Undergraduate study - 2023 entry
Open to the world

MA Scottish Ethnology and Archaeology

UCAS code: VV94

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Scottish Ethnology and Archaeology

Uncover Scotland’s past and help shape its future, while gaining skills that you can apply to any culture.

This innovative joint honours programme combines two related yet distinct approaches to the study of human cultures, past and present.

Scottish Ethnology

Ethnology is the discipline which studies the culture and traditions of developed societies. It is sometimes described as being at the intersection where history and anthropology meet.

While ethnology is commonly offered in universities across Europe, this is the only full undergraduate programme of its kind available within the UK.

Focusing on Scotland, but also looking at comparative material from elsewhere, you will study the varying ways in which a modern European nation expresses itself culturally.

The programme explores questions like:

  • How do customs, beliefs, social organisation, language, music and song help to create and shape identity in the modern world?
  • How do we use and make sense of the past from within our present?
  • How can this understanding help us to shape our future?

A highlight of the programme is the chance to work with the rich range of materials in the School of Scottish Studies Archives. These materials include thousands of hours of recordings of songs, music, stories, rhyme and verse in Scots, Gaelic and English, as well as in dialects now extinct.

By the end of the programme, you will have developed the practical and intellectual tools to handle traditional resources, modern media and digital data. In this way, you will be ready to navigate and influence contemporary culture and society in an increasingly globalised world.

Archaeology

Complementing the ethnology side of your programme, which explores the recent past and present, your studies in archaeology take you a good deal further back in time.

Our courses will help you develop a parallel range of skills in the interpretation of social and cultural change.

The programme also develops your understanding of:

  • the material basis of archaeology
  • the contested nature of objects
  • the social relationships that are spun around them
  • the people who use and interpret them

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 Scottish Ethnology and Archaeology. You can, for example, take one or more languages, or explore other world cultures.

As well as broadening your education and skill set, this flexibility may enable you to change the focus of your programme in Years 3 and 4, your honours years.

Year 1

Scottish Ethnology

In Scottish Ethnology, you will study Scottish cultural history, heritage, cultural expression and representation.

Courses also look at literature, music and visual arts and how these are linked to Scottish identity.

Archaeology

You will study Archaeology 1A and Archaeology 1B.

These courses offer a broad introduction to our human past, identifying crucial events in human history and pre-history, from the evolution of the first humans several million years ago, to the emergence of farming and the development of civilisations in Europe, Egypt and the Near East.

Archaeology 1A and Archaeology 1B also cover the key techniques that archaeologists use. These range from methods of site discovery, excavation, and recording and analysing artefacts, to more recent and innovative approaches to reconstruct the lifeways of past peoples, including the scientific analysis of animal and human remains.

Option courses

You will choose one or more option courses from a wide range offered by the University of Edinburgh.

You can, for example, opt to study a language, such as Scottish Gaelic. We offer one of the widest range 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
  • Celtic civilisation
  • business, economics and informatics
  • politics, social policy and social anthropology
  • art and architectural history
  • history, classics and archaeology
  • philosophy, divinity and law
Fieldwork

Over the long vacation at the end of Year 1, you will be required to undertake three weeks of archaeological fieldwork.

Year 2

Scottish Ethnology

You will study oral and visual representations of Scotland through music, song, art, photography and film.

You will also study the social, cultural and topographical features of Scotland and their influence upon each other over time.

Archaeology

You will study the archaeology of Scotland from the earliest evidence of human occupation at the end of the last ice age to the Roman invasion in the early 1st millennium AD.

A field trip to visit archaeological sites and visits to the National Museum of Scotland are core components of this course.

You will also study Archaeology in Action, which:

  • develops your understanding of professional archaeological practice
  • explores exciting innovations in archaeological methods through real-world applications and hands-on practical exercises

Option courses

As in Year 1, you will have a choice from a wide range of option courses.

Year 3

Scottish Ethnology

You will choose from a range of specialist honours-level options likely to include:

  • Ethnological Fieldwork Methods
  • Traditional Narrative
  • Traditional Song and Music
  • Scotland and Heritage
  • Traditional Drama
  • Custom, Belief and Community
  • The Supernatural World

Archaeology

You will study Theoretical Archaeology, which explores the history of archaeology from its antiquarian beginnings in the 18th and 19th centuries and its development as an academic discipline.

