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SPS student voices and experiences
Electives and compulsory courses: how to pick your modules at the University of Edinburgh

Electives and compulsory courses: how to pick your modules at the University of Edinburgh

At the University of Edinburgh, you are given a lot of freedom in choosing and creating your own course timetable – here’s Elia’s guide to picking your courses!

Optional and compulsory courses

There are two types of courses in your degree programme: optional courses and compulsory courses. It’s relatively straightforward: compulsory courses are the core structure of your degree, while you choose optional courses yourself based on your interest. The number of optional courses per semester can vary greatly based on your degree, whether you are taking a joint degree, and what year you are in.

How I chose my optional courses

It is recommended to choose your courses based on your career interest and the focus you wish to take for your dissertation, but don’t worry if you’re not too sure at the start of your studies.

This opportunity to choose your own courses is an amazing way to discover subjects you are personally interested in, and develop your academic or personal background. For example, I felt that I was lacking some science in my social science degree, so my optional courses were a way for me to balance that out. Similarly, while not directly related to my field of study, I chose to engage in an art-based course to channel my creativity in an academic way.


Path is a site that lets you explore courses, and build your own degree path. It is an amazing tool to create your own degree timetable and visualise which courses need pre-requisites and which courses clash with one another. An important thing to remember is that this site does not enrol you into classes, which is done by your School.

Enrolling and changing course

Enrolling into classes often takes place at the beginning of the year.

You are able to change your courses in the first two weeks of university. If you suddenly realise one course is not what you thought it would be, or if you are simply more interested in another course, you can ask to be changed. Bear in mind that a lot of courses in SPS are high demand, meaning that if there is no more space, and so you will be placed on a waiting list (regularly updated by the school for you to see which courses have waiting lists). The process of changing courses is relatively straightforward and easy, but it is always best to research your courses thoroughly before choosing and to be quick to change if needed.

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