Undergraduate study - 2024 entry
Edinburgh. Extraordinary futures await.

MA English Literature

UCAS code: Q306

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA English Literature

Edinburgh is the first UNESCO World City of Literature, a fantastic literary city which many greats of English, Scottish and world literature have called home.

On this programme, you will develop your critical, analytic, linguistic and creative skills by engaging with a broad range of texts and a variety of approaches to reading.

You will explore the cultural contexts of writing in English from the late Middle Ages to the present, and select honours courses on the basis of your own interests in specific topics, periods or genres.

Studying 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, an essential attribute in many careers and a global marketplace.

Why Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a remarkable place to study, write, publish, discuss and perform prose, poetry and drama.

We are the oldest department of English and Scottish Literature in the UK, one of the longest-established in the world.

From the University's Special Collections to the National Library of Scotland, the city's resources for studying literature are exceptional.

Our programme is very flexible. In Years 1 and 2, in addition to studying English Literature, you will choose option courses from a broad list of disciplines. You will then specialise as you progress through your honours years.

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 English Literature.

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

Year 1

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 of:

  • poetry
  • drama
  • prose

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

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 in its cultural context. We offer one of the widest ranges of languages of any UK university - the majority are suitable for complete beginners.

Other options include, but are not limited to, courses in:

  • business, economics and informatics
  • politics, social policy and social anthropology
  • art and architectural history
  • history, classics and archaeology
  • Celtic and Scottish ethnology
  • linguistics and language sciences
  • philosophy, divinity and law

Year 2

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

Option courses

As in Year 1, you will choose from a range of option courses. You can, for example, opt to:

  • study Scottish Literature in a selection of major periods
  • learn (or continue to learn) a language
  • take classes in English Language and Linguistics
  • do something completely different

Year 3

You will take two courses in literary theory. You will also start to specialise, choosing honours-level courses that explore different literary periods, topics and approaches according to your area of interest and our staff expertise.

Depending on staff research and other commitments, we typically offer a wide range of courses to choose from over Years 3 and 4.

Year 4

You will choose further honours-level courses from a very wide range of courses exclusive to Year 4 students.

Building on all the knowledge and skills you have developed over four years, including in independent research, you will also complete a 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 (2023/24)

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, 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 and other media.

It 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 literary treasures include a truly exceptional collection of early Shakespeare quartos and other early modern printed plays, and the Corson Collection of works by and about Sir Walter Scott.

Highlights of its holdings in modern literature and poetry include the W.H. Auden collection and the libraries of Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Hugh MacDiarmid and Norman MacCaig.

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).

Centres for research, teaching and outreach

We are home to the SWINC project and network, which promotes awareness of the richness and diversity of Scottish writing and culture in the 19th century.

We are the Scottish base of The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle, Duke-Edinburgh edition, one of the major editorial projects in Victorian studies of the last half-century.

We are collaborators in the Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network and have developing strengths in the Digital Humanities. For example, we have led both phases of LitLong, a digital transformation project to interactively map the ways in which Edinburgh has been used as a literary setting over the course of five centuries.

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.

Across the University, there are lots 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

In the city

A UNESCO World City of Literature, Edinburgh is a remarkable place to study, write, publish, discuss and perform prose, poetry and drama.

The city's resources for studying literature are exceptional. Many of them are located close to the University's Central Area, making them easy to access between classes.

In addition to a fantastic range of publishing houses, bookshops, theatres, and cinemas, you will study near the:

  • National Library of Scotland
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • Edinburgh Central Library
  • Scottish Poetry Library
  • Scottish Storytelling Centre
  • Writers’ Museum

We have strong links with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which annually welcomes around 1,000 authors to our literary city.

Study abroad

There are opportunities to study abroad in Year 3 through the University’s international exchange programme.

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:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars

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

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 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 LitPALS, a peer support scheme bringing literature students together 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 final assessments.

Coursework is generally completed throughout the year, while assessments 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 or learning journal
  • respond to a piece of writing through close reading
  • give a short talk or presentation
  • record a podcast or video

In your final year, you will also complete a dissertation.

Skills and experience

Studying English Literature shows an openness to ideas and perspectives other than your own, an essential attribute in many careers and a global marketplace.

Beyond the literary, critical thinking and creative skills you will gain by engaging with a broad range of texts and a variety of approaches to reading on this programme, 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

During your time with us, you will study a range of subjects, with the option to take courses in languages, and in other areas of the humanities and social sciences, for example.

As you progress through your honours years (Years 3 and 4), you will specialise in selected literary topics, periods or genres.

This breadth of education gives you the foundations to excel in a range of career sectors, especially those that value transferable humanities skills.

Our alumni have gone on to careers in the private, public, not-for-profit, and for-benefit sectors, sometimes through graduate training schemes where the ability to communicate well is essential in securing a competitive place.

Typical sectors include:

  • business, finance and commerce
  • communications, marketing, advertising and public relations
  • creative writing, publishing, culture, heritage, and the arts
  • education, outreach, advocacy and training
  • journalism, broadcasting and media
  • leisure, tourism and travel
  • politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
  • research, development and venture acceleration

Further study

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:

  • taught and research-led MSc degrees in English Literature
  • MScs in Playwriting and Creative Writing
  • interdisciplinary MSc programmes in Comparative Literature and Intermediality

Each of these programmes is a good stepping stone to a PhD, but is equally of value as a stand-alone qualification.

Beyond literature and associated fields, a degree in English prepares you for further study in almost any humanities and social science discipline.

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.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AAAAA (achievement by end of S5 preferred). BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S5.
  • A Levels: A*AA.
  • IB: 39 points with 666 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-S5.
  • 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.

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.

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 English Literature

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