English Literature

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 and one of the longest established in the world. Study with us and you’ll develop a deeper understanding of how literary texts work, and of the varying and vital roles they play in our lives and societies, past and present.

Our courses cover writing from a vast range of English-speaking cultures and all major periods in history, medieval to postmodern. Tracing the evolution of literary thinking, you’ll study individual works, their authors and historical contexts, learning to compare different writing styles and genres, and exploring how works have been interpreted in different ways over time.

With multiple student societies for literature and drama enthusiasts, our large community has lots to offer, including reading and writers’ groups, poetry slams, creative writing magazines, guest seminars and a thriving Peer-Assisted Learning Scheme (LitPALS). Our students organise their own annual literature conference, and we also have a fantastic Writer-in-Residence.

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, from the National Library of Scotland to the Scottish Poetry Library, Writers’ Museum, and Scottish Storytelling Centre. We have strong links with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which annually welcomes around 1,000 authors to our literary city.

There is such a wealth of resources available in Edinburgh. There is history all around and literature is woven into the core of the city. This is incredibly useful for contextualising a lot of the material and keeps alive the passion I have for my subjects.

Amber IsaacsMA (Hons) English Literature and History student

Your learning at a glance

  • You can take a single honours degree in either English Literature or Scottish Literature. You can also combine both in a joint degree, or take either with one of a wide range of other subjects.
  • 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 in the periods and genres that interest you most. At all levels, we have an extensive range of courses to choose from.
  • You’ll be taught by research-active staff who will pass on the same passion and world-class expertise that gained us excellent results in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.
  • You’ll 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.


I've always appreciated the power of literature, the way that it can inspire and shape the world around it, whilst painting a different picture in the mind of every reader.

Chloe-Anne BanksMA (Hons) English Literature and History student


What and how you'll study

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

Where might literature take you?

Career opportunities for English Literature and Scottish Literature 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. For potential students wishing to start their undergraduate degree in 2021, this year's Open Days are on Monday 15th June 2020, Saturday 26th September 2020 and Saturday 10th October 2020. 

Go to the University of Edinburgh web page on undergraduate Open Days