Skip header navigation

MSc Substance Use

Specialise in Substance Use and its impact on people who use substances, family members, communities and contemporary societies.

Key facts

  • Award Masters / MSc, Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate
  • Start date September
  • Duration 3 Years
  • Mode of study Online, Part-time, Campus based, Stand-alone modules

Our MSc Substance Use is ideal for professionals looking to develop their career in the field of substance use as well as individuals looking to build on their undergraduate studies. The course syllabus explores how substance use affects people who use substances, family members, communities and contemporary societies. In recognition of both the complexity of the needs of people who use substances but also the integration of the practice field in substance use, the course offers a unique interdisciplinary focus through its suite of optional modules. You’ll have the opportunity to expand your knowledge on substance use, related policies and interventions, at local, national (Scotland and UK) and international levels within a context of partnership working.

With elective modules in specialist subjects such as housing, public health or rehabilitation, you’ll develop a range of skills which will significantly enhance your confidence and employability in the field of substance use.

  • Top reasons to study with us
  • Course objectives

    On successful completion of this programme, you should be able to:

    1. Evaluate and critique theories and concepts expressed to account for substance use and assess how these have informed the development of substance use policies and interventions
    2. Apply critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis to current issues of Scottish, UK and international policy approaches to substance use
    3. Demonstrate awareness and reflective thinking of how language and imagery are used in professional, political and academic constructions and representations of substance use, and the relationship between substance use and crime
    4. Appraise and critically evaluate major international, national (UK and Scottish), and local approaches to practice with a focus on partnership working to address the complexity of substance-related problems
    5. Critically review approaches to working with different groups of substance-affected individuals and families, and the implications these may have on individuals and communities.
    6. Use up-to-date evidence-based practice and policy research and appraise information to formulate new understandings and creative solutions to the field of substance use
    7. Demonstrate independent critical and reflective thinking in relation to the use of evidence in shaping and developing research
    8. Assess and reflect on the ethical underpinnings of research, policy and practice
    9. Communicate, using appropriate methods, to a range of audiences with different levels of knowledge/expertise, including peers, more senior colleagues and specialists
    10. Demonstrate leadership and/or initiative and make an identifiable contribution to the field of substance use through the critical assessment of evidence.
    11. Reflect on personal, professional and societal values and the ways these might impact on development of substance use policy and practice 
  • Work placements

    For students who are interested in doing a placement, there is the possibility of practice and research based opportunities.

  • 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.

  • Faculty facilities

    The Drug Research Network Scotland (DRNS) is hosted in the University, as well as the Salvation Army Centre for Addiction Services and Research.

  • Research

    When you study for a MSc Substance Use at the University of Stirling, you’ll be introduced to leading-edge empirical and theoretical research in a vibrant, multi-disciplinary environment.

    Underpinning the expertise of our staff, the University of Stirling scored highly in the most recent Research Excellent Framework (REF 2014) – a UK-wide assessment of universities’ research output. In the Social Work and Social Policy unit of assessment, highlights included:

    • 78% of our overall research activity was assessed to be internationally excellent or world-leading
    • 100% of research environment factors assessed as internationally excellent or world leading
    • 100% of our research impact was assessed as world leading or internationally excellent
    • We were judged to have the 2nd highest research power in Scotland and 13th highest in the UK
  • Academic requirements

    A minimum of a second class honours degree or equivalent. Applicants without these formal qualifications but with significant appropriate/relevant work/life experience are encouraged to apply.

  • 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: 6.5 with 6.0 minimum in each skill
    • Cambridge C1 Advanced (CAE) 176 with minimum of 169 in each skill
    • Cambridge C2 Proficiency (CPE) 180 with minimum 169 in each skill
    • Pearson Test of English (Academic): 60 with 56 in each component
    • IBT TOEFL: 90 with no subtest less than 20

    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.


The modules listed below are those currently intended for delivery in the next academic intake of this course. These may be subject to change as the University regularly revises and refreshes the curriculum of our taught programmes.

Course Details

  • Fees and costs

    Fees shown are per year (fees are different for each course)


    Home/EU Students

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

    If you’re domiciled in Scotland, you may be eligible to apply to the Students Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for a loan of up to £10,000 to cover your tuition fees and associated living costs. Students domiciled in the EU can also apply for tuition fee support, although may not be eligible to receive funding to support living costs.

    If you're domiciled in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you should be eligible to apply for a loan from your regional body.

    English students apply for a loan of up to £10,609 per year as part of the UK Postgraduate Loan Scheme, Welsh students can apply for a non-means tested loan of up to £13,000 from the Welsh Government and Northern Irish students are eligible to apply for support of up to £5,500.

    *Fees for students who apply for a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate will be paid on a pro-rata basis.

    If the course is taken over two years then the fee will be split evenly over the two years. Fees are not pro-rated for students who enrol on a Masters course and decide to exit with a Postgraduate Diploma - the full fee is charged.


    Overseas (Non-EU) Students

    Fees shown are for full-time, one-year Masters course. Fees for students who apply for a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate will be paid on a pro-rata basis.

    If the course is taken over two years then the fee will be split evenly over the two years. Fees are not pro-rated for students who enrol on a Masters course and decide to exit with a Postgraduate Diploma - the full fee is charged.


    Please note: You will be liable to pay tuition fees for every year you’re in attendance, and your fees will be held level upon entry. If you need to extend your period of study, you may be liable for an additional fee.

  • Scholarships and funding

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    EU 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

Prospective students might come from a range of different educational or professional backgrounds, such as criminal justice, mental health nursing, sociology and criminology. The MSc Substance Use offers a pathway of career development whether in practice or further study to either Professional Doctorate or PhD study.

Different career paths for graduates of this programme include third sector organisations, policy advocacy organisations, government and NGOs or public services as well as research.

The MSc aims to provide graduates with knowledge and understanding along with the intellectual and practical skills to develop or further their careers in research and practice within the substance use field.

  • Employability skills

    You’ll develop a range of skills which will significantly enhance both your confidence and employability in the field of substance use.

Scroll back to the top

Which course would you like to apply for?

MSc Substance Use

Search for another course