Undergraduate study | English and Scottish Literature
Based in the first UNESCO World City of Literature, we are the oldest department of English Literature in the UK; one of the longest established in the world. Study with us and develop your analytic, linguistic and creative skills by engaging with a broad range of texts and a variety of approaches to reading.
Why study literature in Edinburgh?
Studying literature prepares you to contribute to a society in which an understanding of texts of all kinds is crucially important. It shows an openness to ideas and perspectives other than your own, an essential attribute in many careers and a global marketplace.
Our programmes will enhance your unique literary and critical faculties. In Years 1 and 2, you will explore the cultural contexts of writing in English (and, where relevant, Scots) from around the world, from the late Middle Ages to the present. At honours level (Years 3 and 4), you will select courses on the basis of your own interests in specific topics, periods or genres.
Our large community has lots to offer, including reading and writers' groups, poetry slams, creative writing and publishing opportunities, and student theatre. As well as multiple student societies, we also have a thriving Peer-Assisted Learning Scheme (LitPALS), a fantastic Writer-in-Residence, and annual writing prizes for prose and verse.
You’ll be based at the heart of the University of Edinburgh in a world-leading festival city with an unrivalled range of libraries, collections and literary venues. These include the National Library of Scotland, Scottish Poetry Library, Writers’ Museum, and Scottish Storytelling Centre. We also have strong links with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which annually welcomes around 1,000 authors to our literary city.
One of the best things about studying in Edinburgh is how the cultural history and contemporary social ethics interweave with literature's narrative to cultivate a great love in its study. With an extensive library and writing festivals, studying English Literature has been a thoroughly fulfilling experience.
- You’ll complete a four-year Master of Arts (MA) honours degree.
- You can take a single honours programme in either English Literature or Scottish Literature, combine both in a joint honours programme, or take either with one of a wide range of other subjects, including English Language and a number of European languages.
Years 1 & 2
In these pre-honours years, you will read works of literature written in English from around the world, and encounter a range of ideas about the nature and purpose of literary study.
We will introduce you to the essential skills needed for the critical close reading of the core literary genres of poetry, drama and prose.
You will study literature in its cultural and historical context, focusing on a selection of major periods. Your courses will explore the relationship between literary texts and the construction of national, international and imperial cultures.
- Our programmes are very flexible. In these years, you'll likely get to choose option courses from a wide range of subjects alongside English or Scottish Literature 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
- If you’re doing single honours, or a joint honours degree with a subject other than a European language or Persian, you’ll typically spend your third year in Edinburgh. However, it’s possible to study elsewhere through the University’s Study Abroad programme.
- If you’re doing a joint degree with a European language, you will spend your third year abroad. Where possible, our joint degree with Persian also involves a period of study abroad.
- 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 genre that’s of particular interest to you. Our size and scale means that we have an extensive range of honours courses for you to choose from.
- You’ll typically be based in Edinburgh’s historic centre, close to the Main University Library, the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh Central Library and a fantastic range of publishing houses, bookshops, and theatres.
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.
- If you're studying abroad in your third year, and depending on what you do and where you go, 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 English Literature and Scottish Literature separately - each as a single honours degree - or take a joint honours degree in English and Scottish Literature. You can also take either English Literature or Scottish Literature jointly with the following subjects...
|English Language (English Literature only)||History of Art (English Literature or Scottish Literature)|
|History (English Literature or Scottish Literature)||Scottish History (Scottish Literature only)|
|Celtic (English Literature or Scottish Literature)||Scottish Ethnology (English Literature only)|
|Classics (English Literature or Scottish Literature)||Philosophy (English Literature or Scottish Literature)|
|French (English Literature only)||German (English Literature only)|
|Italian (English Literature only)||Persian (English Literature only)|
|Spanish (English Literature only)||Portuguese (English Literature or Scottish Literature)|
|Russian Studies (English Literature only)||Scandinavian Studies (English Literature only)|
|Religious Studies (English Literature or Scottish Literature)|
There’s lots of information about our undergraduate literature 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 English Literature shows an openness to ideas and perspectives other than your own, an essential attribute in many careers and a global marketplace.
Beyond the literary, critical thinking and creative skills you will gain by engaging with a broad range of texts and a variety of approaches to reading in English Literature, graduating with a four-year honours degree from the University of Edinburgh shows high-level intellectual strength and flexibility. This includes the ability to understand, analyse and articulate key concepts, and to work to varied briefs to deadline, both independently and in groups.
Opportunities across sectors
During your time with us, you will study a range of subjects (with the option to take courses in languages, business, and law, for example), while specialising in one or more literary topics, periods or genres.
This breadth gives you the foundations to excel in a range of career sectors, especially those that value transferable humanities skills.
Our alumni have gone on to careers in the private, public, not-for-profit, and for-benefit sectors, sometimes through graduate training schemes where the ability to communicate well is essential in securing a competitive place.
Typical sectors include:
* Business, finance and commerce
* Communications, marketing, advertising and public relations
* Creative writing, publishing, culture, heritage, and the arts
* Education, outreach, advocacy and training
* Journalism, broadcasting and media
* Leisure, tourism and travel
* Politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
* Research, development and venture acceleration
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 take a taught or research-led masters degree in English Literature, do an MSc in Playwriting or Creative Writing, or take an interdisciplinary taught Masters programme such as Comparative Literature, or Intermediality.
We have excellent links with the University's Careers Service. Throughout your time with us, we will encourage you to identify and hone your employability skills, including through peer initiatives such as Life After LLC (Literatures, Languages and Cultures) where you can draw inspiration from our graduates.
Studying at Edinburgh gave me a strong grasp of language, which is the foundation of my career. It also gave me a historical overview of artistic and linguistic styles, many of which have influenced my work. I studied English Literature during its 250th anniversary year, and it’s a time I will always value and treasure. It’s a very warm place to study and spend time. It takes all sorts to make a world, and some of the best I studied with.
QS World Rankings by Subject 2023
The University of Edinburgh is ranked 3rd in the UK for English Language and Literature.
We are also 3rd in the UK in the broad subject area of Arts & Humanities.
Globally, we’re in the World Top 10 for English Language and Literature (9) 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.
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