Asian Studies

What and how you’ll study

Degree combinations, teaching methods, and a year-by-year guide to your learning.

Degree combinations

We are unique in Scotland in offering four-year MA honours language programmes that include a full year studying abroad. Our University is ranked third in the UK, and 12th in the world, for Modern Languages in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020, and 11th in the world for Arts and Humanities.

Even as a complete beginner, you can study Chinese to degree level with us. You can take it as a single honours programme, or you can study any of the following joint honours combinations...

Chinese and French Chinese and German Chinese and Spanish
Chinese and Russian Chinese and History History of Art and Chinese Studies
Chinese and Linguistics Chinese and Economics International Business with Chinese*

One of the most attractive characteristics of the MA honours degree programme at the University of Edinburgh is its flexibility. As well as lots of choice in degree combinations, you'll likely get to choose option courses in the first two (pre-honours) years in addition to your core subject(s). This may enable you to change the focus of your degree, if you discover that you want to take your option subject(s) on into the final two (honours) years. 

* Please note that this degree combination does not have the same structure as all the others, though it is still a four-year degree with a study abroad element.

Teaching and assessment

The Chinese language is taught by qualified and experienced native and non-native speakers. Class size varies depending on the language skills being taught. Cultural courses (for example on history and literature) are taught through lectures, seminars and tutorials by experts in their respective fields.

You’ll be assessed through a combination of oral and written language exercises and tests, essays on cultural topics, and exams requiring both essays and short answers. On your year abroad, you will be assessed for language acquisition by your host university. You will also submit written assignments to us.

There are lots of support systems to help you with your learning, from your Personal Tutor to our web-based hub, Support for Success in LLC. We have an in-house Screening Room, computing labs and Study Resource Centre, and the Main University Library is just across the square from us, housing over 45,000 Chinese language titles in its East Asian Studies Collection.

Our Chinese Studies Peer Support Group is a great learning resource, and the Students’ Association provides further scope to get involved in group learning. Its Tandem Language Exchange Programme was recently voted the inaugural winner of the Student Collaboration Award.


You’ll study Chinese for four years, taking courses worth 120 credits each year*. 

Years one and two

All students will study modern spoken and written Chinese and, in most degree programmes, you will also be introduced to the core academic skills needed for Asian Studies, and learn about modern East Asian history.

You’ll also have the chance to study modern China in literature and film, and to learn about classical and pre-modern Chinese history and culture, in preparation for your year abroad.

Depending on your degree combination, compulsory courses in Chinese will count for between 40 and 80 credits out of a total of 120 you must complete each year

You’ll gain the rest of your credits from compulsory courses for your partner subject, if you are doing a joint degree. Most degree programmes also have a choice of outside courses from a wide range offered by the University of Edinburgh (see Degree Programme Tables for details).

Each year, these courses count for between 40 and 80 credits

Year three

You’ll spend your third year abroad, either in full or in part in China or Taiwan, turning classroom learning into living engagement with Chinese and East Asian culture. Currently, students can apply to study at Dalian University of Technology, Peking University, Fudan University and Zhejiang University in China, and National Chengchi University in Taiwan*.

You will spend a minimum of 30 weeks abroad. If Chinese is the only language you are studying, these 30 weeks will be spent in either China or Taiwan. If you’re doing a joint degree with another language, you’ll divide your 30 weeks between your two languages, spending at least eight weeks in a country relevant to each language.

While abroad, you’ll develop your language skills and follow courses in Chinese literature and culture. In selected locations, there are opportunities for homestays with local families.

Wherever they’ve been, and whatever they’ve chosen to do, our graduates have told us how much the Year Abroad has benefitted their broader life experience and skills, as well as their understanding of China and East Asia.

Year four

In your final year, you’ll refine your advanced language skills in modern standard Chinese.

You’ll also intensify your study of primary sources, taking specialist option courses taught by research-active experts. There’s a wide range to choose from, from Politics and Policy in Contemporary China, to modern or pre-modern Literature, and modern or pre-modern History and Thought.

If you are doing a joint degree, you’ll have option courses for your partner subject too.

You’ll engage with research by completing an extended piece of writing of up to ten thousand words. This is your chance to focus on a subject that’s of particular interest to you and must involve independent research, but you’ll be supervised and directed by one or more members of staff.

You can look in-depth at current courses on our Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study. Please note that this site is currently showing courses for the 2020/2021 academic year and will be updated in spring 2021 for entry to university in September 2021.

Take me to Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study

* International Business with Chinese has a different year-by-year structure to our other programmes, including a different Study Abroad component. You can find out more about what you'll study on this programme on the University of Edinburgh's online Degree Finder.

Take me to more information about International Business with Chinese

Related links

Read our feature about Support for Success in LLC