Work-based learning is a growing educational strategy that offers the opportunity to combine work and studies by putting theory into practice with real-life work experiences.

This can vary from mentorship programmes and internships to graduate apprenticeships and professional masters courses. This trend is catalysed by many initiatives including the Government’s target of 30,000 apprenticeship starts each year by 2020.

This approach to learning is highly beneficial for not only the student but also their employers. More importantly, it gives individuals a competitive edge, making them more desirable to recruit, as well as giving them the opportunity for career progression.

What makes work-based learning unique is that the focus is on training and education; it is about solving an employee and organisation’s immediate needs, as much as appreciating the underlying issues. Students studying on a work-based learning route get the opportunity to put into practice what they learn in the classroom to their existing job, allowing them to make an impact on their organisation from the outset, rather than after graduating.

Today, many people opt to gain their undergraduate and postgraduate degree qualifications through work-based learning over traditional modes of study.

Study while you work

Edinburgh Napier University provides a range of routes to an academic qualification that support a work-based learning approach, giving you flexibility in your learning and professional development to enhance your career and develop your specialist skills. Options include:

  • Executive Masters leading to a postgraduate degree. This option is aimed at working professionals looking to upskill. The courses feature two major components co-designed with the employer; a work-based project delivering immediate impact and a dissertation to advance knowledge in the organisation. They provide a strategic opportunity for companies to develop their people and their organisation, by harnessing the ambition and developing the vision of their staff.
  • Graduate Apprenticeships leading to an honours degree. This option allows students to study for an undergraduate degree while working.
  • There is also a wide range of courses to choose from that are delivered part-time, online and via distance learning, to give maximum flexibility, allowing a full balance between studies and other life commitments.

Give your staff the competitive edge

Employees get the competitive edge through an Executive Masters degree. The courses are designed to support organisations in developing talent with emphasis on career development and progression. The courses are open to either new or existing employees, while the unique delivery model means students only need spend a limited time away from the workplace.

Supporting staff development and upskilling of talent has many benefits for organisations including:

  • Improving the business. Students on Executive Masters courses apply their learning in the workplace while they are studying for their degree, bringing new skills and knowledge to benefit your organisation.
  • Work-based assessment. As industry leaders in work-based learning, Edinburgh Napier’s delivery model is designed to minimise time out of the workplace.
  • Develop university links. Build strong networks with top academics and embark on exciting projects with Edinburgh Napier University. This could lead to knowledge transfer projects and other collaborations.
  • Recruit and retain top talent. Keep the best people by providing them a route to show their worth, while they are engaging with their studies.

Boost your career prospects

“I feel that I started to benefit from the course from the very first session I attended. The taught modules are focused on current and relevant topics, and I was able to immediately apply my new knowledge in my work. It has strengthened my comprehension of key areas, which underpin ICT activities such as ICT governance, leadership and project management, and given me practical skills needed to be able to positively influence delivery of ICT services. Furthermore, completion of the various assessments has enhanced my confidence in my own work. I am certain that I am able to do my job to a higher quality than would be possible had I not had this experience.” Tiffany, Senior IT Officer studying MSc Strategic ICT Leadership.

An Executive Masters degree lets you gain your postgraduate qualification while applying new skills to your job throughout. Whether you are looking to build new skills in a current role or prepare for your next move, within 18 to 24 months you can achieve a respected industry-relevant Masters degree where the majority of learning and study takes place at work or draws on workplace experience.

Balance work and study

How does it work? A key requirement for the Executive Masters courses is that individuals must be in employment. Students are fully supported by the university and their employers throughout the course so that they can balance work and study. Support is given from initial enquiry, through to application as well as with things like forming a business case to justify the investment.

Challenges and how to overcome them

 “The work-based learning delivery model really suited me, giving me the opportunity to spend time with like-minded colleagues in the classroom, examine real life challenges in the workplace, all underpinned by self-study.

Balancing my studies against full time work and a very active family wasn’t easy, but the course structure and the academic support made this possible.

Completing my Masters experience gave me the confidence to successfully apply for a significantly different role within my organisation, where I’m amazed at how much I lean upon skills and techniques picked up during my course.” Campbell, Senior IT Manager, MSc Strategic ICT Leadership graduate.

Executive Masters at Edinburgh Napier

As market leaders in work-based learning experiences, Edinburgh Napier University is the perfect partner for your organisation.

Edinburgh Napier offers four Executive Masters courses that are delivered within the School of Computing.

The MSc Advanced Security & Cybercrime focuses on broadening your knowledge of the key issues related to network and computer security technologies and processes, with a particular focus on the growing threats posed by cybercrime.

If you are working in a data-related role within your organisation, whether in a technical, software or business context and you want to enhance your skills and understanding of leading-edge data analysis tools and techniques, then the MSc Data Science course will help you develop your understanding and skills in data science.

Align your business and technical skills with an MSc Strategic ICT Leadership. This course enables IT professionals to address business challenges and gives them the tools and skills required to make a greater contribution to business performance, enabling them to align IT projects with business priorities.

For significant career advancement, the
MSc Project & Programme Management helps you to develop your own and your organisation’s project and programme management practice with a more comprehensive and rounded approach.

“The Executive Masters courses are concrete evidence of our commitment to engage with real-word problems outside the classroom, to help organisations navigate complexity and change, and to ensure that the high-level skills development needs of professionals are being met.” Dr Colin Smith, Programme Leader MSc Strategic ICT Leadership

To find out more visit

Executive Masters courses
MSc in Advanced Security & Cybercrime
MSc Data Science
MSc Project & Programme Management
MSc Strategic ICT Leadership