Undergraduate study - 2025 entry
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

MA Religious Studies and English Literature

UCAS code: VQ63

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Divinity

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Religious Studies and English Literature

This joint honours programme combines the vibrant study of religions with the excitement of English literature.

Religious studies

Religious studies is an interdisciplinary field focusing on religious beliefs and practices and their relationships with the wider world.

You will:

  • study the concepts and emotions which underpin religious belief and practice, and their role and function in culture and society
  • cover historical and contemporary material

We take as much interest in the groups and people who practise religion as their gods, deities, ancestors and spirits.

Examining literature

Reading and writing are key practices in religion and English literature. This programme introduces you to major texts and gives you the tools and critical skills to understand and interpret them.

You will:

  • gain the essential skills needed for the critical close reading of poetry, drama and prose
  • read works of literature written in English from around the world
  • encounter different ideas about the nature and purpose of literary study
  • use a range of methods to examine where religious ideas illuminate literature and where religion is mediated in texts
  • study texts ranging from canonical writings, such as Buddhist sutras and the Hebrew Bible, to classic and modern fiction

Why Edinburgh

The city of Edinburgh contains many museums, galleries and cultural sites, which broaden and deepen student learning.

Home of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, it is the first UNESCO World City of Literature. The city's literary highlights include:

  • the Scottish Poetry Library
  • the Writers' Museum
  • the Scottish Storytelling Centre
  • outstanding holdings in the National Library of Scotland

Programme benefits

Our programme is extremely flexible. In Years 1 and 2 you will study your core subjects and will also choose option courses from a broad list of disciplines. You will specialise as you progress through your honours years.

Studying religion and literature prepares you to contribute to a society in which an understanding of texts of all kinds is crucially important. It shows an openness to ideas and perspectives other than your own, which is an essential attribute in many careers and the global marketplace.

Year 1

In Religious Studies, you will study two core religion courses, covering a range of religious traditions and approaches.

In English Literature, you will take two literary studies courses. These will introduce you to the essential skills needed for the critical close reading of the core literary genres:

  • poetry
  • drama
  • prose

You will read works of literature written in English from around the world, encountering a range of ideas about the nature and purpose of literary study.

You can also choose courses from other University subject areas. For example, you can choose to learn a language that allows you to read the primary texts of the religions and cultures you are most interested in.

Languages on offer include:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Russian
  • Scottish Gaelic
  • Persian

Year 2

In Year 2, you will study two core religion courses, covering a range of religious traditions and approaches.

You will be introduced to the study of English literature in its cultural and historical contexts through 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.

You can also choose courses from other University subject areas.

Year 3

In Year 3, you will continue to study one or more religious traditions in international and cross-cultural contexts. You will also take courses in English literature at an advanced level.

Some of these courses may focus on further development of your critical skills. They will also help you prepare for the independent dissertation that you will write in Year 4.

Year 4

In Year 4, you will choose further advanced, honours-level courses.

You will also complete a dissertation with academic guidance on a subject in either religious traditions or English literature.

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

Your teaching will mostly be at New College in the centre of Edinburgh. This city landmark has its own:

  • historic library
  • study space
  • hall
  • garden

Many other study and student support facilities are only a short walk away in George Square. These include the University Main Library and the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).

In LLC, the University of Edinburgh has the oldest English literature department in the UK, and one of the longest established in the world.

Libraries and collections

New College Library holds one of the largest theology and religious studies collections in the UK. Its special collections include:

  • historical archives
  • manuscripts
  • printed books
  • objects

Current collections support the teaching and research activities of the School of Divinity in:

  • biblical studies
  • the history of Christianity
  • religious studies
  • theology and ethics
  • world Christianity

The collections continue to develop in new and evolving areas such as science and religion, Christian-Muslim relations, Buddhist and Jewish studies, and religion and literature.

The University holds many literary treasures in its extensive collections, including:

  • a truly exceptional collection of early Shakespeare quartos
  • other early modern printed plays
  • 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
  • the libraries of Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Hugh MacDiarmid and Norman MacCaig

Events and activities

The Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) supports more than 300 student-led societies and promotes opportunities with local charities through its volunteering centre.

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 are a lot 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

Take a virtual tour

You can take a closer look at the School of Divinity and the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures on the University's Virtual Visit site.

Explore our facilities and campus:

Take a virtual tour of the School of Divinity

Take a virtual tour of the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

Study abroad

You will have a range of opportunities to spend time abroad. For shorter periods, these include summer programmes and working abroad.

During Year 3, you will have the chance to study abroad in exchange for up to a year at a wide selection of leading global universities. These include two institutions the School of Divinity has ongoing relationships with:

  • Radboud University Nijmegen
  • Dartmouth College

Going abroad expands your horizons and is great fun. It also offers academic and career benefits.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

You will be taught through a combination of:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars
  • digital learning

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

As well as the teachers 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).

Institute for Academic Development

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed in a variety of ways, including:

  • examinations and final assessments
  • coursework
  • participation in seminars
  • presentation of your work
  • an honours dissertation

Our graduates pursue a wide range of careers in a variety of sectors, including:

  • the creative arts
  • non-governmental organisations
  • finance
  • journalism
  • teaching
  • management
  • administration
  • government
  • counselling
  • the voluntary sector

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: 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 Religious Studies and English 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

More information

How to apply

School: Divinity

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences