Higher Education

The MSc in Higher Education is designed to proactively address the diverse challenges facing higher education, for its long-term prosperity. This comprehensive interdisciplinary curriculum recognises that the roles played by higher education in society, and by individuals within higher education institutions, are best served by engaging with education as the key to transformation, access, and quality of higher education in this digital age.

Entry requirements

A 2.2 Honours degree or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in any discipline.

Applicants are required to be working within a higher education institution, and/or be able to demonstrate that she/he has access to conduct research within the higher education sector during the course of the programme.

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: www.qub.ac.uk/EnglishLanguageReqs.

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.


3 yearss part-time.

The MSc is designed for part-time studies with interactions occurring mostly online asynchronously. The place-based week-long contact sessions in the first year will involve intensive full-day interactions.

Careers or further progression

Career Prospects
The MSc in Higher Education is a three-year part-time qualification designed to challenge, inspire and empower you as a higher education practitioner and researcher.

This postgraduate qualification in Higher Education from our research-intensive institution gives you the edge. Whether your professional, research and/ or teaching practice falls within the higher education landscape, the experiential knowledge gained in the MSc in Higher Education will better enable you to lead and develop others, to innovate and evaluate policy and practice in adult education.

Our structured pathways enable you to commit to a full post-graduate qualification or to incrementally build your own portfolio over time. You will receive support to represent, evaluate and enhance your practice; professionalise your research capacity and scope; and extend your networks of international counterparts.

For those in a position to make a more sustained commitment, the MSc in Higher Education puts you in a strong position for doctoral level studies at Queen's.

Employment after the Course
This qualification of international standing from our research-intensive university, positions you to progress in your career and take a leading role within universities, adult education institutions, NGOs and governmental agencies.

You will be able to contribute authoritatively in discussions about issues impacted by the local and global in higher education; to enhance and showcase innovative and enhanced strategies and policies; to strengthen and disseminate principled practices; and to model excellence, by conducting rigorous evidence-based research and professional evaluation.

Employment Links
Adult education institutions, including universities, colleges, further education and training; NGOs and think-tanks associated with policy and practice in the adult education sector locally and internationally; quality assurance agencies; agencies concerns with equality and diversity.

In addition, the transferable skills of this course puts you in a good position for diverse careers in research, management, staff development and quality assurance of adult education programmes in a range of contexts in civil society and the corporate world.

Further enquiries

Dr Dina Belluigi
School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work
email: d.belluigi@qub.ac.uk
Phone: +44 (0)28 9097 5948

Subjects taught

Course Details
Year 1 is foundational because it introduces concepts and debates central to the contemporary academic project, including the purposes of higher education, knowledge, adult learning and teaching, curriculum, assessment and evaluation.

Higher Education Learning & Teaching (core module)
With the rapidly changing nature of higher education globally, participants of this module will deepen their conceptual understanding of the constructed nature of the role of higher education, learning, teaching and knowledge creation at the local and global level, in order to develop their philosophy of higher education. Through a rich diversity of resources, peer interaction and blended learning activities, enabling conditions are provided for participants to identify and articulate their thinking and practices in relation to institutional, national and international approaches and expectations, and to consider their role in enhancing the academic project.

Higher Education Curricula & Assessment (core module)
Curricula frame the nature and quality of student engagement in higher education. In this module participants' conceptual understanding of orientations to curricul and assessment in higher education will be enhanced as they design, interpret and implement curricula in their various roles. By contextualising constructions of 'the curriculum' and 'knowledge'; macro/ micro and hidden curricula; stakeholders of curricula; and models of curriculum design, participants will be enabled to look at the significance of such structures for development and engagement. Towards this, participants will engage with the central purposes, principles and approaches to the assessment of and for adult learning; referential frameworks for assessment; formative and participatory assessment; and summative assessment and quality moderation.

Evaluation and Research of Higher Education Practice (core module)
Higher education institutions are often beset by policy/research-implementation gaps. To address this, in this module participants engage with concepts, principles and case studies of practices of evaluation in higher education, to guide principled and innovative change in their individual practice and at institutional level. The course content includes contextualising Year 1 is foundational because it introduces concepts and debates central to the contemporary academic project, including the purposes of higher education, knowledge, adult learning and teaching, curriculum, assessment and evaluation.

