MA Chinese and Russian Studies
UCAS code: BR37
Duration: 4 years
School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures
College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
Introducing MA Chinese and Russian Studies
This joint honours programme enables you to study the languages, literatures and cultures of two of the world's largest countries, both of whom play an important role in contemporary global politics.
Together, Chinese and Russian have around 1.5 billion native speakers. They are your gateway to cultures and career opportunities in many parts of:
- East and Central Asia
- North America
There are large communities of Russian speakers in China.
Study with us, and you will develop advanced competency in modern standard Chinese and in Russian. You will gain the skills needed to use your languages in social and professional settings, focusing on:
- reading and writing (including translation)
- speaking and listening
Our courses explore Chinese, East Asian, Russian and Russian-speaking (Russophone):
- literature and cinema
- political history and international relations
- social and cultural movements
You will have the opportunity to study Russia's transnational mobility and to learn about Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and associated Chinese diasporas.
As a world-leading festival and capital city, Edinburgh is a fantastic place to study global languages in their cultural context.
We are the only university in Scotland to offer both single and joint honours undergraduate programmes in Chinese. While we specialise in teaching students with little or no prior knowledge of the language, we can also accommodate students who already have some experience of studying Chinese.
Studying over four years enables you to choose courses that match your own interests, expertise and employability needs. We build immersive study abroad into the programme in Year 3, which you will spend in either China or Taiwan and in a country where Russian is spoken.
Employers recognise the importance of both languages and the benefits of a broad intercultural education. Our graduates are valued for their capability to act as bridges of understanding between Chinese, Russian and British cultures.
If you are a beginner, you will study Chinese 1, an introduction to modern spoken and written Chinese.
If you already have some knowledge of the Chinese language, you may qualify to enrol in Chinese 2A, an intermediate-level Chinese course.
You will choose from one of two courses on Modern China in Literature and Film.
You will also take a course in developing your academic skills in Asian Studies. Through interactive teaching and practical exercises, it will give you core study tools and strategies, helping you step up from secondary to university education.
If you have no previous knowledge of Russian you will take Russian Studies 1A, an intensive beginners Russian course.
If you have studied the language before, you will take the Russian Studies 1B course which provides advanced Russian language study.
Both of these courses include a unit on Russian culture. You will be introduced to the main historical events that have shaped Russia, and to the cultural and literary works of Russian speakers.
In your language classes, you will continue to learn modern Chinese and explore Chinese culture.
You will also begin to learn classical Chinese, and translation skills.
You will continue to develop your research skills from Year 1 and complete an independent project in Chinese studies.
You will continue to study Russian language, and will choose one of the following three courses:
- Transnational Russian Culture
- 19th-century Russian literature
- 20th-century Russian literature
If international travel restrictions allow, you will spend Year 3 abroad, dividing your 30 weeks between either China or Taiwan and a country where Russian is spoken.
You will spend at least eight weeks in each country, studying at a university or language centre. Although we are not currently sending our Year 3 students to Russia and Ukraine, we are still able to fully support them to study abroad. This year, for example, we have students at Liden & Denz Intercultural Institute of Languages in Riga, Latvia.
During your year abroad, we will aim to ensure your experience is as beneficial as possible to your final year, as well as to your wider language learning and cultural awareness. For example, you will take an e-learning Russian course, which will count as part of your Year 3 mark and prepare you for your Year 4 Russian language courses.
If international travel is not possible, either in full or in part, you will be offered alternative ways of engaging with your subjects. This will allow you to meet your learning outcomes and prepare for your final year.
You will continue to study modern standard Chinese, focusing on advanced skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing. You will also build on your existing translation skills.
Alongside your language study, you will be able to choose from courses on Chinese:
- film and literature
- modern and pre-modern history
- contemporary society
You will develop advanced language skills in spoken and written Russian, including through the submission of a long essay in Russian.
You will choose an honours-level course from a range of specialist options in Russian Studies, including post-Soviet Russian culture.
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.
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, 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.
Libraries and collections
The Main University Library holds academic books, journals and databases, films, newspapers and other media. Its holdings include around 14,400 titles in the Russian language.
The Library is also the home of the University's Centre for Research Collections which brings together:
- more than 400,000 rare books
- six kilometres of archives and manuscripts
- thousands of works of art, historical musical instruments and other objects
The Centre's treasures include over 100 rare and pre-1900 Chinese and Japanese books including a commentary on the classic Chinese text Yi Jing (Book of Changes). Written by the scholar Hu Guang c. 1413, this was printed in 1440 using block printing and donated to the University in 1628.
More broadly, our Chinese and East Asian Studies Collection runs to over 50,000 resources, both print and digital, including upwards of 600 Chinese films.
Many of the University's Special Collections are digitised and available online from our excellent Resource Centre, computing labs and dedicated study spaces in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).
Events and activities
The Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) supports more than 300 student-led societies and clubs, including the Russian Society. It also promotes opportunities with local charities through its volunteering centre.
From making friends in language cafes to campaigning on global issues, these student-led groups offer lots of ways to explore your subjects, interests and talents socially. There are also opportunities to pair up with native speakers for language exchange and practice.
