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Our MSc Contemporary Drug & Alcohol Studies takes a critical social science approach to explore the use of psychoactive substances in society.

You are introduced to a range of cross disciplinary theories, concepts and evidence to analyse:

  • the use and effects of psychoactive substances
  • patterns of consumption differentiated across social groups
  • responses to drug and alcohol-related harms from a range of perspectives, such as criminal justice, treatment, harm reduction, public health, and health inclusion

You will critically examine substance-related harms for individuals, families and communities and how harms are mediated by gender, class, race and ethnicity. You will pay particular attention to the social, economic and political contexts of inequality and risk environments and how issues such as housing, homelessness and welfare state reforms may contribute to harms. Throughout the course, you will assess the influences of the alcohol industry; the drugs economy; and prohibition on policy and practice, and engage with current debates on alcohol and drug law reforms nationally and internationally.

Female student in library

Key Features & Additional Information

A key feature of the MSc is its exploration of current global developments in responses to substance use and its critical evaluation of the evidence for behaviour change, treatment outcomes, harm reduction and recovery.

The course provides a supportive, inspirational and transformative learning experience and encourages you to develop a high-level understanding of the research evidence in the field and harness this knowledge for policy and practice.

Successful applicants are eligible to apply for a bursary from the Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) to help with their costs.

Society for the Study of Addiction Bursary Information
UWS Student Researching University Discipline Responsibilities | University of the West of Scotland

Career focused

The MSc Contemporary Drug & Alcohol Studies provides you with a unique opportunity to link theory and practice by engaging in work-based learning in a practice (drug/alcohol service) or research setting. This maximises your employability prospects. A variety of external organisations are involved in our work-based learning, including:

  • Charities / NGOs /Community groups / Health related alcohol and drug services

Experiential learning is an important feature of our course, allowing you to apply elements of class-based learning to the work place. If you are keen to pursue a career in research or doctoral study, you may opt to participate in a research work-based learning experience.

Being a clinician, I found that the course helped broaden my knowledge base and my views. The reading material for the first year modules was particularly interesting. The experience of conducting a research study with an experienced supervisor was invaluable.

Saket Priyadarshi, Clinician

Entry Requirements

What qualifications do you need?

We welcome Scottish, UK and international students and consider all applicants on an individual basis.

Don’t worry if your qualifications are not listed here, we take a range of factors into account when assessing your application and are happy to consider other alternative combinations of qualifications and experience

If you are applying with an EU or non-EU qualification, please check our Postgraduate Entry Requirements page which gives more information about country-specific entry requirements.

Academic Requirements

You are required to hold an Honours degree (minimum 2:2 classification) within the broad area of the Social Sciences or an Ordinary bachelor’s degree with significant and relevant work experience.

If you do not meet these standard entry requirements, you may be admitted to the MSc at the discretion of the programme Admissions Officer/Programme Leader. However, you must demonstrate that you have sufficient relevant professional or practice-based experience to undertake their chosen programme of study.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

In particular circumstances you can use evidence of relevant professional experience to support applications.

For more information on non-standard or RPL, please contact us on 0800 027 1000 (freephone within UK) / +44(0)141 849 4101 (outwith UK) or at

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for most courses

For applicants whose first language is not English, the University sets a minimum English Language proficiency level. The qualifications below must have been gained within two years of the start of your course.

General English language requirements at UWS: International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module (not General Training)

  • overall score 6.0
  • no sub-test less than 5.5

Common equivalent English language qualifications

All stated English tests are acceptable for admission for both home/EU and international students for this programme:

  • CAE (Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English): 176 overall; no sub-test less than 169
  • CPE (Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English): 176 overall; no sub-test less than 169
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English: ISEII with the minimum of a Pass in all sub-tests
  • PTE Pearson Academic English: An overall score of 54 with no element below 51 (for programmes that require IELTS 6.0 with no element below 5.5). An overall score 61 with no element below 51 (for programmes that require IELTS 6.5 with no element below 6.0)


IELTS Score Exceptions (Research degrees, Nursing & Midwifery degrees with NMC registration, Certificate of Higher Education, etc.)

For our research degrees (MRes, MPhil, PhD, DBA, DProf), applicants are required to have an IELTS score as follows:

  • overall score of 6.5
  • no sub-test less than 6.0

For Health, Nursing & Midwifery courses that lead to professional registration with the Nursing & Midwifery Council, applicants are required to have an IELTS or Occupational English Test (OET)*.

For such courses, the IELTS score is as follows:

  • overall score of 7.0
  • score of at least 7.0 in reading, listening and speaking and no less than 6.5 in writing

* Note that the Occupational English Test (OET) will now be accepted in addition to IELTS as proof of a Nurse's English Language Competence (Nursing & Midwifery Council, 2019). 

For our Certificate of Higher Education courses, applicants are required to have an IELTS score as follows:

  • overall score of 5.0
  • no sub-test less than 4.5



TOEFL IBT*: 78; no sub-test less than:

  • Reading: 17;
  • Listening: 17;
  • Speaking: 17;
  • Writing: 17

* Please note that TOEFL is still acceptable for admission to this programme for both home/EU and international students.
For international students, the Home Office has confirmed that the University can choose to use TOEFL to make its own assessment of English language ability for visa applications to degree level courses. We therefore still accept TOEFL tests taken in the last two years for admission to this programme.


