Undergraduate study - 2023 entry
Open to the world

MA English Literature and History

UCAS code: QVH1

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA English Literature and History

Through the critical reading of texts of all kinds, our joint honours programme in English Literature and History helps you understand the world in which we live now, while shedding light on the past.

English Literature

Our programme aims to 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 all over the world, from the late Middle Ages to the present.

History

The Edinburgh experience is distinctive for its range of historical themes, chronological periods and geographical areas. You can choose from courses covering:

  • the early Middle Ages to the most recent past
  • Britain and Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas

Further, our courses offer a rich variety of approaches to the past, including:

  • political history
  • cultural history
  • social history
  • economic history
  • intellectual history
  • gender history
  • global and transnational history

Why Edinburgh

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

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

Our programmes are extremely flexible. In your pre-honours years (Years 1 and 2), you will choose option courses from a broad list of disciplines in addition to your core subjects of English Literature and History.

In your honours years (Year 3 and 4), you will study research-led courses selected on the basis of your own interests in both English Literature and History, developing a detailed knowledge of a topic or set of texts.

One of the most attractive characteristics of this 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 English Literature and History.

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

English Literature

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.

History

History courses in Year 1 are broad survey courses, designed to prepare you for more specialised study later in the programme.

Current courses range from the Middle Ages to the present day. You will take one of these courses and also a compulsory course in the methods and skills required for historical research.

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 range 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

English Literature

You will be introduced to the study of English 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.

History

Year 2 History courses cover a larger range of regions and time periods. As in Year 1, they offer broad surveys designed to prepare you for more specialised study in Years 3 and 4.

Current options are drawn from various periods and themes in American, European, British, Scottish and global history. You will choose one of these courses, and also take a compulsory course on historiography.

Option courses

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

Year 3

You can start to specialise, and choose courses that explore different periods, topics and approaches according to your area of interest.

If you intend to write a dissertation in History, we recommend taking a course where you will engage with historical skills and methods.

Year 4

You will choose further courses according to your areas of interest and write an independent 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, 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

Based in the Main University Library, the Centre for Research Collections is unique in the UK. The centre brings together a collection of more than 400,000 rare books and six kilometres of archives and manuscripts. It also houses the University’s collections 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.

Modern literature and poetry are particularly well represented, with the W.H. Auden collection 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, including the History Society, and promotes opportunities with local charities through its volunteering centre.

EUSA also supports LitPALS - the Peer-Assisted Learning Scheme for English 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

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.

From the winding streets of the medieval Old Town to the Georgian squares and terraces of the New Town, the city is also a history lover's paradise.

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 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
  • tutorials
  • seminars

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

How will I be assessed?

Your progress will be assessed through:

  • close reading exercises
  • essays
  • assignments
  • exams

You will receive prompt feedback on all your coursework to help you improve as you progress.

Skills and experience

Studying English Literature and History 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 high-level intellectual strength and flexibility.

The skills you will be able to demonstrate to employers when you graduate include the ability to understand, analyse and articulate key concepts, and to work to varied briefs to deadline, both independently and in groups.

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 and historical topics, periods, themes 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, for example, we typically offer:

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

Beyond literature, history 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: AAAA-AABB by end of S5 or AAAA-AAAB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: AAA - ABB.
  • IB: 37 points with 666 at HL - 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.
  • 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

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 English Literature and History

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