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Autism Spectrum Disorders (MSc)

MSc|Postgraduate Taught

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Entry year
Entry requirements
1 year (Full Time)
3 years (Part Time)
Places available
no limit (Full Time)
no limit (Part Time)
This course is now closed to applications for September 2021. If you are interested in September 2022 entry, please register your interest.
  • Overview

    This programme was developed in consultation with the education, health and social care, and voluntary sectors, as well as individuals affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and is designed to facilitate the professional development of teachers and other related professionals who work, or wish to work, in this area.

    The course is hosted by the Centre for Behaviour Analysis at Queens University. In line with the needs identified in the Northern Ireland Executive's Autism Strategy and associated Action Plans, the course has been attuned to raising awareness, addressing issues specifically related to children and adults on the autism spectrum, and increasing knowledge and skills in relation to evidence-based interventions.

    The aim is to enable the study of the theory and practice underpinning the specialist area in order to enhance understanding and ability to engage in research- and evidence-based practice. On completion of the degree, students will have:

    - developed a breadth of knowledge and understanding of the special needs of children, young people and adults diagnosed with autism
    - shown evidence of critical reflection on their professional practice and be able to apply relevant research literature to both personal and professional experience
    - acquired a range of specialised practical skills which will enhance their ability to support pupils and students in a variety of settings
    - developed teamwork skills required to work in partnership, supporting and advising other colleagues.

    Closing date for applications: Thursday 30th June 2022 at 4pm.

    Autism Spectrum Disorders highlights

    Our educational research has been ranked 4th within the UK in relation to research intensity with 87% assessed as ‘internationally excellent or world leading’ (REF, 2014).

    Career Development

    • Employability The programme provides a range of specialised practical skills for teaching and supporting pupils and students in a variety of settings; the teamwork skills needed to support and advise colleagues; and the knowledge and understanding of the special needs of individuals with autism.

    World Class Facilities

    • Innovation One of the core modules of the programme is based on the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) Task Lists (e.g. Fundamental Elements of Behaviour Change). Optional modules that are based on the BACB list also are online (i.e. Behaviour Change and Education; Concepts and Principles of Behaviour Analysis). However, some of the other optional modules are classroom-based and may require attendance on campus.

    Student Experience

    • Flexibility This programme is designed to meet the needs of professionals and is delivered via blended learning. Diploma and Certificate options are also available.
    • Credit transfer Students who have completed other master's-level awards, e.g. PGCE, within the last 10 years are eligible to credit transfer (max. 60 credit points). The credit transfer application must be submitted at the same time as the online programme application as retrospective applications are not accepted.
    “The MSc in ASD is aimed at professionals working in education, health, and social care with a specific focus on autism spectrum and special needs. The course is suitable for anyone who works with children, adolescents, and/or adults on the autism spectrum. This course is unique in Northern Ireland and Ireland and is easily accessible for students from further afield. This is a blended learning course, taught in class and online. While much of the course is taught online, some on-campus attendance is required, thus allowing for a flexible learning experience and student mobility.”
    Professor Karola Dillenburger, Programme Director
  • Course content

    Course Structure

    Students may enrol on a full-time (1 year) or part-time (up to 3 years) basis. Individual modules may be studied as a short course. Part-time students typically complete one or two modules per semester. Full-time students typically complete three modules per semester.

    The MSc is awarded to students who successfully complete six taught modules (120 CATS points) and a research dissertation (60 CATS points). Exit qualifications are available: students may exit with a Postgraduate Diploma by successfully completing 120 CATS points from taught modules or a Postgraduate Certificate by successfully completing 60 CATS points from taught core modules.

    The course includes four core/compulsory modules (these are available mainly online) and two optional modules. A menu of optional modules is available; some of the optional modules are taught online, while some are taught in-class and require attendance on the Belfast campus.

    Course DetailsCore Modules (all 20 CATS points):

    An Introduction to Research Methods: Children, Young People and Education (online)
    This module will provide you with an understanding of differing perspectives that underpin quantitative and qualitative methodologies and is required preparation for your research dissertation.

    Fundamental Elements of Behaviour Change (online and 1-day workshop)
    We will focus on pedagogical methods and practices for inclusion that emanate from the scientific discipline of behaviour analysis. This includes a range of pedagogical methods, including intensive behaviour interventions, incidental teaching, contingency management, precision teaching, dealing with challenging behaviours, and integrating systems support. We will also introduce the practice of measurement of behaviour change and displaying and interpreting behavioural data.

    Understanding Adults with ASD (online and on-campus workshop)
    You will be assisted to develop and extend your skills in understanding the needs of adults with ASD and their families. We will examine issues of identification, adult diagnosis, mental health, and transitions, as well as challenging behaviours, communication, and sensory issues, relationships, sexuality, self-advocacy, and neuro-diversity. We will consider the implications of an ASD diagnosis for the nuclear and extended family, for schools, homes and employment.