Year Two is designed to diversify and enhance participants' knowledge of approaches to research in higher education, while deepening their engagement with current discourses and developments in higher education.

Approaches to Researching Higher Education (core module)
Higher Education institutions are increasingly facing pressure for accountability. This module enables participant to develop knowledge of the central methodological orientations characteristic of studies in Higher Education and the skills to provide evidence of claims made; to support informed decision-making; and to elicit insights into the significance of institutional structures and cultures. We envisage accountability not so much as a top-down pressure based on externally determined criteria, but a process for ensuring the value of public investment in higher education and to encourage societal dialogue on the civic role of the sector. Topics build capacity for the research journey, from making principled choices about sources, methods and analytical processes, to the ways in which to initiate research (such as proposals, applications, peer reviews) and to disseminate findings and recommendations (whether for presentation, institutional reports, international publication, or digital communication).

Transforming Higher Education (elective module/ standalone short course from 2020)
This module enables participants to debate their role in transforming higher education, and to consider the role of higher education in transforming society. Engagement with models of higher education, and adult education traditions, will enable participants to focus on navigating the tensions, interests and purposes underpinning transformation in higher education including those of neoliberalism, social justice, internationalisation; civic responsibility and engagement etc. Mapping institutional concerns, through such concepts as structure, culture and agency, the multidisciplinary lenses of our research expertise will enable participants to explore leadership, legacy, identity, representation and change in their own contexts.

Access, Success and Challenge in Higher Education (elective module/ standalone short course from 2020)
Equity in higher education has been approached in divergent ways globally, growing educational development as a field to support 'access' at various levels. This module enables participants to approach this challenge from a meta-level, by stratifying global approaches into 'structural access', 'access and success', and 'access for challenge'. We explore the way 'access' initiatives should not simply be about helping new communities 'fit within' the existing culture of higher education, but how the meaning and practice of that culture should shift and evolve as a consequence of societal dialogue on the social role and purpose of higher education. The module will enable participants to engage with the ways in which individual agency and institutional structures and cultures enable, constrain, safeguard and open access to knowledge for those stakeholders negotiating the public, private and common good of higher education.

Quality for and of Higher Education (elective module/ standalone short course from 2020)
Quality is contested in higher education, as it relates to legitimation, power and risk. However, it holds the lever to drive institutional transformation and reduce risk. This module engages participants in debates as to how quality in higher education is framed and operationalised, by bringing contextual debates into proximity with inter/national, institutional, professional and progressive models of quality assurance, quality management and quality enhancement. Throughout the module, participants will explore the formative and summative purposes of quality, and the tensions they engender when attempting to safeguard, respond and innovate quality within curricula, the educational development of staff and students, and initiatives for inclusion and transformation.

Higher Education in a Digital Age (elective module/ standalone short course from 2020)
Technology has been an integral feature of adult learning, since the invention of paper. The digital age has brought with it added complexity and opportunity for higher education, where an institution's degree of openness shapes its relation to contemporary society. This module provides a focused opportunity to intensely probe the possibilities, problematics and pragmatics of 'the digital' in participants' higher education contexts in this increasingly connected and surveyed global terrain. Participants will develop a principled framework to negotiate the uncertain changing nature of the digital, and will explore the significance for teaching and learning, research, civic engagement and professional advancement.

Participants successfully completing the research module and a choice of two elective modules progress to the final year of MSc, or exit with a Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education.

Year Three provides opportunity for participants to demonstrate their mastery of a complex or specialised area of knowledge and of methodological skills when conducting research and/or advanced professional activity.

Research Project
Towards enhancing participants' expertise, knowledge and experience of conducting research about higher education, this module supports participants as they embark on indepth research projects. Participants' research journey is facilitated every step of the way - through one-to-one supervisory expertise, online tutorials, and peer research groups. Oral, visual, written, and digital presentation skills are developed, culminating in an authentic and relevant product for your professional practice which details the research findings and insights (such as institutional reports, policies, conference presentations, research articles) while being aligned with international professional standards for post-graduate research.

