MA English Language and Literature
UCAS code: Q300
Duration: 4 years
School: Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences
College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
Introducing MA English Language and Literature
Many of the world's most fascinating and influential literary works have been written in English. This programme offers you the opportunity to study the development of the English language alongside the literature of the English-speaking world in its cultural contexts.
You can also choose to study Scots language, which has its own rich linguistic and literary tradition.
The programme aims to develop your critical, analytic, linguistic, literary and creative skills by engaging with a broad range of texts and a variety of approaches to reading.
You will also deepen your understanding of:
- the principles of theoretical linguistics
- the way we learn language
- the regional and social variations of language in general (and of the English language in particular)
- methods of communication
In the second part of the programme, you will study research-led courses selected on the basis of your own interests. In English Literature, for example, this might be a topic or set of texts from a particular period between the late middle-ages and the present.
Edinburgh is the first UNESCO World City of Literature, a fantastic literary city which many greats of English literature have called home.
In English Language, you will take two semester-long introductory courses:
Linguistics and English Language 1A offers a brief introduction to the study of language in general and of English in particular.
- Linguistics and English Language 1B will help you develop the tools and knowledge needed to investigate the different subsystems of language in a systematic way.
In 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:
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.
In addition, you will choose from a range of option courses outside your primary subjects.
You will take two further semester-long courses in Linguistics and English Language. They look at:
- linguistic theory
- the structure and history of English
In your second year English Literature courses, you will be introduced to the study of English literature in its cultural and historical contexts, focusing on a selection of major periods.
These courses will explore the relationship between literary texts and the construction of national, international and imperial cultures.
As in Year 1, you will choose from a range of option courses outside your primary subjects.
You can start to specialise and choose the topics that interest you most. Advanced courses in English language available at this level typically include:
- English Historical Syntax
- Global Englishes
- Scots and Scottish English
You'll also be able to choose from a wide range of courses in other areas of linguistics.
Courses offered in literature at this level span a number of different periods, topics and approaches.
You will continue to choose advanced courses according to your interests.
You will also write an honours dissertation, which is regarded by many students as the most formative experience of their undergraduate studies.
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.
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 spaces.
The Central Area is located on the edge of Edinburgh's historic Old Town, surrounded by lots of green space.
Libraries, collections and specialist equipment
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.
Our specialist linguistics and phonetics equipment ranks among the best in the world. It includes:
- recording studios
- a perception experiment laboratory
- an eye tracking laboratory
Events and activities
The Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) supports more than 300 student-led societies and clubs, including LingSoc - the Linguistics and English Language Society.
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
The PPLS Skills Centre primarily provides support with writing essays and dissertations, but also offers appointments on programming, data collection, and statistical analysis.
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.
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.
Opportunities to study abroad are available in this subject area.
How will I learn?
Most courses are taught through a combination of:
- some small group project work
You will also do some independent practical work in Year 2 and more independent study in Years 3 and 4.
You will be expected to undertake substantial reading each week in preparation for English Literature classes.
How will I be assessed?
In Years 1 and 2, assessment methods will vary depending on the courses chosen. In English Language, for example, you will undergo continuous assessment through tests and assignments.
In Years 3 and 4 you will be assessed through:
- your dissertation
Skills and experience
Studying the development of the English language and literature written in English shows an openness to ideas and perspectives other than your own. This is an essential attribute in many careers and a global marketplace.
Beyond the literary, critical thinking, linguistic and creative skills you will gain on this programme, 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 key concepts
- capacity to work to varied briefs to deadline, both independently and in groups
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 one or more literary topics, periods or genres and different aspects of the English language.
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 - including Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)
- journalism, broadcasting and media
- leisure, tourism and travel
- politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
- research, development and venture acceleration
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, for example, we typically offer:
- taught and research-led MSc degrees in English Literature and English Language
- MSc degrees in Playwriting, Creative Writing and Applied Linguistics
- interdisciplinary MSc programmes in Comparative Literature and Intermediality
Beyond literature and associated fields, a degree in English prepares you for further study in almost any humanities and social science discipline.
We have an excellent Careers Service. Throughout your time with us, we will encourage you to identify and refine 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: AAAA-AABB by end of S5 or AAAA-AAAB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
- A Levels: AAA - AAB.
- 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.
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.
We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
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.
We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.
You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.
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
- SQA Standard Grade at 3
- 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.
We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.
English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.
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.
For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.
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