Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2018/2019

M.A. Honours in Celtic and Archaeology

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: The University of Edinburgh
Programme accredited by: The University of Edinburgh
Final award: MA (Hons)
Programme title: Celtic and Archaeology
UCAS code: QV54
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Area Studies
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA:

Head of School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

Date of production/revision: May 2012

External summary

Among the Celtic languages taught at Edinburgh University in the department of Celtic and Scottish Studies, Scottish Gaelic, as an indigenous language of Scotland, receives the greatest emphasis.  Early Irish and Medieval Welsh are also offered at Honours level.  Since the establishment of the first Chair of Celtic in Scotland in 1882, the department has played a leading rôle both in research and in teaching.  Celtic is a versatile academic discipline that includes both linguistic and literary scholarship, and in recent years an important socio-political dimension has emerged with particular focus on the modern Celtic languages, and especially on the situation of Scottish Gaelic in the devolved Scottish context.  The study of Celtic develops the ability to engage in critical dialogue with literature and culture past and present, and to frame conceptually rigorous arguments in engaging with both texts and language.

In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise in 2008, 30% of the research in Celtic Studies at Edinburgh University was rated as 3*, internationally excellent, with a further 20% rated 4*, world-leading.

Archaeology provides a unique perspective on the human past, on what it is to be human. As the only subject that deals with the entire human past in all its temporal and spatial dimensions, it is fundamental to our understanding of how we evolved and how our societies came into being. Archaeology can be defined as the study of the human past through material remains with a chronological range from the earliest hominids five million years ago to the present day. It is a discipline with its own methods and theory drawing on a rich archive of past work; research and teaching in archaeology are therefore multi - or interdisciplinary: a particular topic or theme may be approached from different perspectives, and with different methodologies. At Edinburgh the main focus is on the prehistory of Britain, temperate Europe, the Mediterranean and Near East with a range of specialisms in bioarchaeology, illustration and landscape archaeology.

Specific areas which may appeal to graduates of this degree include heritage organisations, broadcasting and other media, publishing, arts development, tourism, local or national government, research, management or education. Having a knowledge of culture and the creative arts is relevant to employers both in a national context and overseas, given Scotland’s links to many countries across the world. The ability to undertake original research through cultural fieldwork, emphasised in several of the courses on this programme, is a key skill within many modern professions.

The University of Edinburgh has a worldwide reputation for the quality of its teaching and research and the resources for the study of Scotland at this institution and within the city at large are second to none. Students have access to the University’s libraries and computing facilities, to the internationally-renowned School of Scottish Studies Archives, and to a range of audio and visual recording and editing technologies, while the National Museums Scotland, National Library of Scotland and National Archives of Scotland are all close at hand.

The main aims of the programme are to

  • Offer students proficiency in Scottish Gaelic language and/or Early Irish and Medieval Welsh language as well as the study of their historical, literary, cultural, and political contexts.
  • Provide students with a thorough grounding in the literature of Scottish Gaelic and/or or Early Irish and Medieval Welsh, enabling them to access a wide range of original material.
  • Enable students to recognise and evaluate the social, historical and intellectual contexts by which literary texts are shaped.
  • Engage students in the theoretical debates about language and literature in order to encourage critical engagement with texts.
  • appreciate the material basis of archaeology, the contested nature of objects, the social relationships that are spun around them and the people who use and interpret them

Educational aims of programme

The programme aims to provide students with an understanding of Scottish Gaelic and its cultural environment through the study of language, literature, history and culture.  Language acquisition, including oral and aural instruction, plays an important role in allowing students to have a deeper understanding of Scottish Gaelic literature and culture through their direct engagement with primary sources as well as with theoretical concepts.  The programme enables students to have a subject expertise in Celtic Studies with the option courses allowing those interested to expand their knowledge to that of other Celtic languages.

