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Programme description

The MSc Health Policy will develop your understanding of, and critical engagement with, key challenges in health policy. Both state and non-state actors grapple with how best to promote the health of communities and populations, including the most effective strategies for preventing disease, ensuring efficient and high quality health care, and reducing health inequalities.

These challenges extend beyond the traditional domain of the health sector, requiring engagement with economic and social policy and a range of non-state actors including third sector organisations, commercial interests and international agencies.

The MSc in Health Policy is designed for individuals interested in a wide range of health-related roles including government and international agencies, health advocacy, health administration and health care delivery, consultancies, advisory roles, the commercial sector, and health-related research. Within the programme there is scope for you to specialise in either health systems or health inequalities, or to follow a broad policy stream.

The Health Systems stream is ideal for those seeking to work in health care policy, planning or management, in either the public or private sectors. It will expose you to different models of health care financing, purchasing and delivery, equipping them to engage with key contemporary challenges and debates including how to achieve sustainable health care financing, the role of the state in health care, the appropriate mix of public and private provision, and how best to achieve the goals of equity, efficiency and quality in health care delivery.

The Health Inequalities stream is ideal for those seeking to engage with health disparities both between and within countries, particularly those relating to inequities in social structures and power. In this stream you will explore evidence and policy responses to health inequalities across a range of axes, including class/socioeconomic position, ethnicity/race and gender, and will consider how health and its determinants are shaped by a range of influences including social and economic policy, commercial power and political conflict. This stream is particularly suited to those interested in working in policy, advocacy and research settings with a focus on health equity.

You may also elect to follow a broad policy stream within the MSc Health Policy, rather than specialising in health systems or health inequalities. This stream equips you with an understanding of how health policy fits within broader approaches to social and economic policy, and is particularly suitable for individuals wanting to work in public policy, advocacy or research.

Our students come from countries at all levels of economic development and from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds, with many using the MSc as an investment to develop their careers or move into a more policy-focused role. While the programme has a strong policy focus, it also includes an academic orientation so is good preparation for further research at PhD level.

The MSc programme is situated within the Global Public Health Unit, which is located in University’s School of Social and Political Science rather than a medical school. This reflects our programme’s reach across traditional boundaries, linking policy analysis, public health, social policy, economics, sociology, medicine and epidemiology. The MSc programme offers innovative research-led teaching that draws on academic expertise from all these disciplines, while also benefitting from close links with the Centre for Population Health Sciences in the University's medical college.

Programme structure

You will complete one compulsory course and a number of option courses.

Following the taught courses, you will work towards an independently researched dissertation.

Learning outcomes

This programme is designed to equip you with the knowledge and critical skills you need to play a senior role in health policy, advocacy and research.

Specific aims are to:

  • Have a critical understanding of core concepts and frameworks relevant to health policy and population health.
  • Be aware of key contemporary challenges to health and the role of the state and other actors in seeking to address these.
  • Have a critical awareness of the links between health policy and broader social and economic policies, including the extent to which health objectives may complement or be in tension with other social goals
  • Understand different models of health care financing, purchasing and delivery, and be able to draw on these in critically appraising the roles of different actors in the development and implementation of health policy and in a diverse range of health systems reforms (Health Systems stream)
  • Understand the social determinants of health and health inequalities, and apply this understanding in critically evaluating different approaches to improving health and reducing health inequalities (Health Inequalities stream)

Career opportunities

This programme is intended to equip you with the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue employment positions in policy, advocacy and research roles relevant to health policy. Most students use the MSc as an investment to develop their careers or move into a more policy-focused area, including jobs with health agencies or consultancies, government departments, international organisations and third sector organisations. By combining an advanced degree from a world-leading university with expertise in an innovative field relevant to multiple policy agendas, students who successfully complete our programmes are well placed to secure interesting positions within an often very competitive area.

Our graduates in recent years have moved on to a range of exciting employment and research positions. These include positions with health departments and other government ministries in both high-income and developing countries; with agencies and donor organisations working in health care and health promotion; with international organisations and consultancy; research positions examining health systems for the European Union and other levels of regional governance; and employment in commercial sector organisations including pharmaceutical and other health-related companies.

All students have access to the Edinburgh University Careers Service during the programme and for two years after graduation.


Visit the Health Policy (MSc) page on the University of Edinburgh website for more details!

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