2022 entry

MA English Literature

UCAS code: Q306

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA English Literature

This programme aims to develop your analytic, linguistic and creative skills by engaging with a broad range of texts and a variety of approaches to reading.

By enhancing your unique literary and critical skills, studying English Literature prepares you to contribute to a society in which an understanding of texts of all kinds is crucially important.

You will explore the cultural contexts of writing in English from the late middle-ages to the present.

You will also study research-led courses selected on the basis of your own interests, developing a detailed knowledge of specific topics, periods or genres.

Why Edinburgh

We are the oldest department of English Literature in the UK, and one of the longest established in the world.

Edinburgh is the first UNESCO World City of Literature, a fantastic literary city which many greats of English and Scottish literature have called home.

One of the most attractive characteristics of this programme is its flexibility.

In Years 1 and 2, you will choose option courses from a broad list of disciplines in addition to your core subject of English Literature. This may enable you to change the focus of your programme in your honours years (Year 3 and 4).

Year 1

You will take two Literary Studies courses. These will introduce you to the essential skills needed for the critical close reading of the core literary genres of:

  • poetry
  • drama
  • prose

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.

Option courses

You will also choose from a wide range of option courses.

These include, but are not limited to, courses in:

  • business
  • politics
  • social policy
  • economics
  • history
  • classics
  • archaeology
  • philosophy
  • linguistics
  • modern languages and cultures

Year 2

You will be introduced to the study of English literature in its cultural and historical contexts, focusing on a selection of major periods.

These courses will explore the relationship between literary texts and the construction of national, international and imperial cultures.

Option courses

As in Year 1, you will choose from a range of option courses.

Year 3

You can start to specialise, and choose courses that explore different periods, topics and approaches according to your area of interest.

Year 4

You will choose further courses according to your area of interest and write an independent dissertation.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2021/22)

Our facilities

Teaching takes place in and around the University of Edinburgh's Central Area.

We have excellent computing and audiovisual resources, support services and social spaces, including many in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures.

Events and activities

With multiple student societies for literature and drama enthusiasts, our large English Literature community has lots to offer, including:

  • reading and writers' groups
  • poetry slams
  • creative writing magazines
  • guest seminars
  • a thriving Peer-Assisted Learning Scheme (LitPALS)
  • a fantastic Writer-in-Residence

Annual student writing prizes include awards for prose and verse.

Literature in the city

Edinburgh is a world-leading festival city, the first UNESCO World City of Literature and home of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Outstanding libraries, collections and literary venues include the:

  • National Library of Scotland
  • Scottish Poetry Library
  • Writers' Museum
  • Scottish Storytelling Centre

Study abroad

There are opportunities to study abroad in Year 3 through the University’s international exchange programme.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

Courses are taught through a combination of:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars

You will also be expected to undertake substantial reading each week in preparation for classes.

How will I be assessed?

Your progress will be assessed through:

  • close reading exercises
  • essays
  • assignments
  • exams

You will receive prompt feedback on all your coursework to help you improve as you progress.

The skills you will develop on our programmes, including the ability to think critically and work independently and to deadline, are essential in many careers.

We have great links with the Careers Service. Throughout your time with us, we will encourage you to identify and hone your skills, including through initiatives such as Life After Lit, which allow you to draw inspiration from our graduates.

Many of our graduates have gone on to work in:

  • publishing
  • advertising
  • arts and events management
  • the creative industries
  • teaching
  • the media

Some have used their transferable skills to pursue careers in finance and business. Others have moved into creative writing, which we teach as an option throughout the undergraduate years, supported by our Writer-in-Residence.

Further study

There are also opportunities to continue studying at postgraduate level, with the honours years in particular developing the research skills you’ll need if you choose this path.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AAAAA-AAAA (achievement by end of S5 preferred). BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S5.
  • A Levels: A*AA - ABB.
  • IB: 43 points with 776 at HL - 34 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S5.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: English at B.
  • A Levels: English Literature or combined English at B.
  • IB: HL: English at 5.

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

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


For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • SQA Standard Grade at 3
  • SQA Intermediate 1 at A
  • SQA Intermediate 2 at C
  • GCSE/IGSCE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate Grade C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

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

  • IELTS Academic module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition) 92 or above with 20 in each section. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components.

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

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

English language requirements

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for MA English Literature

Additional costs

There may be additional costs if you choose to study abroad in Year 3.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding