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Learning at the Edinburgh Futures Institute


Our programmes form an interconnected portfolio of postgraduate study. Our focus is on interdisciplinary teaching, learning and research that addresses complex global and social challenges. Our programmes are all taught by academic experts from different subject areas, and as an EFI student you will develop creative, critical and data-informed thinking that cuts across traditional disciplinary boundaries. You will have the space to think deeply about issues linked to your own passions and professional goals, and to develop a project based on an issue that you care about.

Explore some of the ways that our approach is unique and what you can expect from an Edinburgh Futures Institute programme of your choice.


Flexible study choices

Our programmes offer a lot of flexibility in how you choose to study. You can study on a full-time basis over one year, or part-time over two or three years. You can register for a full MSc, or for a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate. You can take these programmes either online or on-campus, or combine on-campus with online study (though please note that the MSc Creative Industries programme is full-time and on-campus only so it can benefit from the city’s strong cultural organisations).

We will also offer students the opportunity to study individual courses on a lifelong learning basis without signing up to study to a full award.

More about lifelong learning

Fusion learning
Photo: Ross Fraser McLean, Studio RoRo

We use an approach called ‘fusion teaching’. This makes it possible for you to have greater choice about when you study on-campus, and when you study online. You can choose at the level of each individual course which study mode you prefer, although we may not always be able to guarantee your first choice of study mode for every course you take. Fully online and fully on-campus study is also possible. (Please note that students on study visas, and students on the MSc Creative Industries, need to be based entirely on-campus.)

If you are considering full-time online study, please note that all courses require significant synchronous engagement in the classroom. Get in touch with us with questions before applying.

The EFI approach to teaching places student experience and choice at its heart and connects global cohorts in new ways. Students will study in teaching spaces and digital learning environments designed to enable on-site/online sharing of all teaching and learning activity. Your classes and contributions will be recorded and livestreamed so that they can be shared – and learning communities built – across modes and time-zones.

Apart from the shared core courses, most EFI postgraduate courses are delivered in intensive two-day blocks of teaching and learning activity, combined with pre- and post-intensive wraparound activity that will include a range of scheduled and self-directed activities (for example, group project activities, reading, assessment).

Study with us

Where will on-site teaching take place?

From 2023, you will be based in the newly renovated, Category-A Listed, Edinburgh Futures Institute in the heart of Edinburgh and the central campus. A large investment by the University has created the architect-designed Edinburgh Futures Institute building, complete with state-of-the-art teaching and working, lecture and event spaces.

The Institute boasts 21,300 m² of space, 6,000 of which is new construction. It offers a unique, central location on a large park (Edinburgh’s beautiful Meadows) and is only a few steps from the University’s George Square campus and central area.

You will study and learn alongside our community of students, researchers, partner organisations and businesses.

Lectures, tutorials, and classes held in our purpose-designed spaces are tailored for both individual and group study and dedicated project work.

You will have access to an on-site cafe, performance space, digital maker labs, group and collaborative workspaces and a vibrant community of partners, businesses and organisations who are part of the Futures Institute space.

What our students say
We piloted fusion teaching with about 150 students across twelve postgraduate modules in 2021-22. Feedback is very positive, with students commenting on how the intensive format offers new and exciting approaches to learning, and how on-site and online students feel like a single cohort.

“This remains the best course by design and course content I have taken… I loved the hackathon (intensive) nature of it and the live support available to students. I did the course online, but I felt like I was physically present on campus because I could interact with my team members, tutors, and course instructor real-time.”

Ayebilla, student on pilot Data Science for Society course

“I can’t recommend this course highly enough. It has encouraged me to look at my teaching practice and also the strategic direction of my faculty. The teaching and support was excellent. I was worried about doing the course totally online but it was a great experience.”

Student on pilot Future of Learning Organisations course

The student experience
Here at the Edinburgh Futures Institute you will be part of a dynamic and diverse community, whether you choose to study on campus or online.

The events and activities that form part of your programme will be available both to online and on-site students, starting with welcome activities that will include a mixture of introductory events and social activities.

