Undergraduate study - 2024 entry
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MA English Language and Literature

UCAS code: Q300

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

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 literature written in English from around the globe.

In this programme, you will engage with broad range of texts and their cultural contexts, from the late Middle Ages to the present, and develop:

  • critical
  • analytic
  • linguistic
  • literary, and
  • creative skills

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

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

Why Edinburgh

Edinburgh is the first UNESCO World City of Literature, a fantastic literary city which many greats of English, Scottish and world literature have called home. It is a remarkable place to study, write, publish, discuss and perform prose, poetry and drama.

From the University's Special Collections to the National Library of Scotland, the city's resources for studying literature are exceptional. The University also has some of the best specialist equipment for linguistics and phonetics in the world.

Our four-year programme is extremely flexible.

In Years 1 and 2, in addition to studying English Language and Literature, you will choose option courses from a broad list of disciplines.

You will then specialise in your honours years (Years 3 and 4) by choosing courses based on your own interests.

Year 1

English Language

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.

English Literature

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:

  • 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

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 an ancient or modern language in its cultural context. We offer one of the widest range of languages of any UK university - the majority are suitable for complete beginners.

Year 2

English Language

You will take two further semester-long courses in Linguistics and English Language. They look at:

  • linguistic theory
  • the structure and history of English

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

As in Year 1, you will choose from a range of option courses outside your primary subjects.

Year 3

English Language

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
  • Stylistics
  • Scots and Scottish English

You can also choose from a wide range of courses in other areas of linguistics.

English Literature

Courses offered in literature at this level span a number of different periods, topics and approaches to literary study.

Year 4

You will continue to choose advanced, honours-level 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.

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

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

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 and topics.

Across the University, there are 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.

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 welcomes around 1,000 authors to our literary city each year.

Study abroad

Opportunities to study abroad are available in this subject area.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

Most courses are taught through a combination of:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars
  • 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.

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

How will I be assessed?

Years 1 and 2

Assessment methods will vary depending on your chosen courses.

In English Language, you will undergo continuous assessment through tests and assignments.

For English Literature, you will be assessed through a combination of:

  • coursework (generally completed throughout the year)
  • final assessments (which take place at the end of a teaching block)

Years 3 and 4

You will be assessed through:

  • coursework
  • exams
  • projects
  • your dissertation

Skills and experience

Studying the development of the English language and literature 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 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 group

Opportunities across sectors

During your time with us, you will study a range of subjects, with the option to take courses in world 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 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

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 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.

Careers advice

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: AABB by end of S5 or AAAB by end of S6. 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.


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.

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.

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 English Language and Literature

Additional costs



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