Undergraduate study - 2025 entry
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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 country, culture or place.

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

Taking this programme shows an openness to ideas and perspectives other than your own, an essential attribute in many careers and a global marketplace.

Over the course of your four years with us, you will gain the practical and intellectual tools to handle and interpret:

  • historic remains and artefacts
  • print and traditional resources
  • modern media and digital data

Scottish Ethnology

Ethnology is the study of 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 in 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.

Our courses explore 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?

Follow in the footsteps of fieldworkers

A highlight of our programme is the chance to work with the rich range of materials in the School of Scottish Studies Archives and Scottish Studies Library.

You will explore the work of former staff and students who, since 1951, have been capturing elements of life in Scotland's farming and fishing communities, towns and cities.

Today, the Archives include:

  • 33,000 recordings of songs, music, stories, rhyme and verse in Scots, Gaelic and English, as well as in dialects now extinct
  • thousands of photographs and rarely-seen historic documents which capture exceptional and everyday aspects of Scottish culture and heritage

These materials are kept alive through our teaching, undergraduate and postgraduate research, and through the work of our Traditional Artist and Gaelic Writer in Residence.

Archaeology

Complementing the ethnology side of your programme, which explores the recent past and present, your studies in archaeology take you 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

You will gain practical experience in archaeological fieldwork, and use excellent on-campus laboratories.

What our students say

Studying Scottish Ethnology and Archaeology at Edinburgh has been incredibly rewarding. I have been so surprised at how well both subjects tie into each other, and I doubt any other degree will help you better understand Scotland’s material and non-material culture and history. The programme has opened my eyes to so many elements of our understanding of culture and heritage, while allowing me to consider my own identity and relationship with it. In particular, the scale and breadth of the School of Scottish Studies Archives has given me an opportunity I don’t think I would have anywhere else. There’s never been a dull moment, and I’ve been surprised at every turn.

  • Alasdair, Year 3, Scottish Ethnology and Archaeology MA Hons

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 allow you to change the focus of your programme in Years 3 and 4, your honours years.

Year 1

Scottish Ethnology

You will study courses on:

  • Conceptualising Scotland - an introduction to the study of culture, society and tradition in Scotland
  • Creating Scotland - an exploration of Scotland's topographical, social and cultural features and their influence on each other over time
Conceptualising Scotland course

In Conceptualising Scotland, you will deconstruct competing conceptions and images of the nation through:

  • heritage
  • literature
  • folklore
  • music and song
  • visual art
  • the popular media

You will also consider cultural representation’s political context, and the connections between culture and industry.

Watch or listen to a short sample lecture on protest song from Conceptualising Scotland

Creating Scotland course

In Creating Scotland, you will gain an understanding of the diversity of Scotland's resources, the nature of its land and seascapes, the complexity of its settlement patterns, and its regional variety.

You will explore the ways in which experiences of family, community and work are manifested and expressed in different cultural forms. This involves training in appropriate academic sources and methods.

Watch or listen to a short sample lecture on the Scots language from Creating Scotland

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.

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 courses on:

  • Scotland and Orality - an ethnological approach to verbal expression using Scotland's rich song and oral narrative traditions
  • Visualising Scotland - a critical examination of the way Scotland has portrayed itself, and been portrayed by others, through visual media
Scotland and Orality course

In Scotland and Orality, you will be introduced to key concepts and theories relating to the performance and transmission of oral material. Case studies will involve songs, ballads, legends and folktales drawn from the School of Scottish Studies Archives.

Visualising Scotland course

In Visualising Scotland, you will develop a critical understanding of the contribution made by paintings, films, documentaries and other visual media to concepts like:

  • nationhood
  • identity
  • heritage
  • tradition
  • cultural difference

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 parts 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.

You can opt to continue studying a subject you took in Year 1, or choose to do something completely different.

Year 3

Scottish Ethnology

This is the first of your honours years, when you will specialise in the aspects of Scottish Ethnology which interest you most by choosing from a range of courses.

Depending on staff research and other commitments, our options are usually the same in Years 3 and 4, which generally gives you more choice. They typically include:

  • Ethnological Fieldwork Methods
  • Traditional Narrative
  • Traditional Song
  • Scotland and Heritage
  • Traditional Drama

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 honours-level Archaeology options.

Year 4

Scottish Ethnology

This is the first of your honours years, when you will specialise in the aspects of Scottish Ethnology which interest you most by choosing from a range of courses.

Depending on staff research and other commitments, our options are usually the same in Years 3 and 4, which generally gives you more choice. They typically include:

  • Ethnological Fieldwork Methods
  • Traditional Narrative
  • Traditional Song
  • Scotland and Heritage
  • Traditional Drama

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 honours-level Archaeology options.