West African Senior School Certificate of Education (WASSCE)

West African Senior School Certificate of Education (WASSCE) including acceptance of WAEC Scratchcard*

  • C6 or above in English

*UWS will accept a WAEC scratchcard confirming that an applicant has achieved C6 or above as evidence of meeting English language requirement from Nigeria if the student graduated within the last 5 years. After 5 years applicants would be required to provide the WAEC Certificate.


Pre-sessional courses

Applicants who do not meet the minimum English language requirements have the option to study one of our preparatory and pre-sessional English courses. The UWS courses available are:

    • 10 week pre-sessional - entry criteria UKVI IELTS 5.0 with no element below 4.5.
    • 5 week pre-sessional - entry criteria UKVI IELTS 5.5 with no element below 5.5.
    • English Language for University Study - entry criteria UKVI IELTS with score of 4.0 in all elements (10 month course), or 4.5 with no score below 4.0 (7 month course).

Find out more about our English lanaguage Courses.

Course details

Our MSc Contemporary Drug & Alcohol Studies comprises of six taught 20-credit modules (see list below) and a research dissertation (60 credits) all at SCQF Level 11. There are three distinct stages to the MSc - Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma and MSc:

  • Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) students take three 20-credit modules. Two core and one optional module. Typically, the CDAS Work-based Learning module can be taken at your own workplace, if relevant
  • The Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) requires an additional three 20-credit modules – see list below

Successfully completing the PgDip allows you to progress to the research dissertation element of the MSc which is a 60-credit module.

Core and option modules

  • Understanding Substance Use (core, 20 credits)
  • Contemporary Responses to Substance Use (core, 20 credits)
  • Research Methods in Education & Social Sciences (optional, 20 credits)
  • CDAS Work-based Learning (optional, 20 credits)
  • Drugs & Culture (optional, 20 credits)
  • The Politics of Drug & Alcohol Policy (optional, 20 credits)

Masters Dissertation Module:

  • MSc Research Dissertation (optional, 60 credits)

Attendance Requirements

Campus classes are held on Mondays and on Friday morning in Trimester 1 and Mondays in Trimester 2 to facilitate block release from your employment.

PgCert students attend on Mondays only.

Note: students wishing to apply for the PGCert should choose the ‘part time’ option on the online application form.

Teaching and Assessment

A range of teaching, learning and assessment methodologies are used, including:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • workshops
  • group work

Our course emphasises inquiry-based learning where you are encouraged and supported to develop your critical thinking and communication skills by engaging with your peers in class based and online group work. You are also supported to develop your independent and autonomous learning activities. The modules employ a range of assessment methods and formative exercises with timely feedback to assist you in developing and deepening your knowledge and skills.


  • Scheduled learning: 13%
  • Independent study: 79%
  • Placement: 8%


  • Coursework: 100%

The assessments cater for a range of learning styles and skills, and include:

  • essays
  • policy submissions
  • book reviews
  • oral and poster presentations

Course Structure

Find out more about the structure, learning outcomes, compulsory and optional modules in this course.

Contemporary Drug & Alcohol Studies Course Structure

UWS Postgraduate Student

Career Prospects

The range of experiential learning and skills development embedded in the MSc Contemporary Drug & Alcohol Studies provides graduates with a wide variety of employment options. Our graduates have gone on to take up employment in drug/alcohol services (in the statutory/voluntary sectors) and in broader health, community, youth, criminal justice, housing, social work and social care professions as well as policy and research environments.

If you are already employed in services our course provides specialist knowledge of theory and contemporary evidence-based developments in the field and is useful for career advancement and continuing professional development.

Further study

Students graduating with MSc may apply to study for a PhD in alcohol and drug studies. Supervision teams with a high level of expertise across a range of subject areas are available to support doctoral students on their research journey.

Postgraduate Tuition Fees

Postgraduate fees for this course 2020/21

Scottish & EU

£5,500 cost of study

English, Northern Irish & Welsh

£5,500 cost of study

Channel Islands & Isle of Man

£5,500 cost of study

International (Non-EU)

£13,000 cost of study

More on current & future tuition fees

Postgraduate fees for the fully online version of this course 2020/21

Scottish & EU

£5,500 total cost of study

English, Northern Irish & Welsh

£5,500 total cost of study

Channel Islands & Isle of Man

£5,500 total cost of study

International (Non-EU)

£13,000 total cost of study

More on current & future tuition fees

Postgraduate fees for each 20 credit module of this course 2020/21

Scottish & EU

£790 cost per 20 credit module

English, Northern Irish & Welsh

£790 cost per 20 credit module

Channel Islands & Isle of Man

£790 cost per 20 credit module

International (Non-EU)

£1,855 cost per 20 credit module

More on current & future tuition fees

Academic Session 2021/22 Postgraduate Tuition Fees - Full-time


£5,570 Cost of study

Rest of UK (English, Northern Irish, Welsh)

£10,765 Cost of study

Republic of Ireland

£10,765 Cost of study

International (including EU)

£13,325 Cost of study

Check Your Tuition Fee Status

Academic Session 2021/22 Postgraduate Tuition Fees - Online


£5,570 Cost of study

International (including EU)

£13,325 Cost of study

Check Your Tuition Fee Status

2021/22 Tuition Fees for 20-credit Modules (face-to-face)


£930 Cost per 20-credit module of study

Check Your Tuition Fee Status

Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) postgraduate tuition fee and living cost loans may be available for eligible (Scottish/EU) students. Check SAAS website for more information. Many of our students who attend on a part-time basis secure funding support from their employers.

