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MA Scottish Ethnology and Scandinavian Studies

UCAS code: VR96

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Scottish Ethnology and Scandinavian Studies

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

This innovative joint honours programme gives you the chance to study neighbouring northern European nations which have taken differing routes to modernity, both socially and politically.

You will explore Scotland and Scandinavia through their literatures, languages and cultures.

Highlights of the programme include:

  • working with the rich range of materials in the School of Scottish Studies Archives
  • learning either Danish, Swedish or Norwegian
  • studying or working abroad in Year 3

Scottish Ethnology

Ethnology is the study of the culture and traditions of developed societies. It is sometimes described as being at the intersection where history and anthropology meet.

Focusing on Scotland, but also looking at comparative material from elsewhere, you will study the varying ways in which a modern European nation expresses itself culturally.

The programme explores questions like:

  • how do customs, beliefs, social organisation, language, music and song help to create and shape identity in the modern world?
  • how do we use and make sense of the past from within our present?
  • how can this understanding help us to shape our future?

Through the School of Scottish Studies Archives, you can access thousands of hours of recordings of songs, music, stories, rhyme and verse in Scots, Gaelic and English, as well as in dialects now extinct.

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.

You do not currently need to know a Scandinavian language, as courses are available for beginners. While you will specialise in one language, you will also gain an understanding of the other two we teach to degree level and can choose to explore their similarities and differences.

You will spend Year 3 in either Denmark, Norway or Sweden gaining lived experience of Scandinavian culture.

Develop skills for a range of careers

Both sides of this unique joint honours programme give you a nuanced understanding of culture and society, and how these shape our world.

Graduating in this combination shows an openness to ideas and perspectives other than your own, an essential attribute in many careers and a global marketplace.

Over the course of your four years with us, you will gain the practical and intellectual tools to handle and interpret traditional resources, modern media and digital data. You will also learn a language.

As our pre-honours years are very flexible, you will also gain intercultural competencies in other areas of the arts, humanities and social sciences.

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 Scottish Ethnology and Scandinavian Studies. You can, for example, take another language, or explore other world cultures.

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

Year 1

Scottish Ethnology

You will study courses on:

  • Conceptualising Scotland - an introduction to the study of culture, society and tradition in Scotland
  • Creating Scotland - an exploration of Scotland's topographical, social and cultural features and their influence on each other over time

In Conceptualising Scotland, you will deconstruct competing conceptions and images of the nation through:

  • heritage
  • literature
  • folklore
  • music and song
  • visual art
  • the popular media

You will also consider cultural representation’s political context, and the connections between culture and industry.

In Creating Scotland, you will gain an understanding of the diversity of Scotland's resources, the nature of its land and seascapes, the complexity of its settlement patterns, and its regional variety.

You will explore the ways in which experiences of family, community and work are manifested and expressed in different cultural forms. This involves training in appropriate academic sources and methods.

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, such as Scottish Gaelic. 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
  • Celtic civilisation
  • business, economics and informatics
  • politics, social policy and social anthropology
  • art and architectural history
  • history, classics and archaeology
  • philosophy, divinity and law

Year 2

Scottish Ethnology

You will study courses on:

  • Scotland and Orality - an ethnological approach to verbal expression using Scotland's rich song and oral narrative traditions
  • Visualising Scotland - a critical examination of the way Scotland has portrayed itself, and been portrayed by others, through visual media

In Scotland and Orality, you will be introduced to key concepts and theories relating to the performance and transmission of oral material. Case studies will involve songs, ballads, legends and folktales drawn from the School of Scottish Studies Archives.

In Visualising Scotland, you will develop a critical understanding of the contribution made by paintings, films, documentaries and other visual media to concepts like:

  • nationhood
  • identity
  • heritage
  • tradition
  • cultural difference

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 option courses from a wide range offered by the University of Edinburgh.

You will likely have the opportunity to study either or both of our Scandinavian Civilisation courses, if you have not already done so in Year 1.

Year 3

This is the first of your Honours years. It is also your Year Abroad. If international travel restrictions allow, you will spend 30 weeks studying or working in Denmark, Norway or Sweden.

Our graduates have told us how much the year abroad has benefited their broader life experience and skills, as well as their understanding of Scandinavian culture.