    Understanding Children with ASD (online and on-campus workshop)
    You will be assisted to develop and extend your skills in understanding the needs of children (aged 0-18) with autism and their families. We will examine issues of definition, identification, diagnosis and assessment, and early intervention, as well as communication, and sensory issues across childhood and adolescence. We will also consider the implications of an autism diagnosis for the nuclear and extended family, for teaching and learning in school and home-based programmes as well as transitions between school and home.

    Two optional modules may be chosen from the Educational Studies (MEd) programme. Some modules require weekly on-campus attendance.

    People teaching you

    Professor Karola Dillenburger
    Programme Director and Director of the Centre for Behaviour Analysis

    Professor Karola Dillenburger is a clinical psychologist and BCBA-D. Her main research leadership concerns Applied Behaviour Analysis and evidence-based decision making and intervention in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

    Career Prospects

    Graduates from this degree have found it beneficial in their workplace when advising colleagues, influencing policy makers and supporting pupils and students with autism and their families, or seeking professional promotion or diversification. Others progress to doctoral-level studies and research or teaching.

    Queen's postgraduates reap exceptional benefits. Unique initiatives, such as Degree Plus and Researcher Plus bolster our commitment to employability, while innovative leadership and executive programmes help our students gain key leadership positions both nationally and internationally.

    Learning and Teaching

    Learning opportunities available with this course are outlined below:

    Online and on-campus workshops

    Some of the modules are taught online with on-campus workshops. Some optional modules require weekly on-campus attendance; other optional modules are mainly online.


    Assessments associated with this course are outlined below:

    There are no written examinations. Modules are assessed by a variety of assessment methods, e.g. written assignments, project reports, online multiple-choice tests, or weekly contributions to online fora. Active student participation is required for all modules.


    The School is situated across a suite of three buildings in Belfast's Queen's Quarter. We provide student and staff common rooms, computer suites and designated study spaces.
    Explore the teaching and social spaces in our School through our 360 Virtual Tour:

    The Graduate School

    Prizes and Awards

    • Teachers working on classroom-based dissertation projects may apply for the Northern Ireland Centre for Educational Research (NICER) award.
  • Entry Requirements

    Entrance requirements

    A 2.1 Honours degree or above or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in any subject discipline.

    Applicants with a 2.2 Honours degree or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University may also be considered if they have at least two years of experience in an education, training or relevant context.

    Applicants with a lower level of performance in an Honours degree or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University may also be considered if they have at least three years of experience in an education, training or relevant context.

    Applicants with a sub-honours degree level qualification or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University may also be considered if they have at least five years of experience in an education, training or relevant context.

    Applicants who do not satisfy the above but who are holders of an equivalent approved professional qualification or work experience will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

    Closing date for applications: Thursday 30th June 2022 at 4pm.

    Late applications may be considered. This will not be advertised on course finder but if applications are very low the School may consider late applications. Please refer to School at the time of deadline.

    Applicants are advised to apply as early as possible. In the event that any programme receives a high number of applications, the University reserves the right to close the application portal prior to the deadline stated on course finder. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Application Portal against the programme application page.

    International Students

    Our country pages include information on entry requirements, tuition fees, scholarships, student profiles, upcoming events and contacts for your country. Use the dropdown list below for specific information for your country.

    English Language Requirements

    Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required. *Taken within the last 2 years.

    International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

    For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

    If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

    • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
    • Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.

    INTO - English Language Course(QSIS ELEMENT IS EMPTY)

  • Fees and Funding

    Tuition Fees

    Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £6,650
    Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £6,650
    England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £7,470
    EU Other 3 £18,200
    International £18,200

    1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled status, will be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB will be charged the GB fee.

    2 EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI are eligible for NI tuition fees, in line with the Common Travel Agreement arrangements.

    3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

    All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2022-23, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

    More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

    Additional course costs

    All Students

    Depending on the programme of study, there may be extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies.

    Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £75 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges.

    Students undertaking a period of work placement or study abroad, as either a compulsory or optional part of their programme, should be aware that they will have to fund additional travel and living costs.

    If a programme includes a major project or dissertation, there may be costs associated with transport, accommodation and/or materials. The amount will depend on the project chosen. There may also be additional costs for printing and binding.

    Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen.

    There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.

    Autism Spectrum Disorders costs

    There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

    How do I fund my study?

    The Department for the Economy will provide a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500 per NI / EU student for postgraduate study. Tuition fee loan information.

    A postgraduate loans system in the UK offers government-backed student loans of up to £10,609 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. Criteria, eligibility, repayment and application information are available on the UK government website.

    More information on funding options and financial assistance.

    International Scholarships

    Information on scholarships for international students, is available at

  • Apply

    How to Apply

    Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

    Apply now

    When to Apply

    The deadline for applications is normally 30th June 2021. In the event that any programme receives a high volume of applications, the university reserves the right to close the application portal earlier than 30th June deadline. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Entry Portal (DAP) against the programme application page.

    Terms and Conditions

    The terms and conditions that apply when you accept an offer of a place at the University on a taught programme of study.
    Queen's University Belfast Terms and Conditions.

    Download a prospectus