  • to provide an education in Archaeology appropriate to the requirements of the vocational and non-vocational student. 
  • to provide a multidisciplinary understanding of Archaeology within a specific Geographic and Chronological framework.
  • to explore the theoretical and methodological basis of Archaeology and its relationship to other disciplines and the contribution which it makes to the past and contemporary worlds.
  • to develop the intellectual and professional tools required to work effectively with material drawn from all forms of archaeological investigation. 
  • to develop the student’s ability to evaluate and question different bodies of data, formulate and test hypotheses and to present evidence using the full range of written, numeric and graphic skills. to give practical
  • experience of the practice of archaeology.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

All students should acquire a knowledge and understanding of

  • Scottish Gaelic (written and spoken)
  • The linguistic structures of Scottish Gaelic and/or other Celtic languages
  • A wide range of literary genres, past and present, of Scottish Gaelic and/or other Celtic languages, and a critical understanding of their formal structures
  • The history and culture of the Gaelic-speaking world
  • The significance of historical and cultural contexts to our understanding of literary works in Scottish Gaelic and/or other Celtic languages
  • Key methods and concepts of linguistic, literary, and historical analysis in both subjects
  • Current research and emerging issues, at the very forefront of both subjects
  • Understanding of economic, legal, social, cultural, ethic, global and environmental responsibilities and issues surrounding the study of the past and its applications;
  • Understanding of the role of the past and its study with the shaping of class, ethnicity, gender, national and other identities with current, sometimes sensitive relevance;
  • understanding of the relationship between the theory and practice of archaeology.
  • understanding of the ethical, social and political issues which surround the practice of archaeology and the interpretation of archaeological data.
  • understanding of the professional organisation and structure of archaeology in one or more countries.
  • experience a substantial basis of training in field archaeological techniques, or training in related areas of applied archaeology.
  • understanding to an appropriate level of laboratory-based techniques and applications.
  • understanding of the processes of data management and quantitative methods as applied to archaeology

Teaching and Learning Methods and Strategies

Students’ knowledge and understanding of the above is facilitated through regular illustrated lectures, small-group tutorials and seminars, practical workshops (e.g. for fieldwork recording and oral presentation training), structured reading programmes and use of electronic resources (delivered through WebCT). Throughout, students are encouraged to undertake independent readings to supplement and consolidate what is being taught/learnt and to broaden their individual knowledge and understanding of the subject.


Knowledge and understanding is assessed through a combination of written submissions (e.g. essays and literature reviews), oral presentations and degree examinations. Innovative assessment forms are also utilised, e.g. the concept of ‘audio essays’ whereby students present their findings in the manner of a radio features broadcast on CD. Assessment in the level 8 core courses tests understanding of issues relating to specific disciplinary approaches as well as the relationship between them. All students are required to complete a dissertation in which ability to undertake a supervised individual research project is assessed. All assessment adheres to the University’s Extended Common Marking Scheme.


Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

By the end of the programme students should be able to:

  • retrieve, sift, select and analyse and interpret information from texts and other media in Scottish Gaelic;
  • reason critically and cogently, assessing and applying critical methods, including those for historical, literary, cultural, and political analysis;
  • identify and solve problems;
  • work independently to plan, undertake and complete a variety of assignments in a scholarly and literate fashion;
  • evaluate and critique other scholars’ deployment of methods of literary and critical analysis;
  • formulate questions and structure an argument to express resolutions to these questions critically and analytically;
  • examine self-reflexively the intellectual practices that they are using;
  • demonstrate their creative, reflective and imaginative thinking in extended pieces of independent scholarly writing.
  • formulate questions and structure an argument to express resolutions to these questions critically and analytically;
  • ability to identify, define and analyse archaeological problems
  • ability to develop a reasoned argument, support it with relevant evidence, and communicate it appropriately and persuasively
  • ability to create own research questions and to undertake independent research
  • ability to design a research programme and to formulate and test hypotheses through the collation of existing data and/or the generation of new information
  • ability to exercise critical judgement in the evaluation of the  opinions and arguments of archaeologists

Teaching and Learning

Illustrated lectures, small group discussions, library and online learning materials and fieldtrips/site visits all combine to nurture a strong empirical knowledge of a variety of forms of Scottish cultural expression and of dissemination platforms for area studies’ research and thought. Care is taken in the design and delivery of all contributing courses to ensure students are exposed to wider international contexts and materials. Detailed individual feedback on all formative course work submissions enhances students’ ability to produce scholarly texts, while research and study skills in the core level 10 courses provide support for dissertation work.

The overall structure of the four-year degree programme is designed to ensure that students engage with a variety of linguistic, literary, historical, and generic material and a variety of critical methodologies, and that they participate in the practice of detailed analysis. Although some elements of the curriculum are mandatory, the core and option courses allow students to make their degree as broad or as focused as they desire.  As such, the degree programme overall encourages students to develop their own areas of research and enquiry.


