MA Scottish Studies
UCAS code: Q501
Duration: 4 years
School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures
College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
Introducing MA Scottish Studies
As Scotland's capital city and seat of the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh is the ideal place for Scottish Studies.
On this interdisciplinary programme, you will explore what we can learn from Scotland's past and present, and how we can help shape its future.
Based within the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, you will discover how literature, music and the visual arts have helped to shape Scottish identity. Ethnographical courses will explore heritage, the creative arts and cultural expression.
You will also consider the complex relationship between culture and politics, as you draw parallels with other countries. This takes advantage of the University of Edinburgh's excellent links with Scotland's key political, cultural and historical institutions.
You can tailor your degree by choosing courses from a wide range of disciplines across the University that share a common interest in the study of Scotland. For example, you can opt to study aspects of:
- Celtic civilisation and Scottish Gaelic
- history and archaeology
- politics and sociology
Whichever combination of courses you choose, you will apply arts, humanities and social sciences approaches in your learning.
You will benefit from a close community of learners and teachers who are immersed in Scottish culture beyond the classroom.
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.
I literally love what I am studying, and I cannot be happier with my choice. The subjects' offer is huge, and the materials provided are really interesting. I warmly recommend Scottish Studies to everyone who is interested in understanding Scotland and is passionate about it.
- Anna, Scottish Studies MA Hons student
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
You will also choose from a range of courses that relate to historical or contemporary Scotland. For example, you can opt to:
- build your skills in studying History and learn about the history of Edinburgh
- develop the essential skills needed for the critical close reading of the core literary genres of poetry, drama and prose
- learn or deepen your understanding of the Scottish Gaelic language
- take courses in Celtic civilisation
You will complete your Year 1 studies with option courses chosen from a wide range offered by the University of Edinburgh. This gives you the chance to study different subjects, or other countries' political systems, histories, languages and cultures.
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
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.
In Visualising Scotland, you will develop a critical understanding of the contribution made by paintings, films, documentaries and other visual media to concepts like:
- cultural difference
You will continue to study other aspects of Scotland's history, literature or language, depending on your area of interest.
You will complete your Year 2 studies with option courses chosen from a wide range offered by the University of Edinburgh.
You will hone your research skills and study your chosen subjects in more detail. You will also embark on your dissertation.
Subjects offered at honours level include:
- art history
- architectural history
You will continue to study the subjects that interest you most and will complete your honours dissertation.
You will also take part in a series of seminars on a range of themes you have covered in the Scottish Studies programme.
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, 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.
Libraries and collections
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
- Donald MacKinnon Collection
- David Laing Collection
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 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. It also 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 and Gaelic Writer in Residence, a composer/musician and a writer who work 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. Its resources for studying Scotland 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 Library, Museum, Records and Galleries 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.
If international travel restrictions allow, you will have opportunities to study 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 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.
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).
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
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 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
When you graduate, you will understand the workings of a modern nation. You will be able to demonstrate an appreciation of the complex set of strands that have come together over time to create it. You will have a nuanced understanding of politics, culture and society, and how these shape our world. These skills are applicable in careers around the world.
Opportunities at home and away
The focus we place on comparative work, and on studying a range of subjects and disciplines throughout your degree, gives you the Intercultural Competence valued by employers around the globe.
You can, for example, opt to develop language skills, do courses that involve fieldwork, or learn about the cultures of Asia, Europe or the Middle East.
If you are interested in teaching children and young people, a number of the themes covered in our programme align with Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence for learners aged 3-18.
The traditional arts (e.g. music, song and storytelling) have many other applications too. For example, in working with older people, in community education and outreach, and in healthcare.
As well as these sectors, graduates have gone on to careers in:
- publishing, culture, heritage and the arts
- journalism, broadcasting and media
- politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
- leisure, tourism and travel
- business, finance and commerce
- communications, marketing, advertising and public relations
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 programmes in:
- Celtic Studies
- Scottish Ethnology
- Social and Political Science
Each of these programmes is a good stepping stone to a PhD, but is equally of value as a stand-alone qualification.
We also offer interdisciplinary taught MSc programmes in subjects such as:
- Comparative Literature
- Film, Exhibition and Curation
- Public Policy
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: 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.
We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
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.
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.
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