Postgraduate Taught

PgCert Public Sociology

Learn how sociology can contribute to social change on the only degree of its kind in Scotland. Your studies will be driven by regular engagement with publics and by the close sharing of insights with your peers on the course. You’ll learn from public sociologists who have diverse community experience, and who are engaged with activism and innovative research.

This course will be particularly suitable if you are a sociology graduate looking to specialise in public sociology or someone engaged in community work, social welfare, public engagement or campaigns who wants to learn how sociological theory and research can meaningfully contribute to your work.

Why QMU?

  • Dialogue is at the heart of public sociology – a dialogue between sociology and the people and communities that are trying to make the world a better place.
  • Learn from staff with a wide range of experience in community settings outside the university, including with young people, mental health, environmental campaigns, community education, gender justice and queer activism.

Course overview

Essentially, public sociology is about understanding society and how to bring about change. It actively brings sociology into dialogue with audiences beyond the classroom. By creating this active, open dialogue it aims to deepen both sides’ understanding of public issues.

Sociological knowledge theory, analysis and social practice are directly connected to the experiences of particular ‘publics’, normally understood as community groups, interest groups, campaigns or other civil society organisations. Public sociology is a discipline that speaks to, and for, audiences and communities beyond the parameters of the academic discipline and makes meaningful contributions to ongoing debates around public issues and concerns.

This course offers you the opportunity to engage with diverse public groups and to reflect critically on how sociology can contribute to work for social justice and change. You will study what is distinctive about public sociology and the methods of engagement and research of the discipline.

Public sociology is a contextual discipline responding to globalisation. The course draws on the experiences of public sociologists throughout the world and involves teaching by academics from a range of disciplines in which public sociology is relevant. Lecturers are engaged in research, education and activism with various public groups.

Exit awards



The course structure involves online lectures and seminars, self-directed study and, where feasible, seminars on campus for one day per week over 10 weeks. It is possible to complete this programme entirely online if desired.


Teaching hours and attendance

Students are expected to attend QMU campus one day per week over a period of six weeks plus an additional attendance in week 10 for assessment purposes. In addition, students are expected to study off campus through engaging with pre-recorded lectures, webinars, readings, written work and optional online workshops.

Teaching, learning and assessment

You will attend lectures and seminars, work in groups, as well as carry out independent learning. You will be expected to participate in discussions, collaboratively develop ideas and engage with experiential learning. It is particularly
expected that you will be engaged with a ‘public’, either through personal experience, employment or voluntary commitment, to reflect on the sociological contribution to that work.

We offer a range of stimulating assessment methods, including blogs, reflections on practice, live debates, group work with presentations as well as essays and field reports.

Class sizes

Some of the modules in this programme are shared with other programmes, however class size is not expected to exceed 15.

Links with industry / professional bodies

Teaching staff have a range of links with community, voluntary sector and campaign groups in civil society. This has included Friends of the Earth, Glasgow Association for Mental Health, the Workers’ Educational Association, the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, and various faith-based, trade union and European social policy organisations.


  • Principles of Public Sociology (an Introduction to Social Analysis) 20 credits
  • Public Sociology Practice (how social analysis contributes to a range of professional, community action and social movement practices) 20 credits
  • Reflection on Action (an opportunity to reflect systematically on the relationship between practice and theory) 20 credits

You will also complete at least 20 credits as an elective from a range of options or by self-study.

The modules listed are correct at time of publication (September 2020) but are subject to change. In the event that modules change, QMU will seek to use reasonable endeavours to ensure that there is no detrimental impact on students.

Single modules for CPD

Principles of Public Sociology and Public Sociology Practice can be taken as stand-alone modules for CPD. 


There are no formal placements on this course but students are expected to engage with a community group, campaign or representative organisation throughout their studies. It is not a placement as such, but students should take responsibility for this as their own engagement with public sociology. Ideally, students will already be involved, or have been involved, with such a group, although we appreciate that this is not always possible. Advice and assistance will be provided for students who start the course without suitable public engagement.

Teaching staff

Teaching staff on this programme are drawn from sociology and other disciplines and include programme leader Dr Eurig Scandrett (public sociology); Dr Marion Ellison (sociology and social policy); John Docherty-Hughes (sociology); Dr Paul Gilfillan (sociology); Karl Johnson (public sociology); Dr Elaine Ballantyne (Occupational Therapy); Emma Wood (communications); Dr Maria Giatsi Clausen (occupational therapy); Jennifer Mackay (public sociology); Dr Stan Nwankpa (public sociology). Further information on the experience and interests of these staff can be obtained from the staff profile pages.


Graduates of public sociology will be suitably qualified for a range of careers involving public engagement in the public or third sector or in non-governmental organisations.

Entry requirements

Degree and/or relevant experience of engagement with communities or public groups. We will consider applications from people without a degree but with significant experience of community work or similar, and who can show that they are able to study at postgraduate level.

International: Where your degree or equivalent has not been studied in English, you will be required to provide evidence of English language competence at no less than IELTS 6.5 with no individual component score below 6.0.

2020/21 Entry - Terms and Conditions (Postgraduate).

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Course Overview

On campus and online
Input for the course will take place over 10 weeks, with course completion after 20 weeks.
Start Date
March 2021
Queen Margaret University Edinburgh
Study Abroad
Psychology, Sociology and Education
Fees & Funding