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MA Celtic and Scandinavian Studies

UCAS code: QR56

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Celtic and Scandinavian Studies

Leugh an duilleag seo sa Gàidhlig

There has long been a strong Scandinavian influence on the Celtic world.

This unique joint honours programme gives you the opportunity to study the languages, literatures, histories and cultures of the Celtic and Scandinavian countries.

You will gain advanced skills in one or more languages while learning about extremely rich cultures, from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. You will spend Year 3 studying or working in either Denmark, Norway or Sweden.

Our courses explore contemporary issues such as language policy and revitalisation, (post-)colonialism, and migration. You do not need prior knowledge of any of the languages to study on this programme.

Celtic

At all levels of study on this four-year, joint honours programme, we offer courses in the languages, literatures, histories, and cultures of the Celtic world.

You have the option to study Scottish Gaelic and build up to advanced competency in the language.

A choice of pathways through the programme enables you to develop your own interests in particular areas, periods and disciplines of Celtic studies.

Our expertise covers:

  • Scottish Gaelic from the late Middle Ages to the present, including language policy and revitalisation
  • the medieval literary tradition in Early Irish and Medieval Welsh - the most extensive in the whole of Europe
  • the rich oral tradition recorded from the 18th century to the present day
  • poetry from the 18th century golden age of Gaelic literature
  • 19th and 20th century responses to the rapid social, cultural, and linguistic changes in countries where the Celtic languages are spoken
  • the writing, song, and media production emerging from the lively and varied contemporary cultural scene in Gaelic Scotland, Ireland, and Wales

Celtic language study

If you choose to study Scottish Gaelic, it does not matter if you are a complete beginner; we stream our Year 1 classes to suit all levels of prior knowledge or none.

You can also learn a medieval Celtic language at honours level (Years 3 and 4). Both Old Irish and Middle Welsh are available. For this path, you will study Celtic civilisation and literature in Years 1 and 2, with texts presented in English translation.

Scandinavian Studies

Scandinavia's screen and literary cultures attract global critical acclaim, and the socio-economic concept of the Nordic Model is widely studied.

On our programme, you have the opportunity to develop advanced spoken and written language skills in modern Danish, Norwegian or Swedish while exploring Scandinavian culture, past and present.

While you will specialise in one Scandinavian language, you will also gain an understanding of the other two we teach to degree level. In Year Two, for example, you can choose to explore the similarities and differences between Danish, Swedish and Norwegian.

Why Edinburgh

Edinburgh is the only university in Scotland, and one of only two in the UK, to offer undergraduate programmes with joint honours in Scandinavian Studies.

As well as being distinctive in our subject offering, we are also unique in Scotland in integrating a full academic year abroad into the four-year honours programme, regardless of whether you spend the year studying or working.

We are the proud home of the Northern Scholars programme which fosters co-operation between the Nordic and Baltic countries and Scotland.

Our flexible programme gives you the blend of specialist skills and broad Intercultural Competence valued by graduate employers around the globe.

Studying Celtic allows me to better understand and appreciate Edinburgh; it provides a special experience to my time here in Scotland and at the University. Even those modules that seem far removed, such as studying the Medieval Celtic languages (as I have), help students to understand the nuances and importance of the individual identities behind the Celtic nations.

  • Jessica, Year 4, Celtic and Scandinavian Studies MA (Hons)

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

In Years 1 and 2, your pre-honours years, you will choose option courses from a wide range of disciplines in addition to your core subjects of Celtic and Scandinavian Studies.

As well as broadening your education and skill set, this may enable you to change the focus of your programme in Years 3 and 4, your honours years.

Year 1

Celtic

In Year 1 of your Celtic studies, you can choose between studying the Scottish Gaelic language and Celtic Civilisation.

Language pathway

If you take the language pathway, your course will be determined by how much Scottish Gaelic you already know.

If you have no previous knowledge, you will gain confidence in written and spoken Scottish Gaelic by taking our Gaelic 1A course.

If you are an advanced speaker, our Gaelic 1B course will develop your language skills and deepen your experience of Scottish Gaelic literature.

Civilisations pathway

The civilisations pathway (our Celtic Civilisation 1A and 1B courses) seeks to place the Celtic languages of the past and present into wider historical and contemporary context.

You will consider the impact of modern Celticness on how the past has been understood and will be introduced to Celtic Studies in the medieval and modern periods.

There is also the opportunity to combine the study of Celtic Civilisation with our basic language learning course, Introduction to Gaelic Language and Culture.

Scandinavian Studies

You will take an intensive beginners' language course in either Danish, Norwegian or Swedish. You will develop your spoken and written language skills, and study aspects of literature and culture.

