2024 entry
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

MA Philosophy and English Literature

UCAS code: VQ53

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Philosophy and English Literature

Philosophy

Philosophy has been at the core of Western intellectual life for at least 2,500 years. It is central to our understanding of the world, our place in it and our interaction with it.

Philosophy provides the tools by which the presuppositions of all areas of intellectual and practical activity may be systematically and critically examined.

While there are different approaches that philosophers have taken, the study of philosophy emphasises the use of:

  • argument
  • critical enquiry
  • rigour in reasoning
  • clarity of expression, including the making of pertinent distinctions

Philosophy at Edinburgh

The University has a strong historic connection to the subject, counting Adam Ferguson and Sir William Hamilton among its former students.

Edinburgh has one of the UK’s largest philosophy departments and the Philosophy Society attracts high-profile speakers.

English Literature

Based in the first UNESCO World City of Literature, you will study in the oldest department of English Literature in the UK and one of the longest-established in the world.

You will develop the critical, analytic, linguistic and creative skills needed for the close reading and discussion of poetry, drama and prose.

You will engage with:

  • a broad range of texts, written in English, from around the world
  • a variety of approaches to reading
  • the cultural contexts of all major periods of English literature from the late Middle Ages to the present

At honours level, you will select courses on the basis of your own interests in specific literary topics, periods or genres.

Studying Philosophy and English Literature

This joint programme allows you to gain an in-depth knowledge in both subject areas. It also offers you the opportunity to specialise in the topics that interest you most.

Combining literature with philosophy shows an openness to ideas and perspectives other than your own, an essential attribute in many careers and a global marketplace.

Year 1

Philosophy

In Years 1 and 2, you will take a range of courses that introduce you to a variety of the main areas of philosophy. This will include courses in some or all of the following areas:

  • Epistemology
  • Ethics
  • History of Philosophy
  • Logic
  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of Language
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Philosophy of Science

English Literature

You will take two ‘Literary Studies’ courses which 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

In addition, you will be able to choose from a wide range of option courses.

Year 2

Philosophy

You will continue to take courses in some or all of the main areas of philosophy listed above.

English Literature

You will be introduced to the study of English literature in its cultural and historical contexts via a survey of literature from the late Medieval period to the mid-Twentieth Century.

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

Option courses

You can also choose to take courses in other subjects, such as sociology and politics, that cover topics related to philosophy or literature.

Alternatively, you can opt to learn a language that will allow you to access primary texts from around the world. We offer one of the widest range of languages of any UK university - the majority are suitable for complete beginners and include cultural study.

Year 3

You will start to specialise. You can choose from a range of courses linked to our areas of expertise.

Philosophy

In philosophy, these cover topics related to major areas of the subject and could include:

  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Metaphysics
  • Political Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Language
  • Ancient Philosophy

English Literature

You can choose honours-level courses that explore different literary periods, topics and approaches according to your area of interest and our staff expertise.

These courses will help you prepare if you choose to do your dissertation in English Literature in Year 4.

Year 4

You will choose another four to six courses from a wide variety of available courses.

You will also complete either:

  • an independent dissertation on a philosophy or English literature topic of your choice

Or

  • a coursework dissertation through two extended essays in philosophy

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.

Take a virtual tour of the Central Area

Libraries and collections

The University holds many literary treasures in its extensive collections. These include a truly exceptional collection of early Shakespeare quartos and other early modern printed plays, and the Corson Collection of works by and about Sir Walter Scott.

Modern literature and poetry are particularly well represented, with the W.H. Auden collection and the libraries of Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Hugh MacDiarmid and Norman MacCaig.

Philosophy has been taught at the University since its foundation in 1583. Our collections and library holdings in the subject are extensive.

Centres for research, teaching and outreach

The University of Edinburgh is the Scottish base of The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle, Duke-Edinburgh edition, one of the major editorial projects in Victorian studies of the last half-century.

