Undergraduate study - 2023 entry
Open to the world

MA Scottish Ethnology and English Literature

UCAS code: VQX3

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Scottish Ethnology and English Literature

This innovative joint honours programme combines two related yet distinct approaches to the study of human cultural expression, past and present.

Based in the first UNESCO World City of Literature, and drawing on world-leading resources such as the School of Scottish Studies Archives, it is the only full undergraduate programme of its kind in the UK.

Scottish Ethnology

Ethnology is the discipline which studies the culture and traditions of developed societies. It is sometimes described as being at the intersection where history and anthropology meet.

Focusing on Scotland, but also looking at comparative material from elsewhere, you will study the varying ways in which a modern European nation expresses itself culturally.

The programme explores questions like:

  • How do customs, beliefs, social organisation, language, music and song help to create and shape identity in the modern world?
  • How do we use and make sense of the past from within our present?
  • How can this understanding help us to shape our future?

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.

By the end of the programme, you will have developed the practical and intellectual tools to handle traditional resources, modern media and digital data. In this way, you will be ready to navigate and influence contemporary culture and society.

English Literature

Based in the first UNESCO World City of Literature, you will study in the oldest department of English 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 writing in English 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 ethnology 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 Scottish Ethnology and English Literature. You can, for example, take one or more languages, or explore other world cultures.

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

Year 1

Scottish Ethnology

In Scottish Ethnology, you will study Scottish cultural history, heritage, cultural expression and representation.

Courses also look at literature, music and visual arts and how these are linked to Scottish identity.

English Literature

In English 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 and 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, such as Scottish Gaelic. We offer one of the widest range 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
  • Celtic civilisation
  • business, economics and informatics
  • politics, social policy and social anthropology
  • art and architectural history
  • history, classics and archaeology
  • philosophy, divinity and law

Year 2

Scottish Ethnology

You will study oral and visual representations of Scotland through music, song, art, photography and film.

You will also study the social, cultural and topographical features of Scotland and their influence upon each other over time.

English Literature

In 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.

Option courses

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

Year 3

In Year 3, you will choose from a range of specialist courses in both Scottish Ethnology and English Literature.

These honours-level courses will enable you to focus on different periods, topics and approaches to your subjects, according to your area(s) of interest.

Year 4

In Year 4, you will choose further specialist courses and will 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, in the School of Scottish Studies Archives, 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

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 have access to the University’s rare books and manuscripts, such as the Carmichael-Watson Collection, the Donald MacKinnon Collection, and the David Laing Collection.

The University's other 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 European Ethnological Research Centre which has led the Regional Ethnology of Scotland Project since 2011 and publishes the multi-volume Scottish Life and Society: A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology.

Networks within or involving English Literature include the Scottish Writing in the 19th Century project, Scotland’s Early Literature for Children Initiative and the Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network.

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.

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 English Literature where students across year groups help each other with specific study skills, topics or themes.

Across the University, there a 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 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.

We also have a 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

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.

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
  • National Records of Scotland
  • Edinburgh Central Library
  • Writers’ Museum

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

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.

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
  • seminars
  • small group tutorials

Extensive use is also made of audio and visual resources, as well as readily accessible online materials.

Great care is taken in providing a welcoming and supportive learning environment.

In English Literature particularly, you will be expected to undertake substantial reading each week in preparation for classes.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through coursework and exams.

In Years 4 you will complete a dissertation.

Skills and experience

The combination of Scottish Ethnology and English Literature will give you a nuanced understanding of culture and society, including how these shape our world.

Graduating from the University of Edinburgh with a four-year Master of Arts degree 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, and to work to varied briefs to deadline, both independently and as part of a group.

Opportunities at home and away

The focus we place on comparative work, and on studying a range of subjects in your first two years, gives you the Intercultural Competence valued by employers around the globe.

Whether you stay in Scotland or move elsewhere when you graduate, this degree will make you stand out.

Recent graduates have gone on to careers in:

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

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

  • business, finance and commerce
  • research, development and venture acceleration

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, for example, we typically offer a range of taught MSc programmes in English Literature, including Creative Writing. We also typically offer Masters by Research degrees in both English Literature and Scottish Ethnology.

Eventually, you may decide to conduct doctoral work in English Literature or Celtic and Scottish Studies, like several of our past students.

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: AABB-ABBB by end of S5 or AAAB-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.
  • 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

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 Scottish Ethnology and English Literature

Additional costs

Your dissertation may involve some fieldwork, depending on your topic of study, which may mean paying for travel costs.

However, if you prefer, you can select an archive-based project that is unlikely to have any 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