Formative and summative assessment is provided for all levels of the Programme in relation to the ongoing development of the subject-specific and practical skills outlined above. The precise nature of this assessment may vary across different contributing disciplines but includes essays, oral (or audio-visual) presentations, short reports or exercises and degree exams and all students must complete a dissertation.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

The programme is designed to facilitate the development of a range of skills which will prepare students for a wide variety of professions and employment. Chief among these are:

  • a reflexive approach to learning and personal development;
  • self reliance and personal responsibility;
  • the ability to distinguish relevant from irrelevant considerations in argument; and
  • the ability to construct clearly organised arguments, formulating logical and critical presentations of points and arguments.
  • Ability to test, modify and strengthen one’s own views through collaboration and debate.
  • Intellectual curiosity

Teaching and Learning

Regular submission of written work allows for the development of written communication skills, while the presentation of the Honours dissertation represents the culmination of this development process. Study skills taught in the compulsory level 8 courses include emphasis on time management, self reliance and personal responsibility. Oral communication skills are honed in tutorial discussions and presentations, while many of the level 10 courses require students to undertake a formal oral presentation. Presentation skills workshops are held for students in Year 3 and detailed advice and guidance documents are provided for each student. Listening skills are practised in second year level 8 courses. The group subject nature of the programme introduces students to a range of discipline-specific investigative techniques and a wide range of source types.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

Graduates in Celtic and Archaeology will be able to:

  • structure and communicate ideas effectively in both oral and written form, using a variety of resources/media;
  • participate constructively and efficiently in group discussions, assessing and responding effectively to the ideas of others; and
  • exercise advanced listening and interview skills.
  • Ability to make effective use of oral, written and visual means to convey understanding of historical issues and one’s interpretation of them
  • ability to make effective use of oral, written and visual means convey understanding of archaeological problems and issues and one’s interpretation of them.
  • ability to marshal argument lucidly and coherently

Teaching/learning methods and strategies

All courses require written work, usually in the form of essays, and regular feedback is given to the learners in order to develop their understanding and power of expression.  Teamwork and leadership skills are acquired through active contributions to tutorials and seminars, both as group members and discussion leaders.  Time management is learned through the expectation to submit coursework by prescribed deadlines notified at the outset of each course.  Teamwork and assessment and response to the ideas of others are developed in classes, seminars and tutorials, which rely on discussion and interaction, as well as presentations by individuals and groups of students.   IT skills are developed through University-wide training courses and individual learning, and within the subject area instruction is provided on using pertinent electronic resources such as catalogues, e-books/journals and the rich audio/visual resources of the digitised archives of the School of Scottish Studies collections.


Effective communication of ideas is an important criterion in assessing all areas of a learner’s work, and the regular feedback and the final mark both reflect this.  Many level 10 courses on this programme require assessed oral presentations to be undertaken. These are assessed by two members of staff and copies of powerpoint slides are submitted for the external examiner to view. A detailed pro forma feedback sheet is provided for each presentation, and workshops are held to help students prepare. Additionally, penalties are levied for late submission of essays and coursework assignments.  Structuring and communication of ideas, independent work, self-reliance, IT skills and assessment and response to the ideas of others are all assessed through regular coursework, essays and dissertations.  Although these are supervised they are nevertheless a manifestation of the independent thought and research by the learner.  IT skills are assessed through the assembly of necessary information for essays, etc. and their production on PCs.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

Graduates in Celtic and Archaeology will be able to:

  • work autonomously, setting their own goals, self-motivating and organising their own learning;
  • manage their time and priorities and work to both self-imposed and external deadlines;
  • collaborate effectively and productively with others in the process of learning and presenting conclusions, exercising leadership skills as appropriate;
  • confidently rely on their own intellectual capacities;
  • exercise sensitivity to ambiguity and multiplicity of meanings.
  • confidently engage with a range of groups and individuals through application of communication skills developed through fieldwork.
  • make decisions with confidence, based on their understanding and personal/intellectual autonomy;
  • work with, manage, and lead others in ways that value equality and diversity, and encourage their contribution to the organisation and the wider community.

Teaching/learning methods and strategies

The teaching and support ethos within this programme is to encourage students to develop self-confidence in their intellectual abilities and in their planning and organisation skills.  This is encouraged through formative feedback for all assessment forms, instruction in planning and delivery of oral presentations and in staged, developmental meetings with a supervisor in the case of dissertations. Exposure to, and close discussion of different examples of well-written academic articles and papers is a feature of most courses in order to foster appreciation of well-argued, clearly organised academic texts.