The School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) is home to the SWINC project and network, which promotes awareness of the richness and diversity of Scottish writing and culture in the 19th century.

Together with the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, LLC has been developing strengths in the Digital Humanities. For example, it has led both phases of LitLong, a digital transformation project to interactively map the ways in which Edinburgh has been used as a literary setting over the course of five centuries.

Events and activities

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

Founded in 1871, Edinburgh PhilSoc is the University's oldest continuously-running student society and is the largest and most active philosophy society in the UK.

EUSA also supports LitPALS, the Peer-Assisted Learning Scheme for English Literature, where students across year groups help each other with specific study skills, topics or themes.

Across the University, there a lots of opportunities to get involved in:

  • reading and writers' groups
  • poetry slams
  • creative writing and publishing
  • student theatre

We also have a fantastic Writer-in-Residence who organises talks and workshops by visiting writers and runs our annual writing prizes. Their drop-in sessions give you the chance to:

  • share your work
  • get feedback
  • meet other student writers
  • get inspiration and prompts for new work

In the city

A UNESCO World City of Literature, Edinburgh is a remarkable place to study, write, publish, discuss and perform prose, poetry and drama.

The city's resources for studying literature are exceptional. Many of them are located close to the University's Central Area, making them easy to access between classes.

In addition to a fantastic range of publishing houses, bookshops, theatres, and cinemas, you will study near the:

  • National Library of Scotland
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • Edinburgh Central Library
  • Scottish Poetry Library
  • Scottish Storytelling Centre
  • Writers’ Museum

We have strong links with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which annually welcomes around 1,000 authors to our literary city.

Study abroad

There are opportunities to study abroad in Year 3 through international exchange programmes.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

Courses are taught through a combination of:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • tutorials

In Years 1 and 2, Philosophy courses are taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials.

In Years 3 and 4, Philosophy courses are taught through a mixture of seminars and tutorials.

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

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a combination of:

  • coursework
  • exams
  • final assessments

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

In Year 4, you will also complete either:

  • an independent dissertation on a topic of your choice in either philosophy or english literature

Or

  • a coursework dissertation through two extended essays

Skills and experience

Beyond the literary, analytical and critical thinking skills you will gain on this programme, graduating with a four-year Master of Arts degree from the University of Edinburgh shows intellectual maturity, resilience, and flexibility.

As a graduate, you will be able to demonstrate to employers that you can:

  • understand, analyse and articulate complex issues and concepts
  • meet deadlines on different types of project, both independently and as part of a group

Opportunities across sectors

During your time with us, you will study a range of subjects, with the option to take courses in languages and other areas of the humanities and social sciences.

As you progress through your honours years (Years 3 and 4), you will specialise in selected literary and philosophical topics, periods or genres.

This breadth of education gives you the foundations to excel in a range of career sectors, especially those that value transferable humanities skills.

Our alumni have gone on to careers in the private, public, not-for-profit, and for-benefit sectors, sometimes through graduate training schemes where the ability to communicate well is essential in securing a competitive place.

Typical sectors include:

  • business, finance and commerce
  • communications, marketing, advertising and public relations
  • creative writing, publishing, culture, heritage, and the arts
  • education, outreach, advocacy and training
  • journalism, broadcasting and media
  • leisure, tourism and travel
  • politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
  • research, development and venture acceleration

Further study

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

At the University of Edinburgh, we typically offer:

  • taught and research-led MSc degrees in English Literature and Philosophy
  • MSc degrees in Playwriting, Creative Writing and Mind, Language and Embodied Cognition
  • interdisciplinary MSc programmes in Comparative Literature and Intermediality

Careers advice

We have an excellent Careers Service.

Throughout your time with us, we will encourage you to identify and hone your employability skills, including through peer initiatives where you can draw inspiration from our graduates.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AAAAA (achievement by end of S5 preferred). BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: AAA.
  • IB: 37 points with 666 at HL - 36 points with 665 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: 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

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 Philosophy and English Literature

Additional costs

None.

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