Undergraduate study - 2023 entry
Open to the world

MA Scottish Ethnology

UCAS code: V910

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Scottish Ethnology

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

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 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.

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 time you graduate, you will have developed the practical and intellectual tools to handle and interpret 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.

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 subject of Scottish Ethnology. 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

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.

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 a language, such as Scottish Gaelic. We offer one of the widest ranges 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

Year 2

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.

Option courses

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

Year 3

You will choose from a range of specialist, honours-level course options such as:

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

Year 4

You will choose from a range of specialist, honours-level course options such as:

  • Custom, Belief and Community
  • Scottish Emigrant Traditions
  • The Supernatural World
  • Material Culture in Scotland
  • Traditional Music

You will also complete a dissertation.

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 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. It has led the Regional Ethnology of Scotland Project since 2011 and publishes the multi-volume Scottish Life and Society: A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology.

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.

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 Museum of Scotland, and the National Records 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 the opportunity 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

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 a combination of coursework and exams.

You will complete a dissertation in Year 4.

Skills and experience

Scottish Ethnology gives you a nuanced understanding of culture and society, and how these shape our world.

When you graduate with a four-year Master of Arts degree in this subject from the University of Edinburgh, 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 Masters by Research degree in Scottish Ethnology and interdisciplinary taught MSc programmes in:

  • Comparative Literature
  • Film, Exhibition and Curation

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

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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

Additional costs

Your dissertation may involve some fieldwork, depending on your topic of study. This may mean paying for travel costs.

If you prefer, you can select an archives-based project that is unlikely to have any additional costs.

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