Practice Development MSc

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Students must apply via one of the following online application forms:-

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Course starts: 12 October 2020Apply now

To apply for the part time course, click apply now

Course starts: 12 October 2020Apply now

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Be at the forefront of practice development. Challenge your thinking. Develop your critical ability, leadership and research skills.

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This innovative and interdisciplinary applied social science course combines a core philosophy of a service user-centred approach to practice with a critical understanding of the political, economic, and legislative changes in the health, social work and social care, criminal justice, youth work, education and early years sectors. It is suitable for experienced practitioners and managers as well as those aspiring to play an active role in practice development in the future.

Why us?

  • We are the first University in the country to offer this kind of innovative postgraduate course to a wide range of practitioners
  • Specialist visiting lecturers contribute to the delivery of the course

Course structure

A typical week for you will include workshops, group work, case studies, problem-solving exercises, skills development such as critiquing skills, data analysis skills using software such as SPSS and NVivo, project related work facilitated by guidance supervision and directed and independent learning.

Learning resources and lecture notes will also be available through our virtual learning environment.

Full-time students will start in October and the course will require 30 hours per week, including taught sessions and self study. You will work on your empirical project in practice development from the spring term onwards and submit your project in early September.

Part-time students will also normally start in October and the course will require 15 hours per week, including taught sessions and self study. You will be expected to submit your empirical project in practice development in September, two years after beginning the course.

Core modules:

  • Emancipatory Practice Development (30 credits)
  • Research and Evidence (30 credits)

You will also undertake a core empirical project module. There are five options depending on your chosen pathway:

  • Empirical Project in Practice Development (60 credits)
  • Choose from Health and Social Care, Childhood and Family Studies, Criminal Justice, Education Studies, Social Work or Community and Youth Work.

Optional modules:

  • Leadership and Management in Practice Development (20 credits)
  • Exploring Social Entrepreneurship (20 credits)
  • Quality Intervention for Practice Development (20 credits)
  • Risk, Austerity and Neoliberalism (20 credits)


Some modules have prerequisites. Read more about what this means in our Help and Advice article.

  • You can access free Wi-Fi throughout the University campus, so you can work from anywhere. If you don't want to carry a laptop around, just use one of the University’s PCs or Apple Macs. We have hundreds of computers for you to use in the Murray Library, St Peter's Library, and the David Goldman Informatics Centre. If you ever have any technical problems, just ask the friendly helpdesk team.

    IT provision
  • We’ve got thousands of  books and e-books, with many more titles available through the inter-library loan service. We also subscribe to a comprehensive range of print and electronic journals so you can access the most reliable and up-to-date academic and industry articles.

    Library resources which you might find particularly useful include:

    • JSTOR (short for ‘Journal Storage’), which provides access to important journals across the humanities, social sciences and sciences
    • Project Muse, which provides over 180 full-text humanities and social sciences journals
    • SocINDEX with full-text articles, which is probably the world's most comprehensive and highest-quality sociology research database
    • Archival Sound Recordings with over 12,000 hours of recordings
    • Lexis, which provides access to legal information as well as full-text newspaper articles
    • Psychology and Behavioural Sciences Database, which includes full-text journal articles on topics spanning emotional and behavioural sciences, psychiatry and psychology
    Library Services - social sciences
  • Map and directions


When it comes to IT provision you can take your pick from hundreds of PCs as well as Apple Macs in The David Goldman Informatics Centre and St Peter’s Library. There are also free WiFi zones throughout the campus. If you have any problems, just ask the friendly helpdesk team.

Entry requirements

We usually require applicants to hold at least an upper second class honours degree (2:1) or equivalent but we encourage applications from candidates with a 2:2 in a related discipline and with relevant practice experience. 

Additional requirements

Please note that before we can confirm any offer of a place to you, we require:

  • Two satisfactory references
  • A personal statement 
  • An Academic transcript of your undergraduate degree

Applicants whose first language is not English must achieve a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 in all four areas.

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

If you feel you already know some of the topics covered in this course, either due to previous learning or from experience of work, then you may not need to study all of the course.

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) is the name given to the process of gaining credit towards a qualification because of something you have learnt in the past. If you are eligible for APL you won't have to learn the same topic again, so you can be exempt from a module, set of modules or year of a course.

Fees and finance

The annual, full-time fee for this course is:

  • £6,250 if you are from the UK or EU
  • £13,000 if you are an international student

The part-time fee for this course is £375 per 10 credits.

If you are not sure whether you qualify as a UK, EU or international student, find out more in our Help and Advice article.

Take a look at the Your Finances section to find out about the scholarships and bursaries that may be available to you.

Use our scholarships calculator to see what you may be entitled to.

Scholarships calculator

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This information was correct at the time of publication.

The Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter's by night


MSc Practice Development is deliberately transformative in that it is concerned with change at an individual and organisational level.

At an individual level, it offers you the opportunity to embark on a journey to make a difference and improve yourself personally, academically and professionally.

Being associated with innovation and change has added value. The lived experience of designing and managing change will enhance your credibility in a challenging and competitive employment market. It depicts the individual is a leader - ‘shaper’, ‘mover’ and ‘innovator’, attributes which are highly prized in the current climate.

Further opportunities

Practice Development can have a positive impact on an organisation's culture. Implementing innovation and change enhances an organisation's reputation as one which is forward thinking and keen to transform services. Highly qualified and able individuals who share similar values and principles would be keen to work for such an organisation.

Both individuals and organisations could pride themselves by joining and being part of national and international Communities of Practice Development such as the England Centre for Practice Development, which are regarded as Beacon Sites and Centres of Excellence.

Your Masters degree will also enhance opportunities in academic roles or further study towards a PhD.

Meet the students

  • The University of Sunderland feels like one big family and it is the best experience ever.
    Holly Jane O Neil Small

    Holly Jane O’Neil

Meet the team

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