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Our innovative MSc Contemporary Alcohol & Drug Studies course adopts a critical social science perspective to explore the interplay between psychoactive substances and society across a range of areas. It enables you to bring an evidence-based approach to the use of drugs, alcohol and other substances in theory and practice.

You will critically examine key themes in the study of substance use, including:

  • definitions of and effects of substances
  • patterns of consumption within different social contexts
  • drug markets and addictive industries
  • the consequences of substance-related harms for individuals, families, neighbourhoods and society

You will also examine the social, economic and political influences on substances and their effects. In addition, you will compare and contrast the operations of the alcohol industry with the drugs economy and explore current debates on alcohol and drug law reforms nationally and internationally.

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

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Career focused

The MSc 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, the option to participate in a research WBL experience based within the university is offered. This focuses on the further development of academic research and writing skills.

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 upper second class honours degree in social science or equivalent (2:1 or above).

In particular circumstances you can use evidence of relevant professional experience to support your application. You must demonstrate - via portfolio, extended written application letter, and if deemed necessary by the course leader, an entrance interview – that you have sufficient professional or practise-based experience to undertake your studies.

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 (DBA, Certificate of Higher Education, PhD, 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 score as follows:

  • overall score of 7.0
  • no sub-test less than 7.0

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).

Course details

Our MSc qualification comprises of six 20-credit modules at SCQF Level 11 for the award of Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) and the completion of the MSc Dissertation, in which you undertake an independent research project and present your findings in a thesis.

For the Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) stage, you will study the following core modules:

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

    Successful completion of the PgDip allows you to proceed to the master's module:
  • MSc Research Dissertation

Teaching and Assessment

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

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • workshops
  • group work

Our postgraduate 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%


  • Exam: 7%
  • Practical: 0%
  • Coursework: 93%

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

  • essays
  • class based tests
  • 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 MSc prepares you for success in drug/alcohol services in the statutory and voluntary sectors, and in broader youth and social care professions.

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

Further Study

Following graduating with an MSc, you may wish to apply to study for a PhD in Alcohol & Drug Studies.

In 2004 I was enrolled as a PhD student in Alcohol and Drug Studies at UWS looking at normative beliefs and 'binge' drinking among university students. Prior to this I spent 9 months working for Greater Glasgow Health Board as an Assistant Psychologist in the adolescent deliberate self-harm service. I successfully completed my PhD in June 2008

Dr John McAlaney

Postgraduate Tuition Fees

MSc Contemporary Drugs & Alcohol Studies 2019/20

Scottish & EU

£3,700 per year of study

English, Northern Irish & Welsh

£3,700 per year of study

Channel Islands & Isle of Man

£3,700 per year of study

International (Non-EU)

£12,000 per year of study

More on Current & Future Tuition Fees

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.

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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.