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 the School of Scottish Studies Archives, 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 and specialist equipment

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.

Read our feature on 70 years of the School of Scottish Studies Archives

The Archive's extensive Scottish Studies Library holds important Scottish ethnological, wider ethnological and Celtic material. Through the Main University Library, you will also have access to the University’s rare books and manuscripts, such as the:

  • Carmichael-Watson Collection
  • Donald MacKinnon Collection
  • David Laing Collection

Archaeological research and teaching laboratories include post-excavation processing and wet chemistry labs and a large teaching laboratory for the study of skeletal remains. These facilities are located in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology (HCA).

Centres for research, teaching and outreach

We are home to the European Ethnological Research Centre, whose primary focus is the promotion of research into everyday life and society in Scotland. Ongoing since 2011, our Regional Ethnology of Scotland Project focuses on the role that individuals’ stories and memories play in shaping and understanding history.

We are currently working on Decoding Hidden Heritages, combining qualitative analysis with cutting-edge computational methodologies to decode, interpret and curate the hidden heritages of Gaelic traditional narrative. Leading a team of five international universities, we are funded by the UK–Ireland Collaboration in the Digital Humanities programme.

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 and Gaelic Writer in Residence, a composer/musician and a writer who work with staff and students on a range of projects and performances.

Watch, read or listen to an interview with Fraser Fifield, our Traditional Artist in Residence

In the city

Edinburgh is a world-leading festival city filled with cinemas, theatres, galleries, libraries and collections. Its resources for studying ethnology and archaeology are exceptional.

Many national collections are located close to the University's Central Area, making them easy to access between classes. Highlights include the National Museum of Scotland, where some of your classes will take place.

As well as 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

In Year 3, you may have the opportunity to spend the year studying abroad through the University's international exchange programme. There are also shorter-term and virtual opportunities to study or work abroad throughout the four years, including over the summer months.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

University is a place to plan your own goals under expert guidance, study independently and in groups, and reflect upon your learning throughout your degree.

Our approach to learning and teaching is active, inclusive and question driven, so it may be different to your experiences at school. It will help you gain the skills for life after university, and we will guide you through the steps from one phase to the next.

Depending on the size of your year group, and which option courses you take, your classes will typically fall into five categories:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars
  • field trips
  • lab-based practicals or workshops

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

We make extensive use of our audio and visual resources, and you will also be encouraged to use online materials.

Lectures

Lectures are taken by all students on a course, typically at the same time. They are delivered as interactive presentations which may involve audio-visual material.

Lectures are given by an experienced academic. They are designed to guide you through the background, questions and debates related to the topic you are studying.

Tutorials

Tutorial groups are smaller. They are also led by an academic, but here the emphasis is more on what you think about the topic yourself. So, tutorials are your chance to discuss and expand upon what you have learned in a lecture.

Seminars

Seminars blend features of lectures and tutorials. Again, they are designed to encourage and facilitate your active participation in learning.

On some courses, you will have seminars instead of lectures, especially in your honours years (Years 3 and 4).

Support

As well as the teaching staff and other staff members 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).

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a combination of coursework and exams.

Coursework is generally completed throughout the year, while exams take place at the end of a teaching block.

Coursework may take a range of forms to give you the opportunity to practice different skills. For example, you may be asked to:

  • write an essay, review, blog post, opinion piece or learning journal
  • respond to a piece of writing, film, or other media, including through close reading
  • give a short talk or presentation
  • record a podcast or video
  • design a poster or presentation

In your final year, you will also 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 intellectual maturity, resilience, and flexibility.

The skills you will be able to demonstrate to employers include the ability to:

  • understand, analyse and articulate complex issues and concepts
  • manage your time to meet deadlines on different types of projects
  • work independently and as part of a group

Local and global opportunities

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

There are also MSc programmes in history, social anthropology, and many other disciplines in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

All these programmes are a good foundation for a PhD, but are equally of value as stand-alone qualifications.

Careers advice

Throughout your time with us, we will encourage you to identify and hone your employability skills.

LLC has a dedicated Careers Consultant within the University's excellent Careers Service.

Through our careers service, you can:

  • book one-to-one appointments and practice interviews
  • access a range of online resources
  • attend themed fairs such as the Creative and Cultural Careers Festival

Popular peer support includes Life After LLC, a panel event where you can draw inspiration from our recent graduates.

Be inspired by our alumni

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: 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

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.

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
  • 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 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 are likely to 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