissertation.

Modules

The module information below provides an example of the types of course module you may study. The details listed are for the current academic year (September 2022). Modules and start dates are regularly reviewed and may be subject to change in future years.

Course Details

Teaching

Each module is divided into a number of topics. All the topics for a module will usually be available at the start of each module. As well as core materials, module contents include reading lists with additional sources of information you can use to supplement your studying.

We highly recommend that you attend at least one two-day residential school during the course of your studies. This is on the University of Stirling campus. Sessions will be recorded and available for those who are not able to attend.

How you'll learn online

All course material is delivered via MS Teams and Canvas, the University of Stirling’s online learning environment.

Fieldwork

There are a number of optional field trip opportunities across this course. You'll have the opportunity to attend a Public Affairs seminar series in Brussels, which includes visits to the European Parliament, the European Commission and specialist industry seminars with leading public affairs and communication experts in Brussels. 

We also run field trips to Edinburgh (including the Scottish Parliament) linked to the Communication and Democracy module and there is a field trip as part of the Tourism and Public Relations module.

Assessment

Assessments include:

  • essays
  • academic and practice-based papers
  • project work, portfolios and reports
  • public relations and communication campaigns including presentations and reports 
  • a media relations portfolio which includes organisation of media conferences, digital media production and designing media packs 
  • public relations and communication reports and strategic case studies
  • research designs and projects
  • pre-recorded and synchronous presentations

You will also complete a 12,000-word dissertation.

Classroom hours

During the semesters, you can expect to spend around two to four hours in synchronous and asynchronous online sessions (e.g. lectures, seminars, webinars, workshops and discussions) per week for each of your modules. These will be combined with up to 16 hours per week (part-time study) and 32 hours (full-time study) of your independent study. There may also be dedicated fieldtrips and online guest lectures as part of the teaching on particular modules. 

During the dissertation period, you will have regular meetings with your dissertation supervisor using email, Microsoft Teams, telephone or Skype. 

Key staff

Dr Alenka Jelen is Programme Director and teaches public relations theories; public affairs and advocacy; media relations and production and research methods. Her current research focuses on public relations as an academic discipline; gender in public relations and media; relationships between media and politics; and health communication.

Dr William Dinan teaches and researches promotional culture, communication and power. Interests include spin; propaganda; political communication; lobbying and civil society advocacy; freedom of information; transparency and governance. 

Grant Thoms teaches and has research interests in public relations practice, media relations, public affairs and lobbying. He is a chartered public relations practitioner with a varied client base.

Ask an expert

Dr Katherine Champion Lecturer in Media and Communications

Lecturer, Dr Katherine Champion, a specialist in Media and Communications, explains how studying at Stirling can enhance your career prospects.

Ask an expert in media, culture and communications

Fees and funding

Fees and costs

2022/23 fees
 

UK and Republic of Ireland students

Overseas students

Total MSc course fee

£7,875

£11,550

 

2023/24 fees
 

UK and Republic of Ireland students

Overseas students

Total MSc course fee

£8,000

£12,000

Fees shown are for a full-time, one-year Masters course.

If you are studying part time, the total course fee will be split over the years that you study. The total fee will remain the same and will be held at the rate set in your year of entry.

If you need to extend your period of study or repeat study, you will be liable for additional fees.

For more information on courses invoiced on an annual fee basis, please read our tuition fees policy.

Postgraduate tuition fee loans

This course is eligible for a postgraduate tuition fee loan from one of the UK’s governments. See the section, below, for more details.

Additional costs

There are some instances where additional fees may apply. Depending on your chosen course, you may need to pay additional costs, for example for field trips. Learn more about additional fees.

Scholarships and funding

Postgraduate tuition fee loans

Scottish students may be eligible to apply to the Students Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for loans of up to £10,000 to cover tuition fees and associated living costs.

English students can apply for a loan of up to £11,570 each year as part of the Postgraduate Masters Loan Scheme.

Welsh students can apply for financial support of up to £18,025 as a combination of grant and loan from Student Finance Wales.

Northern Irish students can apply for a postgraduate tuition fee loan of up to £5,500 from Student Finance NI.

Payment options

We aim to be as flexible as possible, and offer a wide range of payment methods - including the option to pay fees by instalments. Learn more about how to pay

After you graduate

Our Masters will suit those who want to develop managerial careers in public relations, organisational communication, corporate communications, strategic communication or related areas.

Our alumni are found around the globe in public, private and voluntary sectors. Many graduates work in PR consultancy roles, in-house communication departments in various organisations, NGO advocacy and communication, or have started their own businesses. Others stay in academia, going on to gain PhDs and then work as lecturers, teaching and researching in universities.

Our graduates typically occupy positions such as:

  • Communications Officer/Manager
  • Public Relations Officer/Manager
  • Media Officer
  • Social Media Officer/Manager
  • Internal Communications Officer/Manager
  • Corporate Affairs Officer/Manager 
  • Public Affairs Officer/Manager

Testimonial quotes

As somebody whose method of study was through online learning, I did not get the benefit of being on campus over the last three years and availing of the many facilities that Stirling has. However, thanks to the wonders of technology the distance between me and Stirling was rarely felt as I had access to a lot of what I needed through my laptop and tablet. The fact that the University has embraced the power of technology and is offering online courses is fantastic and has given people like myself a chance to avail of the Stirling experience which otherwise would not be possible.

Gerard McDermott, MSc Strategic Public Relations (Online), 2017

Employability skills

We offer a comprehensive employability and skills programme to help you maximise your time and develop the graduate attributes required by employers. We have a dedicated Faculty Employability and Skills Officer who works in partnership with academic staff to ensure you get the best out of your University experience and are given the right opportunities to make you ready for the world of work.

Companies we work with

We have well established partnerships with several associations and organisations, collaborating with us on our research placements, practice-based student projects, guest lectures, organising events and research. These include professional bodies Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and Public Relations Consultancies Association (PRCA); agencies, such as Weber Shandwick and Portman Communications;  government institutions, including the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Scottish Government; international organisations, such as Uber; NGOs and third sector organisations, including CONCORD Europe, Scottish Union for Supported Employment, Zero Waste Scotland and University of St Andrews Medical School; and local social enterprises, including Creative Stirling. 

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MSc Public Relations and Strategic Communication (Online)

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