We publish creative writing in nine European languages – including Russian – in our online magazine, Babble. You can get involved in the editorial committee, and launch nights typically include readings and performances.
Our Asian Studies seminar series features visiting speakers from around the world and will bring you closer to students of Japanese and Korean too.
With the support of our students, one of our Teaching Fellows in Russian Studies has been leading activities to help refugee children from Ukraine with education and music tuition, and adults with language skills.
In the city
Edinburgh is a world-leading festival city filled with cinemas, theatres, galleries, libraries and collections. The city's resources for studying literatures, languages and cultures are exceptional, and its world cinema scene is particularly strong.
Many national collections are located close to the University's Central Area, making them easy to access between classes. Highlights include the National Library of Scotland, which has significant Russian holdings.
Edinburgh has a thriving East Asian cultural scene and excellent links with China.
If international travel restrictions allow, you will spend Year 3 abroad, dividing your time between a country where Russian is spoken and either China or Taiwan. You will spend at least eight weeks in each country.
This is your chance to immerse yourself in East Asian and Russophone culture. It will allow you to develop broader life experience and skills that you can use after university.
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 three categories:
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 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.
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.
Language tutorials give you the opportunity to develop your linguistic skills in a range of real-world tasks under the supervision of an experienced language teacher.
These classes typically cover skills such as reading, writing, listening and speaking – all of which involve learning and applying grammar.
Seminars blend features of lectures and tutorials. Again, they are designed to encourage and enable your active participation in learning.
On some courses, you will have seminars instead of lectures, especially in your honours years (Years 3 and 4).
As well as the teaching 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).
Additionally, the Students’ Association facilitates peer support schemes for both Chinese and Russian Studies, bringing together students across year groups to help each other with specific study skills, topics or themes.
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
Exams will include oral exams to test your spoken language skills.
Depending on where you go and what you do on your Year Abroad, Year 3 may include being assessed, in part, by a host university or language centre.
In your final year, you will also complete a long essay.
Skills and experience
Studying languages to degree level demonstrates that you are a good communicator, and someone open to other cultures and new ideas – what employers value as Intercultural Competence.
Beyond the language skills you will develop on this programme, and the nuanced understanding you will gain of diverse cultures and societies, graduating with a four-year Master of Arts degree from the University of Edinburgh shows intellectual maturity, resilience, and flexibility.
The skills you will be able to demonstrate to employers when you graduate include the ability to:
- understand, analyse and articulate complex issues and concepts
- manage your time to meet deadlines on different types of project
- work independently and as part of a group
Opportunities across sectors
Our programmes are an excellent primer for a range of careers, especially those that place a premium on thinking that is both disciplined and imaginative.
Within the private, public, not-for-profit, and for-benefit sectors, previous graduates have gone on to work in:
- business, finance and commerce
- communications, marketing, advertising and public relations
- education, outreach, advocacy and training
- journalism, broadcasting and media
- leisure, tourism and travel
- politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
- publishing, culture, heritage and the arts
- research, development and venture acceleration
- translating and interpreting
Home and away
With increasing migration in response to changing global dynamics, there is demand for our graduates both at home and abroad.
Wherever you are based in the world, the ability to communicate in these major global languages, and to understand the cultures to which they open doors, will make you stand out.
If you are keen to work abroad, it’s good to know that Chinese and Russian are two of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Over one billion people speak Modern Standard Chinese, while around 150 million speak Russian.
In addition to the countries where it is an official language or is widely understood, there are large communities of Russian-speakers in:
- Central Asia
- the United States
- the UK
Increasing numbers of Chinese-speaking graduates are recruited by companies based in East Asia, a powerful player in the global economy.
The enhanced research skills you will develop on a four-year programme, particularly in your honours years, are a valuable asset if you wish to continue studying at postgraduate level.
At the University of Edinburgh, we typically offer Masters by Research degrees in both Chinese and Russian Studies. Either of these programmes is a good stepping stone to a PhD, but is equally of value as a stand-alone qualification.
Taught masters (MSc) programmes generally comprise a combination of core and optional courses taught by specialists in the field, training in research methods, and an independent dissertation or piece of creative work. Our interdisciplinary taught MSc programmes typically include:
- Comparative Literature
- Translation Studies
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.
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.
The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:
- SQA: Highers: Cantonese or Mandarin at B. National 5s: English at C.
- A Levels: Chinese or Russian at B. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
- IB: HL: Chinese or Russian at 5. SL: English at 5.
Please note that the Chinese degrees involve beginners language study and are not suitable for native or near-native speakers.
We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of 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.
- 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.
(Revised 29 August 2023 to remove PTE Academic Online)
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.
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.
As long as international travel restrictions allow, you will spend Year 3 abroad. The costs you have to pay will depend on where you decide to go, and how you spend your time.
Some study placements at language schools may charge a fee, but we will normally refund you for tuition costs as long as your activity has been approved. You will be responsible for associated travel costs such as flights and visas.
Some scholarship money may be available from external sources, on a competitive basis, for students studying in China.
For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.
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