Additional Costs & Sources of Funding

The cost of attending university is an investment in your future career.

In addition to tuition fees and living expenses, some courses involve extra costs like study materials, field trips, equipment and uniforms.

Fortunately, there is a great deal of financial support available to help students meet the cost of their study. This ranges from:

  • statutory government loans to pay for tuition fees
  • scholarships for Scottish, EU and International (non-EU) students
  • bursaries to help towards living expenses

The sections below provide details of additional costs that your course may involve along with any financial support that may be available.

You can also find additional information in our Postgraduate Money, Fees & Funding section.

Additional Costs

Students on certain degrees will incur some additional costs not covered by their tuition fees. These could be for things like specialist equipment, study materials, work placements, graduation, membership of relevant organisations or costs related to carrying out fieldwork.

For students on course with an element of fieldwork, there may also be extra costs for travel and accommodation.

Please contact the course leader for details of the additional costs associated with this course.

Contemporary Drugs & Alcohol - Additional Costs

Successful applicants who gain a place on this course will need to register on the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme, managed and delivered by Disclosure Scotland. An application form will be sent from the University once you have accepted your offer. The fee for joining the scheme is £59.

Visit the MyGov website for more information

Tuition Fees & Living Cost Support

Tuition Fees & Additional Costs

Tuition fees are calculated based on where you are from and what you are studying. Some courses also involve additional costs, such as mandatory field trips, equipment or studying abroad.

Find out how much it will cost you to study at UWS as a postgraduate student.

Funding for Scottish Students

Scottish students studying at postgraduate level at UWS are entitled to various funds and support towards tuition fees and living costs.

Find out more.

Funding for English, Welsh & Norther Irish Students

English, Welsh and Northern Irish students studying at postgraduate level at UWS are entitled to various funds and support towards tuition fees and living costs.

Find out more.

Funding for EU Students

EU students studying at postgraduate level of UWS may be eligible for SAAS funding, as well as support to meet the costs of childcare and various sources of additional funding.

Find our more.

Funding for International Students

There are several scholarship and incentive schemes available to international students studying at postgraduate level at UWS, as well as support to meet the costs of childcare and various sources of additional funding.

Find out more.

Other Financial Support

Discretionary & Childcare Funds

UWS administer a range of discretionary and childcare funds. These are designed to support students who are experiencing financial difficulty or struggling to meet the costs of childcare.

Find out more.

Benefits & Tax Credits

Becoming a student can have an impact on your entitlement to certain benefits. It may mean you are no longer eligible to claim a benefit you have been receiving, or your new income from student funding may affect the amount you are able to receive.

Find out more.

Additional Financial Support

If there isn’t a statutory source of funding for you or your course, or you are in need of additional financial support, you may wish to consider more alternative sources of funding such as trust funds and scholarships.

Find out more.

Money & Debt Advice

Choosing to become a student can have a big impact on your budget and you may need to reassess your spending to account for a reduced income. We’ve put together some guidance to help you manage your money and make the right financial choices for you and your family.

Find out more.

How to apply

Postgraduate courses (MA, MSc, MEd, MBA, DBA, PG Cert, PG Dip, etc.) & some Post-experience courses (CertHE, BA, Grad Cert, Grad Dip, etc.)

All students should apply directly to the University through our online application system. Before you apply, you should check that you meet our entry requirements and you should have all your supporting documents ready.

The first stage of the process is to create a profile; you don't have to complete the application in one session - you can complete it in stages by saving each section and return to complete it at a later date.

You will need to upload documents with your applications, which may include transcripts and degree certificates.

Most courses don't have a formal closing date, but they will close when they are full; apply early to avoid disappointment. There may also be funding deadlines that apply to you.

Before you begin your application, it is important to read the Postgraduate & Post-Experience application step-by-step guide for a smooth process.


An ATAS certificate is not required for overseas students applying for this course.

Get in touch

Do you have a question about applying for this course? Get in touch. We are here to help!

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Research at UWS

With cutting edge facilities, specialist knowledge and world-leading and internationally excellent expertise, we aim to develop research outputs that have a tangible, early and positive impact on society across the globe.


We will always try to make sure that we publish accurate course information but we do not accept responsibility for any mistakes or omissions. We will also try to make sure that we deliver our courses in line with our published information. However, we may not always be able to do so and you can find further information about this in our enrolment terms and conditions.