Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Celtic Studies and Scottish Studies PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Doctorate-level study is an opportunity to expand upon your interests and expertise in a community that really values research; and to make an original, positive contribution to learning in Celtic Studies and Scottish Studies.

We specialise in the languages, literatures, and cultures of the Celtic- and in particular the Gaelic-speaking peoples, from Iron Age Europe to the present, and in Scottish Ethnology, the study of Scotland's traditions, belief systems, and forms of cultural expression.

Research community

Based in Scotland's capital and festival city, our research community plays a prominent role in policy development and cultural innovation.

We work at the forefront of linguistic, cultural, literary, and sociolinguistic research in the Celtic languages, with a particular focus on Scottish Gaelic. We play a leading role in relation to language planning and maintenance, particularly for Scottish Gaelic.

The department also includes 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 and publications including the series Scottish Life and Society: A compendium of Scottish ethnology.

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.

Research excellence

In the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), our research in Celtic and Scottish Studies was submitted in Modern Languages and Linguistics (Panel D - Arts and Humanities; Unit of Assessment 26).

The results reaffirm Edinburgh’s position as one of the UK’s leading research universities - third in the UK.

As published in Times Higher Education's REF power ratings, this result is based on the quality and breadth of our research in the unit of assessment.

Join our community and undertake a specialised research project under the guidance of experienced and well-published supervisors.

Celtic studies

Our Celtic studies expertise covers:

  • Gaelic language and culture in the diaspora
  • Gaelic linguistics, historical and contemporary dialectology, and language technology
  • Gaelic folklore
  • Irish and Scottish Gaelic manuscript culture
  • Medieval Gaelic religious culture
  • Old Irish and Middle Welsh language, literature, and culture
  • Scottish Gaelic and Modern Irish language, literature, and culture
  • Sociolinguistics and language policy of Celtic languages
  • The 'Celtic Revival' in Scotland

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

Scottish studies and ethnology

Our Scottish studies and ethnology expertise covers:

  • custom and belief
  • digital folkloristics
  • ethnological fieldwork methods
  • Gaelic and Scottish language and culture in the diaspora
  • heritage studies
  • material culture
  • oral narrative
  • place names
  • social organisation
  • song and instrumental music and performance

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

Interdisciplinary research

Working with colleagues elsewhere in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, and across the wider University, we are able to support PhD theses crossing boundaries between disciplines and/or languages.

Your thesis

Over the course of your PhD, you will be expected to complete an original body of work under the expert guidance of your supervisors leading to a dissertation of between 70,000 and 100,000 words.

You will be awarded your doctorate if your thesis is judged to be of an appropriate standard, and your research makes a definite contribution to knowledge.

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. In the first episode of Series 2, host Emma Aviet talks to Wilson McLeod, Emeritus Professor of Gaelic, about diversity, technology and more.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDCeltic and Scottish Studies3 YearsFull-timeProgramme structure 2024/25
PhDCeltic and Scottish Studies6 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2024/25

This programme includes access to training on research skills, methods, and problems, while working with your supervisor to consider specific research methodologies in Celtic Studies and Scottish Studies 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 reading medieval manuscripts, using material from the School of Studies Archives’ extensive collections, or in handling electronically stored data.

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

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

Part of a community

As part of our research community, you will be immersed in a world of knowledge exchange, with plentiful 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 Celtic and Scottish Studies (O'Donnell Lecture; Alan Bruford Lecture; John MacLeod Memorial Lecture)
  • performances and traditional music sessions, coordinated by our In-Residence colleagues (Gaelic Writer and Traditional Artist)
  • a range of conferences, including a colloquium series with Scandinavian Studies, 'Thinking About Mythology in the 21st Century'
  • dedicated Gaelic language officer
  • active student Celtic Society (Comann Ceilteach)

Our graduates tell us that they value the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures' (LLC) friendliness, the connections they make here and the in-depth guidance they receive from our staff, who are widely published authorities in their fields.

Our research resources and facilities are outstanding. Our research community has access to a wide range of specialist materials, from medieval to modern, in a variety of media.

We are ideally placed to explore the theory and practice of working with archives, drawing extensively on an unrivalled range of sound, video, film, and photographic resources in the School of Scottish Studies Archives.

As a postgraduate researcher, you will also have access to the University's many collections, including of rare books and manuscripts, such as the Carmichael-Watson Collection, the Donald MacKinnon Collection, and the David Laing Collection.


We are founding members of the Gaelic Algorithmic Research Group and Faclair na Gàidhlig, a collaborative project to publish a historical dictionary of Scottish Gaelic.

We are also home to the European Ethnological Research Centre, which has led the Regional Ethnology of Scotland Project since 2011 and publishes the multi-volume Scottish Life and Society: A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology.

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

We work closely with Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the national Gaelic development agency, of which Professor Rob Dunbar is a Board Member (2023 to 2027). Rob also sits on the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages - the only treaty in the world designed to protect and promote regional and minority languages and to enable speakers to use them both in private and public life.

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 and a masters degree, or their international equivalents, in a related subject. We may also consider your application if you have equivalent qualifications or experience; please check with the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) 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:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDCeltic and Scottish Studies3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDCeltic and Scottish Studies6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

There are a number of scholarship schemes available to eligible candidates on this PhD programme, including awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Please be advised that many scholarships have more than one application stage, and early deadlines.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH
Programme start dates Application deadlines
9 September 2024 30 June 2024
6 January 2025 31 October 2024

We strongly recommend you submit your completed application as early as possible, particularly if you are also applying for funding or will require a visa. We may consider late applications if we have places available.

You must submit two references with your application.

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

For a PhD 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 or masters degree)
  • a research proposal - a detailed description of what you hope to achieve and how

You will also need to supply two references.

Before you apply, you should also 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