Over the course of Years 1 and 2, you will be also encouraged to take one, or both, of two courses in Scandinavian Civilisation. These provide an overview of important trends in the history, society, culture and politics of the Scandinavian and wider Nordic world, from the earliest times to the present.

Option courses

You will complete your Year 1 studies with option courses chosen from a wide range offered by the University of Edinburgh.

You can, for example, opt to study another language. We offer one of the widest ranges of languages of any UK university. The majority are suitable for complete beginners and include cultural study.

Other options include, but are not limited to, courses in:

  • linguistics and language sciences
  • Scottish ethnology
  • business, economics and informatics
  • politics, social policy and social anthropology
  • art and architectural history
  • history, classics and archaeology
  • philosophy, divinity and law

Year 2

Celtic

You can choose between continuing to study the Gaelic language, and studying Celtic Literatures.

If you take the language pathway, you will refine your language skills and learn about linguistic structure. You will also learn more about Scottish Gaelic culture and literature, exploring verse and prose.

If you take the literature pathway, you will gain an overview of key literary genres and texts from Gaelic Scotland, Ireland and Wales from the early medieval period to the present. Texts are presented in English translation.

Scandinavian Studies

You will continue with Danish Language 2, Norwegian Language 2 or Swedish Language 2, building on your linguistic knowledge from Year 1.

You will move on to using more complex grammar, fine-tuning your pronunciation and building on your vocabulary so that you feel confident in expressing yourself on your Year Abroad in Year 3.

You will also take further courses in Scandinavian literature and languages. You can, for example, choose to develop your skills in understanding the similarities and differences between Danish, Norwegian and Swedish.

Option courses

As in Year 1, you will also choose from a range of option courses offered by the University.

These option courses include a great selection in European languages and cultures that explore literature, film and theatre in themed and comparative contexts.

Typical options include:

  • Cultural Responses to War
  • Migration, Exile, Diaspora
  • Crime and Detection in Literature
  • Gender and Culture
  • The Coming-of-Age Narrative
  • Introduction to European Cinema
  • Dynamics of Language and Power
  • Languages Beyond University

You will also typically have the opportunity to study either or both of our Scandinavian Civilisation courses, if you haven't already done so in Year 1.

Year 3

International travel restrictions permitting, you will spend your third year in Denmark, Norway or Sweden, either studying or completing a work/teaching placement.

Whether studying or working, our graduates have told us how much the year abroad has benefited their broader life experience and skills.

During your year abroad, we will aim to make sure your experience is as beneficial as possible to your final year, as well as to your wider language learning, cultural awareness and skills development.

While away, you will complete prescribed assessments in both Scandinavian Studies and Celtic. For example, for Scandinavian Studies, you will take an e-learning language course which will count as part of your third year mark and prepare you for your final year courses in Danish, Norwegian or Swedish.

If international travel is not possible, you will be offered an alternative way of engaging with your subjects, allowing you to meet your learning outcomes and preparing you for your final year.

Year 4

You will develop your advanced language skills in Danish, Norwegian or Swedish. Core courses cover:

  • written language skills, including essay, commentary and summary writing
  • translating fiction and non-fiction from your chosen Scandinavian language into English
  • spoken language skills, including in understanding register and style

You will also choose specialist, honours-level courses in both Celtic and Scandinavian Studies, and complete a dissertation or long essay.

Celtic

Modern courses explore literary, cultural, and historical aspects of Gaelic Scotland and Ireland (such as linguistics and sociolinguistics) from around 1600 to the present day.

If taking advanced courses in Scottish Gaelic, you will learn to talk and write confidently in the language about a variety of topics including current affairs and cultural issues using appropriate vocabulary, grammar and idiom.

Medieval courses introduce the Early Irish and Medieval Welsh languages and develop your study of literature, history and culture.

Scandinavian Studies

Courses focus on Scandinavian cultural topics from the medieval to the modern.

They typically include:

  • Old Norse Literature and Society
  • Viking Studies
  • Nynorsk

  • Scandinavia and the World: Negotiating the North in the 21st Century

  • Contemporary Scandinavian Literature: A Transnational Approach
  • History of the Scandinavian Novel

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 (2023/24)

Our facilities

On campus

When you are on campus, you can expect to spend most of your time in the University of Edinburgh's Central Area - in class, in the library, or in one of the University’s many social and support spaces.

The Central Area is located on the edge of Edinburgh's historic Old Town, surrounded by lots of green space.

