Celtic & Scottish Studies

Undergraduate study | Scottish Ethnology

Develop practical and comparative skills at the only institution in the world to offer undergraduate degrees in Scottish Ethnology.

Why study Scottish Ethnology in Edinburgh?

How do we use and make sense of the past from within our present, and how can this understanding help us to shape our future? Scottish Ethnology provides a fascinating insight into the traditional and popular culture of Scotland, while giving you a set of ethnographical skills that you can apply to any culture. Sometimes described as the meeting point between history and anthropology, the discipline plays an important role in the humanities and social sciences throughout Europe and beyond.

Our programme draws on Scotland’s diversity (urban and rural, Lowland and Highland, Scots and Gaelic), but also introduces comparative material from elsewhere. It puts folklore and folklife in a Scottish and international context, examining the various ways in which a modern European nation expresses itself through its customs, beliefs, social organisation, language, music and song. 

Working with a range of rich materials, from traditional archives to modern media and digital data, you will develop the practical and intellectual tools to help navigate and influence contemporary culture and society in an increasingly globalised world. You’ll have access to an unrivalled range of resources in the School of Scottish Studies Archives, including recordings of songs, music, stories, rhyme and verse in Scots, Gaelic and English, as well as in dialects now extinct.

On campus and in the city

We are based in the historic heart of a world-leading festival city, close to the National Library of Scotland, National Museum of Scotland and St Cecilia's Hall, the University's Concert Room and Music Museum.

The Main University Library is just across the square from us, as is the School of Scottish Studies Archives. From ancient manuscripts to contemporary recordings, these give you access to thousands of audio, visual and written resources that capture exceptional and everyday aspects of Scottish culture and heritage.

In addition to the summer and winter festivals, Edinburgh has a lively year-round contemporary cultural scene. From traditional music sessions to events in the Scottish Storytelling Centre, there is always something going on - often involving your teachers.

During your time with us, you will meet tradition-bearers, visit museums, and take part in events involving present-day customs in Scotland. 

Discover more about resources and facilities in Celtic and Scottish Studies

Studying Scottish Ethnology and Archaeology at Edinburgh has been incredibly rewarding. I have been so surprised at how well both subjects tie into each other, and I doubt any other degree will help you better understand Scotland’s material and non-material culture and history. The programme has opened my eyes to so many elements of our understanding of culture and heritage, while allowing me to consider my own identity and relationship with it. In particular, the scale and breadth of the School of Scottish Studies Archives has given me an opportunity I don’t think I would have anywhere else. There’s never been a dull moment, and I’ve been surprised at every turn.

AlasdairYear 3, Scottish Ethnology and Archaeology MA (Hons)

QS World Rankings by Subject 2024

QS World Rankings graphic on orange background, text says #3 in the UK, World Top 10

The University of Edinburgh is ranked 3rd in the UK for Modern Languages.

We are ranked 4th in the UK in the broad subject area of Arts & Humanities.

Globally, we’re in the World Top 10 for Modern Languages (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.

Other ways to take Scottish Ethnology at Edinburgh

Photo of two people using recording equipment

If you're not on one of our degree programmes, you can still take Scottish Ethnology courses with us!

As an undergraduate student of most subjects at the University of Edinburgh, you can take Scottish Ethnology as an outside subject in one or both of Years 1 and 2 of your programme, depending on your timetable.

Find out more about outside subjects