Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Scottish Ethnology MScR

Awards: MScR

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Scottish Ethnology

A Masters by Research (MScR) programme is ideal if you have a clear idea of the independent research you wish to undertake at masters level.

Scottish ethnology provides a fascinating insight into the traditional and popular culture of Scotland, while giving you a set of ethnographical skills that may be applied to other traditional cultures.

Join our community and undertake a 20,000-word dissertation under the guidance of an experienced and well-published supervisor.

Why Edinburgh?

Based in Scotland’s capital and festival city, at the heart of a lively contemporary cultural scene, we are the longest established Scottish Studies department in Scotland.

Over the past 70 years, the archives of the School of Scottish Studies have grown into an unrivalled collection of sound, video, film, and photographic resources that continue to inspire new research and creative work.

We are also the home of the European Ethnological Research Centre, which promotes research into everyday life and society in Scotland through long-term projects such as the Regional Ethnology of Scotland. The Centre's publications include the series Scottish Life and Society: A compendium of Scottish ethnology, and the long-running journals:

  • Scottish Studies
  • Review of Scottish Culture (ROSC)

Research expertise

We specialise in research and field collection in the following areas:

  • custom and belief
  • digital folkloristics
  • Gaelic and Scottish languages and culture in the diaspora
  • heritage studies
  • material culture
  • oral narrative
  • place names
  • social organisation
  • song and instrumental music and performance
  • traditional arts and their contemporary practice

Explore our range of research centres, networks and projects in Celtic and Scottish Studies

Go beyond the books

Beyond the Books is a podcast from the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at research and the people who make it happen.

Listen to a mix of PhD, early career and established researchers talk about their journey to and through academia and about their current and recent research.

Browse Beyond the Books episodes and hear our research community talk about their work

This programme includes 40 credits of training on research skills, methods and problems using a combination of traditional and innovative methods.

You will be encouraged and supported to make direct contact with original sources and to gain hands-on experience, whether in engaging with material from the School of Scottish Studies Archives, in developing skills in fieldwork practice, collection and analysis, in analysing song, music and oral history recordings, or in handling electronically stored data.

Over the course of the year, you will complete a further 40 credits of research-related assignments up to 10,000 words, building the necessary skills to complete your 100-credit supervised dissertation of 20,000 words.

Between the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), the Careers Service and the Institute for Academic Development (IAD), you’ll find a range of programmes and resources to help you develop your postgraduate skills.

You will also have access to the University’s fantastic libraries, collections and worldwide strategic partnerships.

Join in

As part of our research community, you will be immersed in a world of scholarship, with lots of opportunities to share ideas, learning and creative work. Activities include:

  • a regular seminar series (with talks by staff, research students and visiting speakers)
  • annual lecture series in Scottish Studies (Alan Bruford Lecture; John MacLeod Memorial Lecture; ‘Rebellious Truth’ lecture in partnership with Edinburgh TradFest; the Carrying Stream Festival)
  • performances and traditional music sessions, co-ordinated by our In-Residence colleagues (Traditional Artist and Gaelic Writer)
  • a range of conferences, including a colloquium series with Scandinavian Studies
  • active student Celtic Society (Comann Ceilteach)

Our graduates tell us that they value LLC’s friendliness, the connections they make here and the in-depth guidance they receive from our staff, who are published experts in their field.

Our research resources and facilities are outstanding. We are particularly well placed to explore the theory and practice of working with archives.

In addition to our Scottish Studies Library, and the University’s Main Library and many collections, our School of Scottish Studies Archives include over 30,000 discrete recordings of sound recordings, an extensive photographic and video collection, manuscripts, Linguistic and Place-Name Surveys, and donated collections such as:

  • the John Levy Archive of religious music
  • the Burton-Manning Collection of Appalachian oral tradition
  • the Will Forret and Gus MacDonald Collections of Scottish music
  • the Edgar Ashton Folk Revival Collection

*Read our feature marking 70 years of the School of Scottish Studies Archives

Passionate about music, literature, song and storytelling, we have strong links with the National Library of Scotland, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, National Archives and National Museum of Scotland, all of which are located close to our buildings in Edinburgh’s historic city centre.

We also collaborate with research staff at St Cecilia’s Hall who manage the University's historical musical instrument collection and Scotland’s oldest purpose-built concert hall.

Dr Ella Leith first came to the University of Edinburgh in 2004 as a Scottish Ethnology undergraduate.

Almost 20 years on, she has completed both an MSc by Research and a PhD with us.

Ella has developed particular expertise in British Sign Language (BSL) storytelling in Scottish deaf communities.

She moved to Malta in 2019, where she continues to work as a freelance researcher for the European Ethnological Research Centre (EERC).

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a related subject.

We may also consider your application if you have other qualifications or experience; please contact us to check before you apply.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Read our general information on tuition fees and studying costs:

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH

If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

The online application process involves the completion of a web form and the submission of supporting documents.

For a Masters by Research programme, you should include:

  • a sample of written work of about 3,000 words (this can be a previous piece of work from an undergraduate degree).
  • a research proposal - an outline of your proposed area of study, helping us gain a clearer picture of what you hope to achieve.

See our guidance:

Before you apply, you should look at the interests and expertise of our research community on the programme website. This will help you decide if this programme is right for you and your supervision needs.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH