MSc Public Relations and Strategic Communication

Gain a thorough understanding of the role of public relations and strategic communication in contemporary societies while developing key critical, analytical, management and communication skills.

Public Relations and Strategic Communication

Key facts

  • Award Masters / MSc, Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate
  • Start date September 2022, September 2023
  • Application deadline For students who require a visa: we are closed for September 2022 entry
  • Duration MSc full-time: 12 months, MSc part-time: 24 months
  • Mode of study part time, full time
  • Delivery on campus

Overview

Our Public Relations and Strategic Communication course gives you the chance 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 need for a successful career in communications and public relations. You’ll gain a solid understanding of the theory behind public relations and strategic communications, and have many opportunities to apply this theory to everyday communications and public relations practice.

By the end of your studies, you’ll have the necessary skills to work at managerial level in public relations. You’ll be able to analyse environments, issues, organisational cultures and relationships – as well as set objectives, and design and implement public relations and communication 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. Field trips and 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 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 Education 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 semester-long research-led ‘virtual’ or real placement. 

Flexible learning

Find out more about the online verson of this course: MSc Public Relations and Strategic Communication (Online).

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) in a relevant subject or equivalent is required. If you don’t have these formal qualifications, but have significant relevant work and life experience, we still encourage you to apply.

Other routes of entry

If you don’t currently meet the academic requirements for this course, INTO University of Stirling offers a variety of preparation programmes that can earn you the qualifications and skills you need for direct entry.

Explore INTO Stirling programmes to see the pathway and pre-masters routes available for this course and others at the University of Stirling.

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.

Pre-sessional English language courses

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this course, our partner INTO University of Stirling offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for entry to this degree.

Find out more about our pre-sessional English language courses.

Course details

The course includes six modules, comprising three compulsory and 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
  • digital media production
  • research placement and more

The taught elements of the course are carried out across two semesters, which run from September until mid-December and from January until mid-April. Masters students are then expected to spend the summer carrying out a research project and 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

You’ll be taught by lectures, seminars, workshops, field trips and visiting speaker presentations.

Guest lectures from public relations practitioners provide networking opportunities and introduce students to current practice in the industry. We work closely with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, and you can attend CIPR Scotland events, allowing you to meet practitioners working in the field and to extend your network of contacts.

Fieldwork

There are a number of 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

Methods of assessment include:

  • essays
  • academic and practice-based papers 
  • timed assignments
  • 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
  • practical communication reports and strategic plans
  • case studies
  • research designs and projects 
  • You will also complete a 12,000-word dissertation. 

For some of the more practical modules, you’re required to produce a portfolio of work – which you can present to potential employers at job interviews.

Classroom hours

During the semesters, you can expect to spend around two to four hours in synchronous in-class and asynchronous 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 field trips 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 and monthly dissertation seminars. 

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 on 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 interest 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

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 2023/24
Students from the UK£8,200£8,700
Students from the Republic of Ireland£8,200£8,700
Overseas (non-EU) students£19,145£19,645
European Union students£19,145£19,645

Students from the UK

Course fees

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

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

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.

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

Students from the Republic of Ireland

Course fees

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

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

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.

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

European Union students

EU Postgraduate Scholarship

Eligible EU students will automatically receive our EU Postgraduate Scholarship, which provides a 40% fee discount on full-time, on-campus postgraduate degrees at the University of Stirling.

Course fees

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

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

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.

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

Overseas students (non-EU)

We offer a range of funding options for overseas students.

Course fees

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

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

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.

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

If you have the talent, ability and drive to study with us, we want to make sure you make the most of the opportunity – regardless of your financial circumstances.

Learn more about available funding opportunities or use our scholarship finder to explore our range of scholarships.

Cost of living

If you’re domiciled in the UK, you can typically apply to your relevant funding body for help with living costs. This usually takes the form of student loans, grants or bursaries, and the amount awarded depends upon your personal circumstances and household income.

European Union and overseas students won’t normally be able to claim living support through SAAS or other UK public funding bodies. You should contact the relevant authority in your country to find out if you’re eligible to receive support.

Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

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

Careers in public relations (PR)

Our Masters in Public Relations and Strategic Communication is for those who want 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

Organisations our graduates work for include:

  • Pfizer
  • Nike
  • UK Government
  • Office Depot
  • Police Scotland
  • The National Museum of Wales

Testimonial quotes

This course prepared me for a career in communications in more ways than I ever expected. Not only were the modules academically challenging and interesting, but the practical applications discussed in class and the network I built with my fellow students have benefited me in my career and my personal life.

Ashton Robertson, US

Employability skills

We offer a comprehensive employability and skills programme to help you maximise your time at university and develop the attributes that employers look for. In the Faculty of Arts and Humanities we have a dedicated Employability and Skills Officer. The University of Stirling’s Career and Employability Service works in partnership with academic staff to ensure you get the most out of your University experience, and are ready for the employment market.

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. 

Which course would you like to apply for?

MSc Public Relations and Strategic Communication

Search for another course