Undergraduate study - 2025 entry
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MA Philosophy and Scottish Literature

UCAS code: VQ55

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Philosophy and Scottish Literature

This joint programme gives you an in-depth knowledge of Philosophy and Scottish Literature.

In Years 1 and 2, you will take courses that introduce you to the different aspects of each subject area, and choose options from a range of disciplines.

At honours level (Years 3 and 4), you will select courses based on your interests, so you can specialise in particular topics.

Studying literature and philosophy shows an openness to different ideas and perspectives which is important in many careers and the wider world.

Studying philosophy gives you the skills to think about great philosophical questions in a clear and systematic way. Philosophy:

  • introduces you to the thinking of some of the great philosophers of the past and present
  • shows the connections between different areas of human experience
  • increases awareness of assumptions that influence your beliefs

Philosophy at Edinburgh

As the historical home of David Hume and Adam Smith, the city of Edinburgh has long been, and remains, a fitting place to study philosophy.

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

Scottish Literature

From the University's Special Collections to the National Library of Scotland, the city's resources for studying literature are exceptional.

You will study in the oldest department of literature in the UK and one of the longest established in the world. Our Writers-in-Residence have included:

  • Jenni Fagan
  • Liz Lochhead
  • Sorley Maclean
  • Norman MacCaig
  • Michael Pedersen
  • Alan Warner

In your first two years of study, you will explore the cultural contexts of all major periods of Scottish literature, from the late Middle Ages to the present. You will explore different approaches to reading and a range of texts, including international literature in English.

In your final two years, you will choose courses on Scottish Literature covering specific topics, periods and genres.

At this stage, you will build on all the skills you gained in the critical close reading and discussion of:

  • poetry
  • drama
  • prose

Year 1


In Years 1 and 2, you will take courses that introduce you to the main areas of Philosophy. This will include courses in the following areas:

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

Scottish 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 literature written in English from around the world, and explore ideas about the nature and purpose of literary study.

Option courses

You will also choose from option courses to suit your interests.

Year 2


You will continue to take courses in some or all of the main areas of philosophy listed under the Study Year 1 section.

Scottish Literature

We will introduce you to the study of Scottish literature in its cultural and historical contexts, focusing on some of the major periods.

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

Option courses

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

You can also opt to learn a language instead that will allow you to access primary texts from around the world, including Gaelic-speaking Scotland.

We offer one of the widest range of languages of any UK university, most are suitable for complete beginners and include cultural study.

Year 3


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

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

Scottish Literature

You will choose honours-level courses from options that explore different literary periods, topics and approaches. Options on Scottish writing usually include:

  • Edinburgh in Fiction
  • Haunted Imaginations: Scotland and the Supernatural
  • Modern and Contemporary Scottish Poetry

Skills development options include two courses in Reading Theory to help you prepare if you choose to do your dissertation in Scottish Literature in Year 4.

The courses will introduce you to key concepts, and developments in literary theory and criticism. You will reflect on and develop the critical reading skills gained in your pre-honours years.

Year 4

You will choose another four to six honours-level courses from a wide variety available.

You will also complete either of the following:

  • an independent dissertation, consisting of a single extended essay on a topic of your choice in Philosophy or Scottish Literature
  • 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 (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 one of our 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 collections. These include:

  • the Corson Collection of works by and about Sir Walter Scott
  • 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. This is 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. SWINC 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 developed strengths in the Digital Humanities. For example, it has led both phases of LitLong, a digital transformation project to interactively map the ways Edinburgh has been used as a literary setting over 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 literature, where students across year groups help each other with study skills and topics.

Across the University, there are 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

Annual student writing prizes include awards for prose and verse in Lowland Scots vernacular.

In the city

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 great place to study, write and perform prose, poetry and drama.

The city's resources for studying literature are exceptional.

For example, Edinburgh has a fantastic range of:

  • publishing houses
  • bookshops
  • theatres
  • cinemas

Many of these resources are located close to the University's Central Area, making them easy to access between classes.

You will also study near:

  • 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

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

Depending on availability, you would take courses in philosophy at your host institution.

If this is not possible, you would take an online course that covers major themes in philosophical methodology. This course will help you critically analyse and explore literature by key philosophers and present your arguments in essays and short assignments.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

Courses are taught through a mix of:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • tutorials

In Years 1 and 2, courses are taught through lectures and tutorials.

In Years 3 and 4, courses are taught through seminars and tutorials.

You will also need to read a lot to support your studies.

How will I be assessed?

Courses are taught through a mix of:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • tutorials

In Years 1 and 2, courses are taught through lectures and tutorials.

In Years 3 and 4, courses are taught through seminars and tutorials.

You will also need to read a lot to support your studies.

Skills and experience

Through this programme you will gain literary, analytical and critical thinking skills.

Also, graduating with a four-year master of arts degree from our University shows intellectual resilience and flexibility.

As a graduate, you can show employers that you are able to:

  • 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:

  • literary topics
  • philosophical topics
  • periods or genres

This broad 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, sometimes through graduate training schemes, in the following sectors:

  • private
  • public
  • not-for-profit
  • for-benefit

Industries graduates have worked in 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 research skills you will develop on a four-year programme, especially in your Honours years, are valuable if you want to continue studying at postgraduate level.

At the University of Edinburgh, we usually offer:

  • taught and research-led MSc degrees in literature and in 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. During your time with us, we will encourage you to improve your employability skills through peer initiatives where you can gain 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.

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.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 Philosophy and Scottish Literature

Additional costs

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


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