These skills and abilities are integrated across the various assessment forms employed in this programme. Oral presentations and ‘audio essays’ are used to test verbal and ‘live’ communication skills while essays, reports and dissertations provide platforms for assessment of in-depth and sustained analytical discussion and commentary. All students are required to undertake a dissertation which requires guided, yet independent planning, research and presentation of findings.

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

Celtic and Archaeology students will develop:

  • IT skills – the ability to use computers for word-processing, information storage, searching and retrieving information from the world wide web, and using presentational packages such as PowerPoint; and
  • library skills – the ability to use libraries for the recovery of information, and related research skills, including the ability to discriminate between different sources of information, suggested readings, and so on.
  • Archival skills – the ability to conduct original research using both physical and online archival collections

Teaching/learning methods and strategies

Strategies for helping students acquire and develop these skills are integrated into teaching and learning at all levels of the programme. Interview and fieldwork skills are taught in small-group sessions in two of the compulsory level 8 courses (Conceptualising Scotland and Scotland and Orality) and are further enhanced in specific level 10 courses. Sessions are also held at level 8 in use of printed and online research resources, and two of the compulsory level 8 courses deal specifically with audio and visual sources.


Assessment on many level 10 courses includes audio/visual ‘live’ presentations to be undertaken, while the dissertation provides the chance to assess all of these technical and practical skills being brought together in a holistic manner.

Programme structure and features

Full details of the degree programme, structure and courses can be found at:


Courses are taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials. 

Progression Requirements: Students are normally expected to have gained 120 credits from each year of study. 

Students who do not progress into Honours may graduate after three years of full-time study, or a longer prescribed period of part-time study, with a B.A. in Humanities and Social Science.

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

Teaching and Learning strategies employed at the University of Edinburgh consist of a variety of different methods appropriate to the programme aims.  The graduate attributes listed above are met through a teaching and learning framework (detailed below) which is appropriate to the level and content of the course.

Teaching and Learning Activities

In Year 1

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials

In Year 2

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials

In Year 3

  • Lectures
  • Seminars

In Year 4

  • Seminars
  • Lectures
  • Dissertation

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 125750
Year 225750
Year 317830
Year 414860

Assessment methods and strategies

Courses can be assessed by a diverse range of methods and often takes the form of formative work which provided the student with on-going feedback as well as summative assessment which is submitted for assessment.

In Year 1

  • Written Examinations
  • Coursework Essays
  • Source Analysis
  • Tutorial Assignments
  • Computer- based practical reports

In Year 2

  • Written Examinations
  • Coursework Essays
  • Visual slide test
  • Tutorial assignments
  • Class participation
  • Practical Reports
  • Portfolio of written work
  • Written presentation report
  • Multiple choice test

In Year 3

  • Written Examinations
  • Coursework Essays
  • Oral Presentations
  • Seminar Presentations
  • Practical Reports
  • Group Report
  • Class Participation

In Year 4

  • Written Examinations
  • Coursework Essays
  • Dissertation
  • Oral Examinations
  • Seminar Presentations
  • Practical Reports
  • Group Report
  • Class Participation

Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 145748
Year 256638
Year 335560
Year 427865

Career opportunities

Graduates of Celtic and Archaeology from the University of Edinburgh are highly valued.  The research and analytical skills you will develop throughout the course can be used in any research-based career. These skills can also be applied to careers including journalism, museum or heritage work, public relations, arts, administration, the Diplomatic Service, teaching, or a media-related career like PR, media production or advertising. Previous graduates have also gone on to work in the finance, law, business sectors or local government. There are opportunities for postgraduate study at the University of Edinburgh or you may choose to continue studying at another university.

Edinburgh’s Celtic graduates have always been very successful in gaining academic, educational, administrative, political and journalistic employment. Since the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, there has been increased demand for highly educated Gaelic speakers and cultural leaders, particularly within education, Gaelic-related research, and media and broadcasting.

Other items

  • all students are assigned a Personal Tutor on admission to the degree programme, who oversees the course of the student’s degree programme, offers advice on academic matters (including degree-progression) and should be the student’s first port of call for course-related worries or concerns
  • student opinion is actively sought through participation in Staff-Student Liaison Committees, through the election of class- and tutorial-representatives, and by the wide circulation and review of detailed student questionnaires each semester. 
  • LLC have a student support office, where students can go for advice on degree transfers, course changes, authorised interruption of studies, confirmation letters and general support. Information can be found at: - http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/literatures-languages-cultures/current-students/undergraduate-support
  • further information about Celtic and Scottish Studies can be found at http://www.celtscot.ed.ac.uk/