MSc Disability Studies: Inclusive Theory and Research

This programme will support you in developing research skills in an inclusive context with disabled people

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This Masters programme grew from a popular MSc course which started in 2007/8, offered by the Norah Fry Research Centre, School for Policy Studies, at the University of Bristol.

It is now a part of the research methods programme in the School for Policy Studies, and includes core units that are recognised as part of the ESRC doctoral training centre based in Bristol.

Our Masters programme at Norah Fry is taught largely by staff in the centre, who are active researchers, with input from disabled co-tutors during some parts of the units. The course offers a chance to focus on Learning Disability issues within the wider perspectives of Disability Studies. This research methods MSc offers an opportunity to study generic social research skills, and particularly to develop research methodologies with disabled people.

This MSc qualification provides a basis for jobs related to social care research, for research carried out directly within the disabled people’s movement, and also for PhD study.

We welcome applications both for part-time and full-time places, from those progressing from a first degree, and from professionals in the field. We particularly welcome applications from disabled people and from people who are under-represented at the University of Bristol, including those from minority ethnic groups.

This programme provides a chance to integrate with students in Masters programmes in Social Work Research, and Policy Research, and to:

  • Take core units which provide introductions to social research design, qualitative and quantitative methods;
  • Apply this learning in an inclusive context with disabled people;
  • Examine and critically reflect on research about personalisation, social inclusion, education and citizenship.

Full-time students will take six units during the course of the year (four mandatory units, and two options), followed by their dissertation.

Part-time students will normally register as ‘part-time variable’ and will be able to take units over a maximum period of five years.

All the units are run as ‘blocks’, which means students stay in Bristol for two nights. This model suits those who live at a distance from Bristol, as well as more local people. Each unit offers an integrated experience, including social contact, both with fellow students and with co-presenters on some of the units.

As part of learning about research methods, students address key questions such as:

  • How can disability research be carried out in a way that is of practical relevance and value to disabled people themselves?
  • Is it possible for people with learning disabilities, and other disabled people, to be active researchers in their own right?

After an introductory day on Disability Studies, students take four mandatory units, and have a choice of two options. The full masters programme consists also of a dissertation phase, which is the equivalent of three units. The mandatory units are:

  • Philosophy and Research Design in the Social Sciences
  • Introduction to Quantitative Research
  • Introduction to Qualitative Research
  • Inclusive Research with Disabled People

The optional units offer opportunities to discuss and develop ideas about research in practical contexts. It should be emphasised that each of the following will be offered only if there is sufficient demand for them in any one academic year:

  • Including Students’ Voices
  • Citizenship and Participation
  • Personalisation in Practice
  • Social Inclusion
You can find further details about the units below.

Learning and teaching

On successful completion of this programme students should be able to:

  • Evaluate the robustness and validity of particular research evidence in relation to practice;
  • Select appropriate research methodologies for particular research questions;
  • Respect the voices and contributions of disabled people, and work with them on a basis of equality;
  • Critique models of inclusion, in theory and practice;
  • Choose from a range of person-centred practices and apply them to real situations;
  • Analyse the problems and societal barriers facing disabled people.

This Masters programme is primarily about research, and so successful graduates may move on into PhD research. Other graduates from our MSc in Disability Studies are often already in employment in the disability sector, and use their qualification to gain advancement or change in their own organisation or position. For instance, social care managers or self-advocacy group coordinators have become active in carrying out research with the disabled people for whom they work.

Graduates gain employment in the following sectors:

  • Social and health care
  • Self-advocacy and user-led organisations
  • Education
  • Universities and academic research.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to have a good undergraduate degree (2:1 or equivalent) in any discipline and/or relevant employment experience. International students: please click here for guidance on degree equivalence.

Many of our students come to us with a background in employment in the disability area, or with life experience of disability. Prior learning is therefore considered as part of the entry process. We are interested to recruit students who have a professional interest and expertise in the area of Disability.

For enquiries about applications, please contact Emma Western, Senior Postgraduate Administrator.

Financing your studies

Most of our part-time students pay on a unit-by-unit basis. Please check current fees on the University’s Tuition Fees page.

Those in employment are sometimes funded by their employer. The course can count towards further professional development.

For those interested in further post-graduate research, there will be a chance to apply for ESRC scholarships offered to students across the Faculty. This “1 + 3” scheme involves completing the MSc in Disability Studies Research followed by three years of doctoral research.

Applying to study abroad is daunting and it's a big step. Here you can find information about English language requirements, English language support for Public Policy students, and links to the University International Office.

English language requirements

Please visit this page for postgraduate language requirements:

Language Support for International students

We welcome international students, and in previous years have had students from China and from Botswana. Language support is available, and students can also meet and socialise with other international and UK students on a range of programmes across the School.

Follow this link to find out about academic English support for international students: