Undergraduate study | German
Learn German and explore literature and culture as part of a single or joint honours degree.
Why study German in Edinburgh?
For centuries, German-speaking cultures have had a profound international influence. Study German with us and you’ll learn the language while studying literature, film and theatre, all within the context of historical and political developments, from the 18th century to contemporary times.
The University of Edinburgh is unique in Scotland in offering students a full academic year abroad within the four-year honours programme, regardless of whether you spend the year studying or working. If you are studying German and another language, you will divide your time between two countries, broadening your skills and experience.
One of the most attractive characteristics of our degree is its flexibility. As well as lots of joint honours combinations, your first two (pre-honours) years will give you the option to study other subjects drawn from a broad list of disciplines.
There’s lots going on in our subject area, including our student-run German Society, and a creative writing magazine especially for European languages. We also have very close links with local schools, the German Consulate, and the Scottish branch of the Goethe-Institut.
What I particularly love about studying German at the University of Edinburgh is the wide range of modules offered each semester, which give the opportunity to learn more about the culture and history of the German speaking world, as well as opening your eyes to current and historical issues in Europe as a whole.
- You’ll complete a four-year MA (Honours) degree. You can take German as a single honours degree, or jointly with one of a range of other subjects.
- It doesn't matter whether you’re starting from scratch, or have some existing knowledge of German. Over the course of your four years, you’ll progress in all aspects of the language, from talking about culture, current affairs and literature in German, to essay writing, creative writing and translation.
Years 1 & 2
The first two years will provide a solid foundation in the German language (both written and spoken), with classes streamed in the first year according to how much German you already know. Whatever your starting point, by the end of your second year you’ll also have been introduced to German literature and culture.
- Whether you’re doing single or joint honours, you’ll do the same amount of German in these pre-honours years. You’ll gain the rest of your credits from partner subject courses, if you are doing a joint degree, and outside courses, of which single honours students take more. This choice and flexibility 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 be spent abroad, either studying or working, turning classroom learning into living engagement with other cultures. Our graduates have told us how much the Year Abroad has benefitted their broader life experience and skills, as well as their understanding of German.
- If German is the only language you are studying, your Year Abroad will be in a German-speaking country, usually Germany or Austria. If you’re doing a joint degree with another language, you’ll divide your time and travel plans between your two languages.
- As well as developing advanced language skills in these years, 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.
For my year abroad, I spent my first semester in Vienna, Austria and my second in Florence, Italy. I boosted my language skills and made even more international friends.
- You’ll typically be based at the heart of the University of Edinburgh in a world-leading festival city with fantastic cinemas, theatres, galleries, libraries and collections.
- Our School has its own Study Resource Centre, in-house screening room and computing labs. The Main University Library is just across the square from us, and the nearby National Library of Scotland has outstanding German-language holdings.
- We contribute actively to the local cultural scene, and you will be able to attend film screenings, performances and talks organised by members of staff for the wider public.
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.
In the 2024 to 2025 academic year, you can take German as a single honours degree, or study any of the following joint honours degree combinations...
|French and German||German and Spanish||German and Portuguese|
|German and Russian Studies||German and Scandinavian Studies||Chinese and German|
|German and Linguistics||German and English Language||German and English Literature|
|German and Philosophy||German and Classics||German and History|
|German and History of Art||German and Politics||German and Social Policy|
|German and Business||International Business with German*||Law and German*|
* Please note that these degree combinations do not have the same structure as all the others, though they are still four-year degrees with a study abroad element.
There’s lots of information about our undergraduate German 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
More people speak German as their native language than any other in Europe. An official language of seven European countries and provinces, German also plays an important role in communications in many other countries, particularly in central and eastern Europe, and is the third most popular foreign language taught worldwide.
German speakers are highly sought after by UK employers, particularly those with links to the German economy, the fourth largest in the world. In 2019, German overtook French as the language most sought after by employers*.
You do not have to be based in a German-speaking country to make the most of your degree. Wherever you are based in the world, the ability to understand and communicate in the language will make you stand out. Within the private, public, not-for-profit, and for-benefit sectors, graduates have gone on to career pathways in:
- Business, finance 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
* As reported by The Independent in April 2019, which cited jobs website Indeed. Indeed also said vacancies specifying German language skills have increased by more than a tenth over the past three years, and that there’s been a slight increase in overall demand for linguists.
The enhanced research skills you will develop on a German 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 German, or take an interdisciplinary taught Masters programme such as Comparative Literature, Intermediality, or Translation Studies.
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.
Get to know us better
Thinking of joining us this year or next? Explore what it's like to study and live in Edinburgh.
- Take a Virtual Visit - European Languages and Cultures
- Look inside 50 George Square
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