Educational Leadership

Leadership in schools is associated with fostering an environment where students can achieve their full potential and where educational staff are supported, motivated and can professionally develop. Effective school leaders are often described as having the capacity to transform and motivate others, they have vision, experience and expertise. This course takes the view however, that effective schools have leaders that can be found all-across a school and not necessarily confined only to those in senior positions. Key ideas explored in this course are leadership that is distributed, collaboration and the benefits of networks, transformational leadership and how effective leadership can change and improve schools.

The MSc in Educational Leadership recognises that schools and more broadly educational systems depend on leaders from all walks of life and all types of positions, regardless of assigned 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 aims 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.

Course Structure
Students may enrol on a full-time (1 year) or part-time (3 years) basis. Individual modules may be studied as a short course. Part-time students typically complete one or two modules per semester. Full-time students typically complete three modules per semester.

The MSc is awarded to students who successfully complete six taught modules (120 CATS points) and a 15,000 word research dissertation (60 CATS points).

Exit qualifications are available: students may exit with a Postgraduate Diploma by successfully completing 120 CATS points from taught modules or a Postgraduate Certificate by successfully completing 60 CATS points from taught modules.

We've made it easy to study for a master's module as a short course. If you would like to apply for a short course, please contact the Education Secretary ( for advice.

Learning and Teaching
Learning opportunities available with this course are outlined below:
Evening Only
A combination of face-to-face sessions and online learning formats.

Educational Leadership Highlights
Over 83% of research submitted by colleagues based in the Education Unit of Assessment was judged to be ‘World Leading’ or ‘Internationally Excellent' by a peer review panel (REF2021).

Student Experience
• Students are actively involved in sessions (student-led) and there are opportunities for small group work and presentations.
• Assignments are tailored to topics of interest to each individual student.
• There is an international outlook on leadership issues.
• The international mix of students enables exchanges of knowledge, experience, and perspectives.
• Credit transfer Students who have completed other master's-level awards, eg PGCE or Professional Qualification for Headship (PQH) within the last 10 years are eligible to credit transfer. The credit transfer application must be submitted at the same time as the online programme application as retrospective applications are not accepted.
• The programme is tailored to working professionals and as such a blended learning approach is used. Modules are made up of face to face lectures and online sessions. Lectures at Queen’s take place in the evenings and online sessions can be completed off-campus. Part-time students can remain in their workplace during their studies and directly apply new knowledge in their settings.

Subjects taught

Modules Core Modules (all 20 CATS points):
An Introduction to Research Methods: Children, Young People and Education (compulsory)
This introductory research methods module is compulsory for all Master's students in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work and assumes no previous experience or knowledge of research methods. The aim of the module is to provide a general research overview and to contextualise the broad range of approaches and debates that are evident within contemporary educational research. The module aims to provide students with an understanding of the theory and an appreciation of the differing perspectives that underpin quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Students will be introduced to the ethical issues relating to educational research as well as a range of methodological approaches, within which the key theoretical and practical issues will be addressed.

Leadership for Change (compulsory)
In this module students will develop theoretical and practical knowledge of how to lead change in complex educational environments. Topics covered include: the nature and types of change and innovation; the process of organisational change covering phases from inception to institutionalisation; factors affecting the success of change at different levels (individual, team, organisational, and macro levels); creativity and change; resistance to change; and the subtle ways in which culture influences the implementation of reform. Specific attention is paid to the role of different stakeholders in the school change process, including teachers, senior leaders, pupils, parents, local education authorities, and governments. Emphasis is placed on developing constructive dialogue for change by shifting the focus from the identification of problems to exploring possibilities. Both the theoretical and empirical literature is examined. The analysis of case studies in small groups constitutes a main learning tool during sessions that helps relate theory and research to real life situations of organisational change.