Libraries and collections

Our resources for the study of Celtic and Scandinavian Studies are outstanding. They are largely held over three sites located around George Square in the University's Central Area:

  • The Main University Library and its Centre for Research Collections
  • The School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) and its Celtic Class Library
  • The School of Scottish Studies Archives and its Scottish Studies Library

Across these sites, you will find:

  • academic books, journals and databases, including around 7,500 titles in Swedish, 5,400 in Danish, and 3,600 in Norwegian
  • more than 400,000 rare books
  • six kilometres of archives and manuscripts
  • 33,000 recordings of songs, music, stories, rhyme and verse in Scots, Gaelic and English, as well as in dialects now extinct
  • thousands of works of art, historical musical instruments and other objects
  • thousands of photographs and rarely-seen historic documents which capture exceptional and everyday aspects of Scottish culture and heritage
  • films, newspapers and other media

Highlights for the study of Celtic include:

  • the Carmichael-Watson Collection
  • the Donald MacKinnon Collection
  • the David Laing Collection

Many of the University's Special Collections are digitised and available online from our excellent Resource Centre, computing labs and dedicated study spaces in LLC.

Centres for research, teaching and outreach

We are founding members of Soillse, the National Research Network for the Maintenance and Revitalisation of Gaelic Language and Culture, and of Faclair na Gàidhlig, a collaborative project to publish a historical dictionary of Scottish Gaelic.

Through the Gaelic Algorithmic Research Group (GARG), an international team researching modern technologies for Gaelic, we have led the development of the world’s first working Automatic Speech Recognition system for Scottish Gaelic.

We are proud to host the Northern Scholars programme which fosters co-operation between scholars of the Nordic countries, the Baltic countries and Scotland, largely through events such as:

  • public lectures
  • workshops
  • the involvement of visiting guests in teaching and learning activities
Events and activities

The Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) supports more than 300 student-led societies and clubs, and promotes opportunities with local charities through its volunteering centre.

An Comunn Ceilteach (The Highland Society) is the University’s oldest student society and organises the city’s largest annual cèilidh. There is also a Scandinavian Society.

Passionate about music, literature, song and storytelling, we regularly hold events for staff, students and visiting guests to speak, perform or present research.

We also have a Traditional Artist and Gaelic Writer in Residence, a composer/musician and a writer who work with staff and students on a range of projects and performances.

If you love to write, our online creative writing magazine Babble is the place to publish your:

  • prose
  • poetry
  • drama
  • non-fiction

Babble goes out twice a year and includes work written in Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and six other European languages. You can get involved in the editorial committee, and launch nights typically include readings and performances.

In the city

Edinburgh is a world-leading festival city filled with cinemas, theatres, galleries, libraries and collections.

Many national collections are located close to the University's Central Area, making them easy to access between classes. Highlights include the National Library and National Museum of Scotland, where links between Scandinavia and Scotland are evident in important artefacts such as the Lewis Chess Pieces, likely made in medieval Norway.

The city has excellent links with the Nordic nations, a long-established Gaelic community and a lively contemporary cultural scene. For example, there are conversation groups for practicing Gaelic socially, fèisean for performers, and an annual festival, Seachdain na Gàidhlig.

Study abroad

If international travel restrictions allow, you will spend Year 3 abroad (a minimum of 30 weeks), in a Scandinavian country. This is your chance to immerse yourself in the culture of Norway, Sweden or Denmark, and to develop your broader life experience and skills towards life after university.

How will I learn?

University is a place to plan your own goals under expert guidance, study independently and in groups, and reflect upon your learning throughout your degree.

Our approach to learning and teaching is active, inclusive and question driven, so it may be different to your experiences at school. It will help you gain the skills for life after university, and we will guide you through the steps from one phase to the next.

Depending on the size of your year group, and which option courses you take, your classes will typically fall into three categories:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars

In addition to these classes, and to get the most out of your courses, you will need to read widely.

We make extensive use of our audio and visual resources, and you will also be encouraged to use online materials.

Lectures

Lectures are taken by all students on a course, typically at the same time. They are delivered as interactive presentations which may involve audio-visual material.

Lectures are given by an experienced academic. They are designed to guide you through the background, questions and debates related to the topic you are studying.

Tutorials

Tutorial groups are smaller. They are also led by an academic, but here the emphasis is more on what you think about the topic yourself. So, tutorials are your chance to discuss and expand upon what you have learned in a lecture.

Language tutorials give you the opportunity to develop your linguistic skills in a range of real-world tasks under the supervision of an experienced language teacher.

These classes typically cover skills such as reading, writing, listening and speaking – all of which involve learning and applying grammar.

Seminars

Seminars blend features of lectures and tutorials. Again, they are designed to encourage and enable your active participation in learning.

On some courses, you will have seminars instead of lectures, especially in your honours years (Years 3 and 4).

Support

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 (IAD).

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a combination of coursework and exams.