Edinburgh Futures Institute offers a rich array of events, including the global Edinburgh Futures Conversations series which is aimed at promoting global cooperation in solving the critical challenges facing the world and brings together global influencers, academic experts, policymakers, writers, activists and artists, including our alumni and our students, to debate possible solutions and define the actions necessary to achieve them.

We also offer a twice yearly programme of public events, mostly delivered in hybrid format, which are free and open to all. Our first season, First Breath, is available to watch online. Booking for our Spring Season will launch in January – sign up to our mailing list if you would like to receive event information.

Whether you study on-site or online, you will also have access to a wide range of University study support services, such as the University’s extensive library collections, and its careers and student counselling services.

What does interdisciplinary study mean?

Interdisciplinary study is at the heart of our approach and ethos. It means the ability to synthesise and apply knowledge and skills from across different disciplines, and is crucial to addressing many current complex challenges and planetary-scale issues.

Our shared core courses are fundamentally interdisciplinary, drawing on diverse disciplines to support you to work creatively and ethically with all kinds of data. In addition, each programme develops interdisciplinary perspectives in the ways most appropriate to their specific domain and focus. And finally – because you have such wide choice in the optional courses you choose to take – you will have the flexibility to design your own disciplinary pathway through your studies, integrating your insights and reflecting on their interdisciplinary power through your project-related work.

Core and optional courses
In addition to the core courses you must take towards your chosen programme, we offer a portfolio of ‘shared core’ courses which all Edinburgh Futures Institute postgraduate students must take. These cover the essential and hands-on data skills, enquiry methods, ethical and creative capacities needed to underpin your programme-based studies.

These courses place you in cross-disciplinary teams with students from other programme areas, supporting you to understand what it means to approach knowledge from multiple perspectives, and use it to address complex challenges. They will teach you to collect, manage and analyse computational datasets, and to use emerging methodologies for mapping and ‘designing’ the future. They will also teach the fundamentals of data ethics, supporting you to develop a mature data philosophy while using your creative skills in the analysis and representation of data-informed and qualitative inquiry.

All programmes allow students to choose from a range of programme-specific optional courses, and from a wider portfolio of our optional courses.

The project
Developing insights from across disciplines and applying them to complex challenges (organisational, cultural, societal or planetary) are fundamental to the aims of the Edinburgh Futures Institute. In your final project, you will be able to contribute to this agenda by applying your learning in depth to a domain, issue or concern that you care about.

For most programmes you can choose to define your own project, bring a project your employer would like you to address, work on a project set by one of our external partners or align your project to one of our research programmes.

Core EFI Our Postgraduate Futures Programmes 2022

Circular Economy

Gain skills and develop knowledge of circular economy in order to support communities, businesses, and policymakers to create a more sustainable and equitable future. Explore your own circular business ideas through course work and the final project.
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Core EFI Our Postgraduate Futures Programmes 2022

Creative Industries

Work directly with the world-class creative and cultural industries in Edinburgh, as you bring together cross-disciplinary expertise in data analytics, creative thinking, business and law to understand and address the complex challenges faced by this vital sector.
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Core EFI Our Postgraduate Futures Programmes 2022

Data and Artificial Intelligence Ethics

Gain the interdisciplinary skills and knowledge of ethical design, use and governance of artificial intelligence and other data-intensive technologies in order to navigate complex systems and roles with transparency, fairness, and respect for individual and human rights, and social needs.
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Core EFI Our Postgraduate Futures Programmes 2022

Data, Inequality and Society

Work with sector experts and leading researchers as you learn to build more equitable, inclusive societies. Bring advanced, cross-disciplinary knowledge to the most pressing global challenges of our time.
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Core EFI Our Postgraduate Futures Programmes 2022

Education Futures

Understand and build new, vital educational possibilities for the future by bringing together research-led, cross-disciplinary and data-driven approaches to educational knowledge, organisations, spaces and relationships.
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Core EFI Our Postgraduate Futures Programmes 2022

Future Governance

Explore and analyse the challenges and opportunities that big data brings to the future of democracy. Develop leading-edge knowledge to help shape the world – and your career – by driving positive change.
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