Undergraduate study - 2023 entry
Open to the world

MA Celtic and Scottish Literature

UCAS code: Q590

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Celtic and Scottish Literature

Leugh an duilleag seo sa Gàidhlig

Edinburgh is the first UNESCO World City of Literature, a fantastic literary city which many writers have called home. Scotland's capital has a long-established Gaelic community and a lively contemporary cultural scene.

Drawing on Edinburgh's exceptional resources, this joint honours programme gives you the opportunity to study the literatures, languages and cultures of the Celtic world alongside the literature of Scotland in both English and Scots.

Our four-year programme is extremely flexible. During your time with us, you will study a range of subjects, with the option to take courses in other areas of the humanities and social sciences. You will specialise as you progress through your honours years.

When you graduate, you will have the combination of a broad cultural education and specialist knowledge valued by employers worldwide.

Celtic

In Celtic, we work with the medieval literary tradition in Early Irish and Medieval Welsh (the most extensive in the whole of Europe), as well as Scottish Gaelic from the late Middle Ages to the present. We also explore the rich oral tradition recorded from the 18th century to the present day, and poetry from the 18th century golden age of Gaelic literature.

You will study 19th and 20th century responses to the rapid social, cultural, and linguistic changes in countries where the Celtic languages are spoken. You will also study the writing, song, and media production emerging from the lively and varied contemporary cultural scene in Gaelic Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.

At all levels of study, we offer courses in language, literature, history, and culture. This will enable you to build your programme by developing your own interests in particular areas, periods, and disciplines of Celtic studies. Our expertise extends to:

  • theoretical and practical issues of current sociolinguistics
  • language policy
  • language revitalisation

Language study

You can choose to study Scottish Gaelic from Year 1, and continue to learn about Scottish Gaelic language, literature, and culture throughout your studies.

If you choose this pathway through the programme, it doesn’t matter if you are a complete beginner in Scottish Gaelic; we stream our Year 1 classes to suit all levels of prior knowledge or none.

You can also learn a medieval Celtic language at honours level (Years 3 and 4). For this path, you will study Celtic civilisation and literature in Years 1 and 2, with texts presented in English translation.

Both Old Irish and Middle Welsh are available, and students may choose to study one, or both.

Scottish Literature

You will study in the oldest department of literature in the UK, one of the longest established in the world.

You will gain the essential skills needed for the critical close reading of poetry, drama and prose and explore the cultural contexts of all major periods of Scottish literature from the late Middle Ages to the present.

At honours level, you will select courses on the basis of your own interests in specific topics, periods or literary genres.

Combining literature with Celtic shows an openness to ideas and perspectives other than your own, an essential attribute in many careers and a global marketplace.

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 Celtic and Scottish 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

Celtic

In Year 1 of Celtic, you can choose between studying the Gaelic language or Celtic Civilisation.

Language pathway

If you take the language pathway, your course will be determined by how much Scottish Gaelic you already know.

If you have no previous knowledge, you will gain confidence in written and spoken Scottish Gaelic by taking our Gaelic 1A course.

If you are an advanced speaker, our Gaelic 1B course will deepen your experience of Scottish Gaelic literature and develop your language skills.

Civilisations pathway

The civilisations pathway (our Celtic Civilisation 1A and 1B courses) seeks to place the Celtic languages of the past and present into wider historical and contemporary context.

You will consider the impact of modern Celticness on how the past has been understood and will be introduced to Celtic Studies in the medieval and modern periods.

There is also the opportunity to combine the study of Celtic Civilisation with our basic language learning course, Introduction to Gaelic Language and Culture.

Scottish Literature

You will take two Literary Studies courses which 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 European, Asian or Middle Eastern language. 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
  • business, economics and informatics
  • politics, social policy and social anthropology
  • art and architectural history
  • history, classics and archaeology
  • Scottish ethnology
  • philosophy, divinity and law

Year 2

Celtic

You can choose between continuing to study the Gaelic language, and studying Celtic Literatures.

If you take the language pathway, you will refine your language skills, as well as learning more about Scottish Gaelic’s literature, culture, and linguistic structure, and exploring verse and prose.

If you take the literature pathway, you will gain an overview of key literary genres and texts from Gaelic Scotland, Ireland and Wales from the early medieval period to the present, with texts presented in English translation.

Scottish Literature

You will be introduced to the study of Scottish literature in its cultural and historical contexts, focusing on a selection of major periods.

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.

Year 3

In the first of your ‘honours’ years, you will specialise in the aspects of Celtic and Scottish Literature which interest you most by choosing from a range of honours-level courses in both subjects.