Coursework is generally completed throughout the year, while exams take place at the end of a teaching block.

Coursework may take a range of forms to give you the opportunity to practice different skills. For example, you may be asked to:

  • write an essay, review, blog post, opinion piece or learning journal
  • respond to a piece of writing, film, or other media, including through close reading
  • give a short talk or presentation
  • record a podcast or video
  • design a poster or presentation

Exams will include oral exams to test your spoken language skills.

Depending on where you go and what you do on your Year Abroad, Year 3 may include being assessed, in part, by a host university.

In your final year, you will also complete a dissertation or long essay.

Skills and experience

Studying languages and cultures to degree level demonstrates that you are a good communicator, and someone open to other cultures and new ideas – what employers value as Intercultural Competence.

Beyond the language skills you will develop on this programme, and the nuanced understanding you will gain of diverse cultures and societies, graduating with a four-year Master of Arts degree from the University of Edinburgh shows intellectual maturity, resilience, and flexibility.

The skills you will be able to demonstrate to employers when you graduate include the ability to:

  • understand, analyse and articulate complex issues and concepts
  • manage your time to meet deadlines on different types of project
  • work independently and as part of a group

Opportunities at home and away

Thanks to an ever-broadening international reach, Celtic and Scandinavian languages, literatures and cultures have a steady stream of enthusiastic new speakers and audiences.

In Scotland, particularly, developments such as the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, the creation of BBC Alba (the Gaelic digital television service), and the ongoing expansion of Gaelic-medium education have increased demand for highly-educated Gaelic speakers and specialists in Celtic culture.

As there are relatively few graduates from UK universities specialising in the Scandinavian languages, there are excellent opportunities for those who do learn Danish, Norwegian or Swedish.

Speakers of one Scandinavian language are widely understood in all Scandinavian countries and both Swedish and Danish are official working languages of the EU.

Employment prospects are particularly high within:

  • education, outreach, advocacy and training
  • journalism, broadcasting and media
  • politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
  • publishing, culture, heritage and the arts
  • translating and interpreting

In some areas, there are more Gaelic-related jobs than there are people qualified to fill them.

Your transferable humanities skills and Intercultural Competence will also set you apart in sectors such as:

  • business, finance and commerce
  • communications, marketing, advertising and public relations
  • leisure, tourism and travel
  • research, development and venture acceleration

Further study

The enhanced research skills that you develop on a four-year programme, particularly in your honours years, are valuable assets if you wish to continue studying at postgraduate level.

At the University of Edinburgh, we typically offer Masters by Research degrees in both Celtic and Scandinavian Studies. These programmes are good stepping stones to a PhD, but are equally of value as stand-alone qualifications.

Our interdisciplinary taught MSc programmes typically include:

  • Comparative Literature
  • Translation Studies
  • Creative Writing
  • Playwriting
  • Film, Exhibition and Curation
  • Intermediality

There are also MSc programmes in history, social anthropology, and many other disciplines in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Careers advice

Throughout your time with us, we will encourage you to identify and hone your employability skills.

LLC has a dedicated Careers Consultant within the University's excellent Careers Service.

Through our careers service you can:

  • book one-to-one appointments and practice interviews
  • access a range of online resources
  • attend themed fairs such as the Creative and Cultural Careers Festival

Popular peer support includes Life After LLC, a panel event where you can draw inspiration from our recent graduates.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or AABB/ABBBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 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-S6.
  • 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: no specific Higher subjects required. Applicants with Gaelic, or a language other than English, at B, preferred. National 5s: English at C and a language other than English at B (if not at Higher).
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. Applicants with a language other than English, at B, preferred. GCSEs: English at C or 4 and a language other than English at B or 6 (if not at A Level).
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. Applicants with a language other than English, at 5, preferred. SL: English at 5 and a language other than English at 5 (if not at HL).

Additional requirements

Language requirement

For degrees that have a subject requirement of a language other than English, students may not use their own native language to meet this requirement. In these instances, English or an alternative language other than native will be acceptable.

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

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.

SQA, GCSE and IB

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
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at 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: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 54 in each component.

(Revised 29 August 2023 to remove PTE Academic Online)

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

Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start of the month in which the degree you are applying to study begins. If you are using an IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE test, it must be no more than two years old on the first of the month in which the degree begins, regardless of your nationality.

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 Celtic and Scandinavian Studies

Additional costs

As long as international travel restrictions allow, you will spend Year 3 abroad. The costs you have to pay will depend on where you decide to go, and how you spend your time.

Some study placements at language schools may charge a fee, but we will normally refund you for tuition costs as long as your activity has been approved. You will be responsible for associated travel costs such as flights and visas.

Funding

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