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Course content

In the current climate there are structural and political pressures to improve educational performance and opportunities within educational institutions and with this the quality of leadership comes under scrutiny. This MSc recognises that a high-quality educational system depends on leaders from all walks of life and all types of positions, regardless of title. It is intended, therefore, to provide leadership development for people who work in all manner of roles in the educational system: classroom teachers, formal school leaders, local authority personnel, policymakers, and any individual with a direct interest in the primary and post-primary school sectors.

The programme aspires to equip you with the necessary knowledge, skills, and creative capacity to respond to a variety of leadership challenges faced in contemporary educational institutions. We will challenge traditional notions of 'leaders' and 'leadership' pointing to new, more collaborative and more organic models of leading.

It is expected that graduates will be able to inform their professional practice with the latest research evidence in the field to nurture meaningful relationships in educational communities, address issues of equity and diversity, support teaching and learning, and ultimately ensure quality outcomes which are tailored to contextual needs. We seek to develop in students the ability to critique current leadership practices and to enact changes that will improve education for all.

Why Educational Leadership at Queen's?

◦As a prestigious Russell Group University, Queen’s is ranked 8th within the UK in relation to research intensity;

◦Education at Queen’s has been ranked 4th within the UK in relation to research intensity with 87% of the research undertaken within the School assessed as ‘internationally excellent or world leading’ (REF, 2014);

◦We provide a CPD opportunity for teachers and other educational professionals who work, or aspire to work, in a leadership capacity at different levels within their organisations;

◦We seek to develop in students the ability to critique current leadership practices and to enact changes that will improve education for all;

◦The content is delivered in a mixture of face-to-face and online formats (blended learning) creating flexibility for part-time working students, while providing for a range of learning styles.

◦Belfast is a growing cosmopolitan city, offering a good quality of life and one of the lowest costs of living in the UK; this makes it an attractive destination for EU/international applicants who want to undertake full-time study.

◦If you don’t want, or need, to study for the research dissertation, flexible exit awards are available (PG Diploma/ PG Certificate);

◦You may also undertake individual course modules without completing a full degree.

Programme Structure and Modules

Core Modules (all 20 CATS points):

An Introduction to Research Methods: Children, Young People and Education (compulsory)

This module will provide you with an understanding of differing perspectives that underpin quantitative and qualitative methodologies and is required preparation for your dissertation.

Leadership for Change (compulsory)

You will develop theoretical and practical knowledge of change in complex educational environments. Topics covered include: the nature and types of change; the process of organisational change covering phases from inception to institutionalisation; factors affecting the success of change at different levels; creativity and change; resistance to change; and the subtle ways in which culture influences the implementation of reform. Attention is paid to the role of different stakeholders in the school change process and on developing constructive dialogue for change by shifting the focus from the identification of problems to exploring possibilities.

Leadership Theory and Practice: an Overview (compulsory)

This compulsory module introduces leadership and organisational theories as they pertain to education. You are expected to develop understanding of the complex nature of leadership in educational institutions and appreciate the idea that ‘good leadership’ is always contingent upon the situation and context. Leadership practice is examined through different thematic lenses such as: human motivation theories; social systems theory; the concept of emotional intelligence; organisational culture and politics; partnership and collaboration; as well as equity and ethics.

School Effectiveness and School Improvement (compulsory)

We will examine current debates on what constitutes an effective school, the factors affecting school outcomes, and the implications for those assuming leadership roles. Attention is paid to the impact of inter- and intra-school collaboration on educational outcomes and the challenges posed by existing competitive structures internationally. You will learn how to use data critically in measuring school effectiveness and planning for improvement. We will look into how such data can be used to challenge inequities and promote a socially just education.

Two optional modules may be chosen from the Educational Studies (MEd) programme.


There are no written examinations. Modules are assessed by coursework, which includes written assignments and group presentation projects.

Career Opportunities

Graduates have found this degree beneficial for developing leadership practice in their workplace. Others have found it beneficial in gaining employment or promotion. Some progress to Doctoral-level studies and research.

Visit the MSc Educational Leadership page on the Queen’s University Belfast website for more details!





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