MSc/PGDip in Adults with Learning Disabilities who have Significant and Complex Needs


Program Description

The PGDip/MSc in Adults with Learning Disabilities are part-time distance learning programmes intended as continuing professional development qualifications for professional staff who wish to be research-practitioners in their current post, or who wish to advance their career through applying evidence-based research in practice.

Adults with Learning Disabilities who have Significant and Complex Needs will not be running for 2019 entry.

The PGDip/MSc in Adults with Learning Disabilities is a part-time distance learning course run by the School of Psychology and Neuroscience. The Postgraduate Diploma must be completed within one calendar year from October to September. The focus of the Postgraduate Diploma is on a structured approach to formulating research questions, data collection and analysis and improving practice through findings. Students will learn the skills of a research practitioner.

For those progressing on to the MSc, you will spend an additional year researching and writing a 15,000-word dissertation. Students will apply the knowledge and research skills gained in the PG Diploma to carry out research that will benefit the quality of service, care and life of adults with learning disabilities.


  • Students have full electronic access to the University of St Andrews library resources, including full-text journals and other online resources.
  • Materials are written in an interactive style and are designed to encourage you to use your own workplace experiences as a basis for new learning and the development of research skills.

Teaching format

The course is delivered via online modules through the University of St Andrews Dynamic Learning Environment (Moodle). Students will have access to research publications, electronic databases and the University's library resources.

In the PGDip, students will take six compulsory modules over the course of the year. It is not possible to enrol for individual modules at the Postgraduate Diploma level. Typically, each module is completed within two months and requires 100 hours of total study time, including completion of assessments. Module teaching materials are delivered online where students will have access to additional reference materials.

Students complete assessments online. The taught modules are continuously assessed through coursework, which students submit online. Coursework assessment includes multiple choice questions, short answer assignments, reference reviews, and analysis of published research as well as developing a full research proposal. There is no final exam for the course.

University tutors are available for support via email and telephone.


Each module typically comprises:

  • guided online teaching and learning materials.
  • 100% coursework assessment.


  • Data Collection and Sampling: introduces key skills and concepts of data collection and sampling including quantitative and qualitative data, surveys and questionnaires, interviews, standardised assessment instruments, observational methods and experimental measurement.
  • Illustrative Studies in Intellectual Disability Research: a critical analysis of published research in intellectual disabilities.
  • Intellectual Disability Research: introduces students to the core skills necessary for research in the field of intellectual disability.
  • Quantitative Data Analysis: Fixed Designs: introduces core analysis skills including general design issues, experimental design, the analysis of quantitative data and of single-subject data, and graphical presentation.
  • Qualitative Data Analysis: Flexible Designs: introduces qualitative research including grounded theory studies, case study methods, ethnographic studies, analysing qualitative data and reporting qualitative research.
  • Writing a Research Report: teaches skills in research report writing including reporting data from quantitative and qualitative studies, types of reports, organisation and content, referencing and submitting papers for journal publication.


MSc students will spend one additional year researching and writing a 15,000-word research dissertation on a practice-related topic of choice, integrating one area of specialised study with research methodology. Student dissertations will be supervised by members of the teaching staff who will advise on the appropriate choice of subject and provide guidance throughout the research process. A full research proposal is one of the entry requirements for this programme.

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2019 entry.


Graduates from the programme entered or continued their work in a variety of professions or as academics with a link to practice. These roles include:

  • clinical services development manager
  • deputy nurse manager
  • occupational therapist
  • speech and language therapist
  • senior social worker

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students on a taught postgraduate course and offers a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.

Entry requirements

  • Successful completion of a Postgraduate Certificate in Adults with Learning Disabilities or a Postgraduate Certificate in Adult Support, Protection and Safeguarding at the University of St Andrews or a similar certificate qualification in the area of learning disabilities from a recognised UK Higher Education Institution.
  • If you studied your first degree outside the UK, see the international entry requirements.
  • English language proficiency.

The qualifications listed are indicative of minimum requirements for entry. Some academic Schools will ask applicants to achieve significantly higher marks than the minimum. Obtaining the listed entry requirements will not guarantee you a place, as the University considers all aspects of every application including, where applicable, the writing sample, personal statement, and supporting documents.

Application requirements

  • CV or résumé. This should include your personal details with a history of your education and employment to date,
  • personal statement (500 words),
  • two original signed academic or employment references,
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates,
  • evidence of English language proficiency (required if English is not your first language).


Recent Graduate Discount

The University of St Andrews offers a 10% discount in postgraduate tuition fees to students who are eligible to graduate or who have graduated from St Andrews within the last three academic years and are starting a postgraduate programme with the University of St Andrews.

Last updated Oct 2019

About the School

Founded in the fifteenth century, St Andrews is Scotland's first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. St Andrews is a unique place to study and live. Nestled on the east coas ... Read More

Founded in the fifteenth century, St Andrews is Scotland's first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. St Andrews is a unique place to study and live. Nestled on the east coast of Scotland, students may find themselves crossing golf-courses on their way to class, or jogging along the beach after dinner. Not only does the University have a world-class reputation, but it also offers a diverse range of social activities, including over 140 student societies and 50 sports clubs. Historic buildings are juxtaposed against the modern facilities, and the many student traditions truly make studying at St Andrews an unforgettable experience. Read less
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