Undergraduate study | Chinese
Learn modern standard Chinese in the context of Chinese and East Asian history, literature, culture, politics and international relations - past and present.
Why study Chinese in Edinburgh?
One of the world’s earliest civilisations, China is a major economic and political global power. Its scale makes an understanding of regional and cultural differences essential. Mandarin Chinese is the world's second most-spoken language, and its associated cultures have helped shape the contemporary world in many ways.
Edinburgh is the only university in Scotland to offer both single and joint honours undergraduate honours programmes in Chinese. While we specialise in teaching students with little or no prior knowledge of the language, we can also accommodate students who already have some experience of studying Chinese.
Study with us and you will learn to read, write and speak modern standard Chinese while exploring Chinese and East Asian history, literature, culture, politics and international relations, past and present. Our courses will give you specialist knowledge on mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and associated diasporas.
On campus and in the city
You will study in the heart of a world-leading festival city filled with cinemas, theatres, galleries, libraries and collections. Highlights include the University’s own East Asian Studies Collection, of some 60,000 print and digital resources, including 45,000 titles in Chinese, and 600 Chinese films. Edinburgh has excellent links to China and a thriving East Asian cultural scene.
You’ll be part of a friendly community of staff and students passionate about languages, literatures and cultures from around the globe. In Asian Studies in particular, we have:
- Peer Support Groups for both Chinese and Japanese
- great links to the Confucius Institute for Scotland
- a regular seminar series featuring visiting speakers
The programme at Edinburgh is unique in its structure because it allows you to not only study Chinese language with your peers, but also delve into China’s history, literature and film under the guidance of renowned lecturers. One of my favourite aspects of studying at Edinburgh is being able to connect with other students studying Chinese from across all four years; they are always willing and enthusiastic mentors.
- You’ll complete a four-year Master of Arts (MA) honours degree. You can take Chinese as a single honours degree, or jointly with one of a range of other subjects.
- As well as learning to read and write modern standard Chinese using both simplified and traditional form characters, most programmes involve learning to read classical Chinese and developing translation skills.
- In addition, you will have the opportunity to learn about China's modern and pre-modern history, its politics, society and culture, such as literature and film, and its place within East Asia.
Years 1 & 2
Our programmes are very flexible. In your first two years, you'll likely get to choose option courses from a wide range of subjects alongside Chinese and any partner subject. This may enable you to change the focus of your degree going into your final two (honours) years, which is when you start to specialise.
Years 3 & 4
- Your third year will typically spent in full, or in part, in either China or Taiwan. 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.
- You will learn how to undertake your own research to the level of completing a dissertation or long essay in your final year. This is your chance to focus on a topic, period or discipline that’s of particular interest to you. We have an extensive range of honours courses to choose from.
Teaching and learning
- Our approach to learning and teaching is active, inclusive and question driven to help you gain skills for life after university.
- Across your courses, you’ll typically be taught in a combination of lectures, tutorials (including language classes) and seminars. On some courses, you will have seminars instead of lectures, especially in your honours years.
- You will also be expected to study independently and in small groups, and to read widely.
Assessment and support
- You’ll be assessed through a combination of coursework and exams.
- Coursework may take a range of forms to give you the opportunity to practice different skills.
Exams will include oral exams to test your spoken language skills.
- Depending on where you go and what you do on your Year Abroad, Year 3 may include being assessed, in part, by a host university.
- As well as the teaching and other staff you will meet day-to-day, there are lots of ways to get help with your learning, including through the University’s Institute for Academic Development and Edinburgh University Students' Association.
Learning Chinese has given me lots of opportunities, from working part-time as a translator, to competing in the UK semi-finals of the Chinese Bridge competition. Without studying Chinese, not only would I not have had these great opportunities, but I wouldn't have met so many wonderful friends from all around the world.
In the 2024 to 2025 academic year, you can take Chinese as a single honours degree, or study any of the following joint honours degree 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||International Business with Chinese*|
* 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.
There’s lots of information about our undergraduate Chinese programmes on the University of Edinburgh Degree Finder. For example, you can find out about:
- the courses you will take each year
- entrance requirements
- English language requirements
- fees and funding opportunities
If you’d like to study on any of our undergraduate programmes, you must apply through UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. Applications for entry in September 2024 are now open.
Skills and experience
Studying one or more languages to degree level demonstrates that you're a good communicator, a resilient problem solver, and someone open to other cultures and new ideas – what employers value as Intercultural Competence.
Beyond the language skills you'll develop on our programmes, and the nuanced understanding you will gain of other cultures and societies, graduating with a four-year honours degree from the University of Edinburgh shows high-level intellectual strength and flexibility, including the ability to understand, analyse and articulate key concepts, and to work to varied briefs to deadline, both independently and in groups.
Opportunities at home and away
Over one billion people worldwide speak Modern Standard Chinese and many countries, including Scotland, have strategic links with China. While increasing numbers of Chinese-speaking graduates are recruited by companies based in East Asia, a powerful player in the global economy, you do not have to relocate to make the most out of your degree. Wherever you are in the world, the ability to understand and communicate in Chinese will make you stand out.
Our alumni can be found in every kind of career, especially those that place a premium on thinking that is both disciplined and imaginative. Within the private, public, not-for-profit, and for-benefit sectors, previous graduates have gone on to career pathways in:
- Business and commerce
- Communications, marketing, advertising and public relations
- Education, outreach, advocacy and training
- Journalism, broadcasting and media
- Leisure, tourism and travel
- Politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
- Publishing, culture, heritage and the arts
- Research, development and venture acceleration
- Translating and interpreting
The enhanced research skills you will develop on a four-year programme, particularly in your honours years, are a valuable asset if you wish to continue studying at postgraduate level. At the University of Edinburgh, for example, you can study a Masters by Research degree in Chinese, or take an interdisciplinary taught Masters programme such as Comparative Literature, Intermediality, or Translation Studies.
I moved to China in 2008. Language skills were in high demand, and that demand has only grown since. My degree was very balanced between intensive study of Chinese history, literature, film and culture and hard language training, so I arrived not only able to communicate with ease, but, almost more critically, able to relate and connect with local people on a much deeper level.
Get to know us better
- Take a Virtual Visit - Asian Studies (Undergraduate)
- Look inside 50 George Square
- Join us for an Open Day or Online Information Session
Talk to a current student
QS World Rankings by Subject 2023
The University of Edinburgh is ranked 3rd in the UK for Modern Languages.
We are also 3rd in the UK in the broad subject area of Arts & Humanities.
Globally, we’re in the World Top 10 for Modern Languages (7) and Arts & Humanities (10).
The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings are based on research citations and the results of major global surveys of employers and academics.
They are International Ranking Expert Group (IREG) approved.
The Complete University Guide
The University of Edinburgh is ranked fourth for Asian Studies in The Complete University Guide - Subject League Table 2022.
The Complete University Guide ranks the best 130 universities in the UK in 74 subject areas.
Other ways to learn Chinese at Edinburgh
If you're not on one of our degree programmes, you can still learn Chinese with us!
As an undergraduate student of most subjects at the University of Edinburgh, you can take Chinese as an outside subject in one or both of Years 1 and 2 of your programme, depending on your timetable.
Chinese is also available to all students (undergraduate and postgraduate) as an Open Language Course and - through the Centre for Open Learning and Confucius Institute - as a Short Course, with options for complete beginners.