While away, you will undertake assessments in both Scandinavian Studies and Scottish Ethnology. For example, for Scandinavian Studies, you will take an e-learning language course which will count as part of your Year 3 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 means of engaging with your subjects, allowing you to meet your learning outcomes and preparing you for your final year.

Year 4

This is the second of your Honours years. You will take advanced language classes in:

  • essay, commentary and summary writing in Danish, Norwegian or Swedish
  • translation from the Scandinavian languages into English
  • spoken Danish, Norwegian or Swedish

Additionally, you will choose specialist, honours-level courses in both Scottish Ethnology and Scandinavian Studies.

Depending on staff research and other commitments, our options are usually the same in Years 3 and 4, which generally gives you more choice.

For Scottish Ethnology, courses to choose from typically include:

  • Ethnological Fieldwork Methods
  • Traditional Narrative
  • Traditional Song
  • Scotland and Heritage
  • Traditional Drama
  • Custom, Belief and Community
  • Scottish Emigrant Traditions
  • The Supernatural World
  • Material Culture in Scotland
  • Traditional Music

For Scandinavian Studies, 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

Building on all the knowledge and skills you have developed over four years, including in independent research, you will complete a dissertation or long essay.

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, in the School of Scottish Studies Archives, 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

One of the University's most notable collections is the School of Scottish Studies Archives, an extensive collection relating to the culture and tradition of Scotland.

The Archives contain thousands of hours of recordings of songs, music, stories, rhyme and verse in Scots, Gaelic and English, as well as in dialects now extinct. There are also photographs and rarely-seen historic documents which capture exceptional and everyday aspects of Scottish culture and heritage.

The Archive's extensive Scottish Studies Library holds important Scottish ethnological, wider ethnological and Celtic material.

You will have access to the University’s rare books and manuscripts, including:

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

The Main University Library holds academic books, journals and databases, films, newspapers and other media. Its holdings include around 7,500 titles in Swedish, 5,400 in Danish, and 3,600 in Norwegian.

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

Centres for research, teaching and outreach

We are home to the European Ethnological Research Centre, whose primary focus is the promotion of research into everyday life and society in Scotland. Ongoing since 2011, our Regional Ethnology of Scotland Project focuses on the role that individuals’ stories and memories play in shaping and understanding history.

We are currently working on Decoding Hidden Heritages, combining qualitative analysis with cutting-edge computational methodologies to decode, interpret and curate the hidden heritages of Gaelic traditional narrative. Leading a team of five international universities, we are funded by the UK–Ireland Collaboration in the Digital Humanities programme.

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.

We publish creative writing in nine European languages – including Norwegian, Swedish and Danish – in our online magazine, Babble. 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. Its resources for studying ethnology and cultures are exceptional.

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 stand-out artefacts such as the Lewis Chess Pieces, likely made in medieval Norway.

In addition to the summer and winter festivals, the city has a lively year-round contemporary cultural scene. From sessions in traditional bars, to events in the Scottish Poetry Library and Scottish Storytelling Centre, there is always something going on.

The city retains excellent links with the Nordic nations, and among its hidden treasures is the Swedish Viking Age runestone situated outside our building at 50 George Square.

Study abroad

If international travel restrictions allow, you will spend Year 3 (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, 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 ethnology with a language 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 joint honours programme, and the nuanced understanding you will gain of different cultures and societies, graduating with a four-year Master of Arts degree from the University of Edinburgh shows high-level intellectual strength 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

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.

Whether you stay in Scotland, move to Scandinavia, or go elsewhere in the world when you graduate, this degree will make you stand out.

Recent graduates have gone on to careers in:

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

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
  • 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 Scottish Ethnology and Scandinavian Studies, and interdisciplinary taught MSc programmes in:

  • Comparative Literature
  • Translation Studies
  • Film, Exhibition and Curation

Each of these programmes is a good stepping stone to a PhD, but is equally of value as a stand-alone qualification.

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 Scottish Ethnology and Scandinavian Studies

Additional costs

Fieldwork

Participation in fieldwork depends on your programme of study and the courses chosen. For example, if you choose to do your dissertation in Scottish Ethnology you may spend time on fieldwork and excursions.

Costs will vary according to the location.

However, if you prefer, you can select an archive- or library-based project that is unlikely to have any additional costs for this component of your programme.

Study Abroad

As long as international 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