Elective modules can be taken as stand-alone short courses from 2020.

What Else Will You Do?
Shape a better world
The programme aims to strengthen practices, to connect individuals and organisations, and to provide the conditions for the enhancement of higher education in diverse contexts across the globe.

It contributes to United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals, by
• Addressing a need for more informed and participatory decision-making in higher education.
• Promoting peace and social justice in transforming communities and organisations through teaching, research and civic engagement in higher education.

Responsive to the changing nature of higher education internationally, the course does not present theories or concepts as canonical. Conditions are provided for participants to become informed, by analysing and reflecting on individual and institutional thinking and practices; interacting with multiple resources;
and developing ways in which to collect and generate data to evaluate the quality of policies and practices, towards enhancing the quality and experience of adult learning and knowledge production in their contexts.

Blended learning


Higher Education highlights

Responding to a growing need for cross-functional integration of policies with practices in higher education, our intellectually rich modules foster a learning culture of leadership and development, innovation and evaluation.

Professional Accreditations
•The MSc provides opportunities for diversified assessment which authentically replicates your professional practice, such as institutional reports, research papers, policy briefings, conference presentations, portfolios, and websites. The learning outcomes are aligned with international professional accreditation.

Industry Links
•The MSc in Higher Education will enhance the quality of your academic, management and support staff, and will put them in a strong position to lead higher education discussions on transformation, access, quality and the digital in your national context, with international standing. The programme connects institutional educational development and quality enhancement with the international academic field of Higher Education studies. In so doing, it brings together various actors from within your organisation to dynamically and responsively strengthen your institutions' vision and purposes, aligning these with implementation in practice.

Career Development
•Make informed judgments about the validity of arguments of 'best practice' for your context and purposes, to inform the ways in which you refine and innovate towards 'next practice'.
•Envisage ways ahead in which the quality of current practices may be extended and enhanced, and innovations be infused. In the process, the field of Higher Education is made accessible to increase your publication output, research funding and impact.
•Create opportunities for stakeholders to inform quality, access and transformation of academic aspects of higher education in this digital age. In addition to supporting you generate data and feedback from various participants in higher education, the programme enables interdisciplinary and international connections, collaborations and mobility.

Internationally Renowned Experts
•Queen's is a world renowned research intensive university focused on the needs of society. Our research-led academics are committed to global academic excellence alongside local impact in areas of major societal challenge, working towards transformative processes of peace, inclusion and justice. Our education research is ranked 4th within the UK for research intensity, with 87% assessed as 'internationally excellent or world leading' (REF, 2014).
•You will be taught by staff who as your peers have research profiles of international standing, with a wide range of interests and networks in educational development, leadership, learning technologies and peace studies.

Student Experience
•Queen's commitment to making a genuine, positive contribution to the needs of local communities and global societies is expressed in our Social Charter. This commits Queen's to promoting research with impact, education with a social purpose, and equality and excellence. Furthermore, we are committed to using the University as a space to promote civic culture and intercultural dialogue. Within the University we seek to address legacies of exclusion through, for example, our active engagement with the Athena SWAN process to change the unequal representation of women, and our commitment to widening participation among our students.
•Your experiential engagement with technologies is a central objective of this programme. This enhances your learning processes as an individual, while building your capacity for digital communication and digital creation useful for your professional development and practice. The opportunity the MSc in Higher Education provides for you to reflect on your experiential learning of such technologies, is crucial for considering the contextual validity of such applications in your practice, in addition to more abstract and conceptual engagements within the formal content of the modules.

Assessment method

Awarding of the qualifications is based on continuous assessment of your coursework and research project, in reference to criteria aligned with the learning outcomes. The MSc provides opportunities for diversified assessment which authentically replicates your professional practice, such as institutional reports, research papers, policy briefings, conference presentations, portfolios, and websites. The learning outcomes are aligned with international professional accreditation.

The MSc will be awarded with distinction to participants who achieve an average grade exceeding 70 per cent.

Application date

How to Apply
Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal go.qub.ac.uk/pgapply and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

Enrolment and start dates

Entry year: 2019

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