MSc Substance Use (Online)

Specialise in Substance Use with this online course and study its impact on people who use substances, family members, communities and contemporary societies.

Substance Use (Online)

Key facts

  • Award Masters / MSc, Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma
  • Start date September 2024
  • Duration MSc full time: 12 months, MSc part time: 24 months
  • Mode of study full time, part time
  • Delivery online


The number of people in treatment for substance use in the UK is on the rise and there's a distinct and growing need for professionals in this field who can contribute to research and support. 

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 online 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 course, you should be able to achieve the following objectives.

  • Evaluate and criticise theories and concepts expressed to account for substance use and assess how these have informed the development of substance use policies and intervention.
  • Apply critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis to forefront and current issues of UK and international policy approaches to substance use.
  • Appraise and critically evaluate major international and local approaches to practice with a focus on partnership working to address the complexity of substance-related problems.
  • Critically review approaches to working with different groups of substance affected individuals and families and the implications these may have on individuals and communities.
  • Use up-to-date evidence-based practice and policy research in the field of substance use and appraise information to formulate new understandings and creative solutions to the substance problem.
  • Demonstrate independent critical and reflective thinking in relation to the use of evidence in shaping and developing research.
  • Assess and reflect on the ethical underpinnings of research, policy and practice.
  • Communicate, using appropriate methods, to a range of audiences with different levels of knowledge/expertise, including peers, more senior colleagues and specialists.
  • Demonstrate leadership and/or initiative and make an identifiable contribution to the field of substance use through the critical assessment of evidence to conduct a literature review and/or design research.
  • Reflect on personal, professional and societal values and the ways these might impact on the development of drug policy and practice.
  • Exercise substantial autonomy and initiative in time management and academic activities and take responsibility for own work.
  • Adopt the position of active global citizens who are socially, culturally and environmentally aware of the complexities of the substance use problem and its implications for substance affected individuals and families and communities.

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 overview

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 Excellence Framework (REF 2021) – a UK-wide assessment of universities’ research output. In the Social Work and Social Policy unit of assessment, University of Stirling was ranked 3rd in Scotland and top 25 in the UK, with 100% of our research environment and 88% of our research deemed world-leading or internationally excellent.

Entry requirements

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.

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.
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic) 61 overall with 56 in each sub-skill.
  • IBT TOEFL 80 overall with 18 in reading, 23 in writing, 19 in listening and 21 in speaking.

See our information on English language requirements for more details on the language tests we accept and options to waive these requirements.

Course details


The module information below provides an example of the types of course module you may study. The details listed are for the academic year that starts in September 2024. Modules and start dates are regularly reviewed and may be subject to change in future years.

Course Details


The course takes a flexible approach to learning, with all modules delivered online.

How you'll learn online

Recorded lecture materials are provided online for students to view whenever they wish to. Each module has four or five live seminars, delivered online, lasting for between one and two hours each.


All modules are assessed through coursework such as essays, evaluation reports, presentations, research proposals and literature reviews.

Fees and funding

Fees and costs

2024/25 fees
  UK and Republic of Ireland students International students
Total MSc course fee 




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 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 £11,500 to cover tuition fees and associated living costs.

English students can apply for a loan of up to £12,167 each year as part of the Postgraduate Masters Loan Scheme.

Welsh students can apply for financial support of up to £18,770 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

Prospective students might come from a range of different educational or professional backgrounds, such as criminal justice, mental health nursing, substance use services, 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.

What our students said

Carol Scott
Carol Scott
MSc Substance Use
I would advise anyone considering doing a course at Stirling to go for it! The support from the tutors and other staff has been outstanding and I have always been able to work flexibly alongside my full time job.
Read Carol's story

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