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 skills that you can apply to any culture.

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 indeed 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, which offers tremendous opportunities for studying Scotland’s cultural heritage. Its collections include some 33,000 audio recordings, a photographic archive containing thousands of images from the 1930s onwards, films and videos, and a manuscript archive.

Our department is at the heart of a lively contemporary cultural scene, and you’ll meet active tradition-bearers, visit museums, and take part in events involving present-day customs in various parts of Scotland. We have strong links with Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the National Library of Scotland and National Museum of Scotland, and a great relationship with student societies.

The programme is providing me with transferable skills which speak to me on a personal level. Every opportunity to explore ideas further is satisfying, as it gives further depth to a vast pool of knowledge that I would never have tapped into otherwise.

 Roseanne TyeScottish Ethnology MA Hons student

Your learning at a glance

  • You can take Scottish Ethnology as a single honours subject, or jointly with one of a range of other subjects, including Celtic, and Scottish History.
  • You’ll complete a four-year MA degree, with the opportunity to study abroad in your third year.
  • You’ll engage with a broad range of subjects in your first two years, and specialise thereafter, developing your expertise in the aspects of folklore and folklife that interest you most.
  • You’ll develop ethnographical skills applicable to any culture. The discipline plays an important role in the humanities and social sciences throughout Europe and beyond.
  • You’ll be based at the heart of the University of Edinburgh, in the city’s historic centre, close to the School of Scottish Studies Archives, Main University Library, the National Library of Scotland and National Museum of Scotland.

Being encouraged to undertake independent fieldwork from very early on in the undergraduate programme had a massive impact. The sense of being thought capable of making a valuable contribution to the Archive, even as a lowly second year, was very empowering. I also valued the freedom we were given to explore the Archives, and to come up with our own essay topics and projects. It gave me a real excitement about the subject area and all the possibilities for research"

Ella LeithScottish Ethnology MA Hons, MSc by Research, and PhD graduate


What and how you'll study

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

Where might Scottish Ethnology take you?

Career opportunities for Scottish Ethnology graduates.

Find out more and apply

If you’d like to study on any of our undergraduate programmes, you must apply through UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. There’s lots of information about the application process on the University of Edinburgh website, including detailed entrance requirements and fees.

Go to the University of Edinburgh web page on how to apply for undergraduate study

Visit us

Our undergraduate Open Days are a great chance to find out about student life in Edinburgh from the people who know it best: our students and staff. Our next Open Days will be for students wishing to start their undergraduate degree in 2021. The Open Days scheduled for 26th September and 10th October 2020 are currently still planned to go ahead. The University is also working to develop an online alternative for prospective students thinking about starting university in 2021.

Keep up to date with Open Day information on the University of Edinburgh website 

Related links

Find out more about class representatives and student representation in Scottish Ethnology (secured)

Read our interview with Scottish Ethnology students who met HRH The Princess Royal