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 2022
  • Duration MSc full-time: 12 months, MSc part-time: 24 or 36 months
  • Mode of study Part-time, Full-time, Mixture of online and classroom delivery


The number of people in treatment for substance use in the UK is on the rise, with 140,599 cases recorded in 2019/20 ( 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 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 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 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 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

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.

English language requirements

Due to disruption in English Language testing caused by COVID-19, we are accepting alternative English Language tests (including online English Language Tests).

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

  • IELTS Indicator 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
  • Duolingo 105 overall with a minimum of 95 in each sub-skill
  • LanguageCert International ESOL B2 Communicator - Pass with minimum 33 in each sub-skill

Last updated: 1 February 2021

If you are from India, Ghana or Nigeria please also check your country/region specific page for any additional, or changes to, English language requirements.

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 module information below is intended only as an example of what you may study and features details for the current academic year (2021/22). Modules are regularly reviewed and are subject to future changes.

Course Details


The course takes a flexible and blended approach to learning with all core modules and the majority of elective modules delivered online.


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

Key staff

Dr Maria Fotopoulou, Faculty of Social Sciences

+44 (0)1786 466335

Fees and funding

Fees and costs

2022/23 fees
 UK and Republic of Ireland studentsOverseas students
Total MSc course fee 




2021/22 fees
 UK and Republic of Ireland studentsEU and Overseas students
Total MSc course fee 



This course is only offered on a part-time basis. 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 it was 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.

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

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

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

Changes at Stirling

Find out about important changes including how you'll be taught, start dates and how we're making campus safer.

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