Leadership Theory and Practice: An Overview (compulsory)
This module is a general introduction to leadership and organisational theories as they pertain to education. As leadership is a widely debated concept, the goal of this module is not to cover all different conceptualisations and perspectives, but rather to explore some of the key issues in the field. Students will expand their understanding of the complex nature of leadership practice in schools 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 ethics. The module is aimed at all types of educational professionals, whether they hold an official leadership position or not. Students will have the opportunity to use the literature and discussions with peers to analyse the educational process and provide effective leadership within it.

School Effectiveness and School Improvement (compulsory)
This module introduces students to the theoretical and empirical literature on school effectiveness and school improvement. It looks into current debates on what constitutes an effective school (drawing on varied conceptualisations of educational outcomes, such as academic attainment, emotional wellbeing, civic engagement, equity, etc.), the internal/ external factors affecting those outcomes, and the implications for those assuming leadership roles within schools.
Specific attention will be paid to the impact of inter- and intra-school collaboration on educational outcomes and the challenges posed by existing competitive structures in the UK. The module also aims to develop students’ ability to use data critically (including value-added measures and inspection reports) in measuring school effectiveness and planning for improvement. It evaluates what such data shows, what it does not, and how it can be used in ways that challenge inequities and promote a socially just education. The module also examines the literature on school development planning as a mechanism for school improvement and explores relevant policies in the UK. Students will be encouraged to consider the literature studied in the light of their own school experiences. It is advisable that students undertake the ‘An Introduction to Research Methods: Children, Young People and Education’ module before attending this one.

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

Dissertation – 60 CATS (15,000 words max.)
Students choose to work on a topic of interest under the supervision of an academic member of staff.

Entry requirements

A 2.1 Honours degree or above or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in any subject discipline.

Applicants with a 2.2 Honours degree or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University may also be considered if they have at least two years of professional experience in an education, training or relevant context.

International Students
For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

English Language Requirements
Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required. *Taken within the last 2 years.

International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

• Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level

• Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.

Application dates

Closing date for applications: Friday 30th June 2023 at 4pm.
Late applications may be considered.

Applicants are advised to apply as early as possible. In the event that any programme receives a high number of applications, the University reserves the right to close the application portal prior to the deadline stated on course finder. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Application Portal against the programme application page.

How to Apply
Applications should be submitted online via the Postgraduate Applications Portal for admission to the vast majority of postgraduate programmes.

New applicants will need to register via the Portal to create an application account. If you are already a Queen’s student with an active Qsis account, you can log in using your student number and Qsis password. Guidance on how to complete an application is provided within the Portal and it is possible to save application data and return to complete it at a later date, if you wish. After core details about yourself and your academic background have been provided, you can submit an application, or multiple applications, if required.

If you applied in a previous cycle through the Portal and are re-applying, you should use your previous log in details. Please review and update your personal and contact details, academic and professional qualifications before submitting a new application.

Important – please ensure that the email address you provide is correct and active, as this will be used by us to communicate the progress of your application to you.


1 year (Full Time)
3 years (Part Time)

Contact Teaching Hours:
Medium Group Teaching
2 (hours maximum)

Teaching Times
A combination of face-to-face sessions and online learning formats.

Enrolment dates

Entry Year: 2023

Post Course Info

Career Prospects
Some graduates have found this degree beneficial for improving leadership practice in their workplace. Others have found it beneficial in expanding the roles they undertake at work, and in gaining employment or promotion. Some progress to doctoral-level studies and research.

Queen's postgraduates reap exceptional benefits. Unique initiatives, such as Degree Plus and Researcher Plus bolster our commitment to employability, while innovative leadership and executive programmes help our students gain key leadership positions both nationally and internationally.

Graduate Plus/Future Ready Award for extra-curricular skills
In addition to your degree programme, at Queen's you can have the opportunity to gain wider life, academic and employability skills. For example, placements, voluntary work, clubs, societies, sports and lots more. So not only do you graduate with a degree recognised from a world leading university, you'll have practical national and international experience plus a wider exposure to life overall. We call this Graduate Plus/Future Ready Award. It's what makes studying at Queen's University Belfast special.

More details
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  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters at UK Level 7

  • Attendance type

    Blended,Daytime,Evening,Full time,Part time

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