Modern courses in Celtic explore literary, cultural, and historical aspects of Gaelic Scotland and Ireland - such as linguistics and sociolinguistics - from around 1600 to the present day.

Advanced language work in Gaelic is aimed at developing your high-level oral and writing skills.

Medieval courses in Celtic introduce the Early Irish and Medieval Welsh languages and develop your study of literature, history and culture.

Courses in Scottish Literature explore many different literary periods, topics and approaches.

Year 4

You will choose further specialist courses and complete your 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 (2022/23)

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 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

Celtic

We hold the Celtic Class Library, which comprises a wide range of specialist materials, and the larger Scottish Studies Library. You will also have access to the University’s rare books and manuscripts, such as:

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

One of the University's treasures is the School of Scottish Studies Archives. 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.

We are founding members of:

  • Soillse (the National Research Network for the Maintenance and Revitalisation of Gaelic Language and Culture)
  • the Gaelic Algorithmic Research Group
  • Faclair na Gàidhlig (a collaborative project to publish a historical dictionary of Scottish Gaelic)
Scottish Literature

The University holds many literary treasures in its extensive collections. These include the Corson Collection of works by and about Sir Walter Scott and the libraries of Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Hugh MacDiarmid and Norman MacCaig.

We are home to the Scottish Writing in the 19th Century project and network, and Scotland’s Early Literature for Children Initiative.

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.

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.

EUSA also supports LitPALS - the Peer-Assisted Learning Scheme for literature where students across year groups help each other with specific study skills, topics or themes.

Across the University, there are lots of opportunities to get involved in:

  • reading and writers' groups
  • poetry slams
  • creative writing and publishing
  • student theatre

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.

Our Writer in Residence 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

Annual student writing prizes include awards for prose and verse in Lowland Scots vernacular.

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 has a long-established Gaelic community and a lively contemporary cultural scene. For example, there are conversation groups for practicing Gaelic socially, fèisean for performers, and an annual festival, Seachdain na Gàidhlig.

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

If international travel restrictions allow, you will have opportunities to study abroad 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, tutorials and seminars.

In our language teaching, there is an emphasis on interaction and developing fluency, and on building the strong linguistic competencies required for careers in the Gaelic world.

You will be expected to undertake substantial reading each week in preparation for classes in Scottish Literature.

How will I be assessed?

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

Skills and experience

Graduating with a four-year Master of Arts degree from the University of Edinburgh shows 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, both in print and orally. You will also have experience in working to varied briefs to deadline, independently and as part of a group.

In addition to these qualities, graduating in Celtic and Scottish Literature indicates that you have a nuanced understanding of other cultures and societies and how they shape our world. This gives you the Intercultural Competence that is so valued by employers internationally.

Opportunities at home and away

Thanks to an ever-broadening international reach, Celtic languages, literatures and cultures have a steady stream of enthusiastic new speakers and audiences.

In Scotland, particularly, developments such as the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, the creation of BBC Alba (the Gaelic digital television service), and the ongoing expansion of Gaelic-medium education have increased demand for highly-educated Gaelic speakers and specialists in Celtic culture who also have a wider grounding in literary study.

Employment prospects are particularly high within:

  • education, outreach, advocacy and training
  • journalism, broadcasting and media
  • communications, marketing, advertising and public relations
  • politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
  • publishing, culture, heritage and the arts

In some areas, there are more Gaelic-related jobs than there are people qualified to fill them.

Your transferable humanities skills and Intercultural Competence will also set you apart in sectors such as:

  • business, finance and commerce
  • leisure, tourism and travel
  • research, development and venture acceleration
  • translating and interpreting

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:

  • MSc by Research degrees in Celtic and Scottish Studies and in literature
  • Taught MScs in Playwriting, Creative Writing and different periods of literature
  • MSc programmes in Comparative Literature and Intermediality

Eventually, you may decide to conduct doctoral work, like several of our past students. Beyond literature, cultural study and associated fields, your degree will prepare you for further study in almost any humanities and social science discipline.

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: 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: English at B. National 5s: a language other than English at B.
  • A Levels: English Literature or combined English at B. GCSEs: a language other than English at B or 6.
  • IB: HL: English at 5. SL: a language other than English at 5.

Additional requirements

Language requirement

For degrees that have a subject requirement of a language other than English, students may not use their own native language to meet this requirement. In these instances, English or an alternative language other than native will be acceptable.

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

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 Celtic and Scottish 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