You will consider the theories that archaeologists have used to understand and interpret the remains that they have found and examine how these ideas have changed over the past 150 years.

You will also study Archaeology in Practice, which focuses on the contemporary practice of archaeology in the UK as well as internationally. You will learn the practical skills required of professional archaeologists.

You will choose one additional course from Archaeology options.

Year 4

In Year 4, you will choose further specialist courses and undertake your dissertation.

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 (2022/23)

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 School of Scottish Studies Archives, 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.

Take a virtual tour of the Central Area

Libraries, collections and centres

One of the University's most notable collections is the School of Scottish Studies Archives, an extensive collection relating to the culture and tradition of Scotland.

The Archives contain thousands of hours of recordings of songs, music, stories, rhyme and verse in Scots, Gaelic and English, as well as in dialects now extinct. There are also photographs and rarely-seen historic documents which capture exceptional and everyday aspects of Scottish culture and heritage.

The Archive's extensive Scottish Studies Library holds important Scottish ethnological, wider ethnological and Celtic material. You will also have access to the University’s rare books and manuscripts, such as the Carmichael-Watson Collection, the Donald MacKinnon Collection, and the David Laing Collection.

We are home to the European Ethnological Research Centre which has led the Regional Ethnology of Scotland Project since 2011 and publishes the multi-volume Scottish Life and Society: A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology.

Archaeological research and teaching laboratories include post-excavation processing and wet chemistry labs and a large teaching laboratory for the study of skeletal remains.

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. Archsoc, the Archaeological Society, organises trips to local heritage and excavation sites, among other activities.

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 in Residence, a performer from within the traditional arts in Scotland who works with staff and students on a range of projects and performances.

In the city

Edinburgh is a world-leading festival city filled with cinemas, theatres, galleries, libraries and collections. These include the National Library of Scotland, the National Records of Scotland and the National Museum of Scotland.

In addition to the summer and winter festivals, the city has a lively year-round contemporary cultural scene. From sessions in traditional bars, to events in the Scottish Poetry Library and Scottish Storytelling Centre, there is always something going on.

Study abroad

If international travel restrictions allow, you may have opportunities to study abroad in Year 3 through the University's international exchange programme.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

Courses are taught through a combination of:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • small group tutorials
  • practical fieldwork

Extensive use is also made of audio and visual resources, as well as readily accessible online materials.

Great care is taken in providing a welcoming and supportive learning environment.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through coursework and exams.

In Year 4 you will complete a dissertation.

Skills and experience

Studying Scottish Ethnology and Archaeology together gives you a nuanced understanding of culture and society, past and present, and how these shape our world.

When you graduate from the University of Edinburgh with a four-year Master of Arts degree in this joint honours combination, you show resilience, flexibility and high-level intellectual strength.

The skills you will be able to demonstrate to employers include the ability to understand, analyse and articulate key concepts, and to work to varied briefs to deadline, both independently and as part of a group.

Opportunities at home and away

The focus we place on comparative work, and on studying a range of subjects in your first two years, gives you the Intercultural Competence valued by employers around the globe.

Whether you stay in Scotland or move elsewhere when you graduate, this degree will make you stand out.

Recent graduates have gone on to careers in:

  • education, outreach, advocacy and training
  • publishing, culture, heritage and the arts
  • journalism, broadcasting and media
  • politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
  • leisure, tourism and travel

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
  • research, development and venture acceleration

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, for example, we typically offer a taught MSc programme in Archaeology and Masters by Research degrees in both Archaeology and Scottish Ethnology.

Eventually, you may decide to conduct doctoral work, like several of our past students.

Careers advice

We have an excellent Careers Service. Throughout your time with us, we will encourage you to identify and hone your employability skills, including through peer initiatives such as Life After LLC (Literatures, Languages and Cultures) where you can draw inspiration from our graduates.

Be inspired by our alumni

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AABB-ABBB by end of S5 or AAAB-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.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: 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

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.

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 Scottish Ethnology and Archaeology

Additional costs

Depending on your programme of study and the courses chosen, you may spend time on fieldwork and excursions.

Costs will vary according to the location.

There may 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