Undergraduate study - 2025 entry
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

MA Celtic and English Language

UCAS code: QQ53

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Celtic and English Language

Leugh an duilleag seo sa Gàidhlig

Study Celtic and English Language at the University of Edinburgh and you will learn about extraordinarily rich cultures, from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Our joint honours programme gives you the opportunity to study the languages, literatures and cultures of the Celtic world while exploring how English has evolved over time.

Combining the study of how language works with linguistic and literary tradition demonstrates that you are a good communicator, and someone open to other cultures and new ideas.

When you graduate, you will have the combination of broad cultural education and specialist knowledge valued by employers worldwide.

Celtic

At all levels of study on this four-year 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.

English Language

The English language has a well-recorded history of more than 1,000 years, and its changes can be traced through written materials ranging from medieval manuscripts to text messages, and more recently, through recordings of spoken English.

Your studies will develop your knowledge and understanding of:

  • the principles of theoretical linguistics
  • the way we learn language
  • the regional and social variations of language, particularly the English language
  • methods of communication

As part of the programme, you can opt to study the Scots language, which has its own rich linguistic and literary tradition.

English Language courses of particular interest to students of Celtic cover:

  • the speech sounds of the world's languages
  • variation in the languages of the world

Why Edinburgh

Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh has a long-established Gaelic community and a lively contemporary cultural scene. Its collections are outstanding, as are the University's own resources for the study of Celtic and English Language.

Our programme is extremely flexible. In Years 1 and 2, in addition to Celtic and English Language, you will choose option courses from a wide range of disciplines. You will then specialise as you progress through your honours years.

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 English Language.

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 is made up of two courses: Celtic Civilisation 1A and 1B. Together, they seek to place the Celtic languages of the past and present into wider historical and contemporary context.

On these courses, 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.

English Language

You will take two semester-long introductory courses in English Language:

  • Linguistics and English Language 1A - this offers a brief introduction to the study of language in general and of English in particular

  • Linguistics and English Language 1B - this will help you develop the tools and knowledge needed to investigate the different subsystems of language

Option courses

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

You can, for example, opt to study a European, Asian or Middle Eastern 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

In Year 2 of Celtic, you can choose between continuing to study the Gaelic language, or 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.

English Language

You will study linguistic theory, and take a course covering one of the following topics:

  • the structure and history of world languages
  • variation in English over time and across geographical space

Option courses

As in Year 1, you will also choose from a wide range of option courses offered by the University. You can opt to continue studying a subject you took in Year 1, or choose to do something completely different.

Year 3

In Year 3, you may have the opportunity to spend the year studying abroad through the University's international exchange programme. There are also shorter term and virtual opportunities to study or work abroad throughout the four years, including over the summer months.

What are my options for going abroad?

Year 4

This is the second of your honours years, when you will continue to specialise in the aspects of your subjects which interest you most.

You will choose further specialist, honours-level courses from either the modern or medieval side of the Celtic programme, and from English Language.

You will also complete your dissertation, which can be in either Celtic (medieval or modern) or English Language.

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 (2024/25)

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 lab, 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, collections and specialist equipment

Our resources for the study of Celtic are outstanding. They are largely held over three sites clustered 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:

  • 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

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.

The University's linguistics and phonetics equipment ranks among the best in the world. It includes:

  • recording studios
  • a perception experiment laboratory
  • an eye tracking laboratory

Centres for research, teaching and outreach

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 also founding members of Faclair na Gàidhlig, a collaborative project to publish a historical dictionary of the language.

Read our feature on what Automatic Speech Recognition means for the future of Scotland’s Gaelic language

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.

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. LingSoc is the Linguistics and English Language 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.

Read an interview with Martin MacIntyre, the University’s Gaelic writer in residence

In the city

Edinburgh is a world-leading festival city filled with cinemas, theatres, galleries, libraries and collections. Its resources for studying Celtic and English Language 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 of Scotland
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • Scottish Poetry Library
  • Scottish Storytelling Centre

The city has 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 have opportunities to study abroad through the University's international exchange programme.

What are my options for going abroad?

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

From Year 2 onwards, you will do some independent practical work for English Language.

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

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.

If you choose to study Gaelic, 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 staff and other staff members 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).

The PPLS Skills Centre primarily provides support with writing essays and dissertations, but also offers appointments on programming, data collection, and statistical analysis.

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

If studying Scottish Gaelic, your exams will include oral exams to test your spoken language skills.

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

Skills and experience

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 include the ability to:

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

In addition to these qualities, graduating in Celtic and English Language indicates that you have a nuanced understanding of other cultures and societies and how they shape our world. This gives you the Intercultural Competence that is so valued by employers internationally.

Local and global opportunities

Thanks to an ever-broadening international reach, Celtic 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.

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
  • speech and language therapy (with additional training)

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
  • translating and interpreting

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 English Language and Celtic and Scottish Studies.

We also typically offer taught MSc programmes in English Language and Applied Linguistics.

These programmes are a good foundation for a PhD, but are equally of value as stand-alone qualifications.

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.

Be inspired by our alumni

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. National 5s: English at C and a language other than English at B.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4 and a language other than English at B or 6.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at 5 and a language other than English at 5.

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.We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • 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 65 with at least 54 in each component. We do not accept 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

(*Revised 24 May 2024 to change PTE Academic requirement from total 62 with at least 54 in each component, and to clarify that we do not accept PTE Academic online.)

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 English Language

Additional costs

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

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