Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2018/2019

MA (Honours) Celtic

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:
Final award: MA (Honours)
Programme title: Celtic
UCAS code: Q500
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Languages and Related Studies
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Andrew Marsham
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.

An ERASMUS exchange programme with the University of Brest offers students an excellent opportunity to study Breton as part of their Celtic degree on their Year Abroad programme.

Located at the heart of the city, itself UNESCO's first World City of Literature, the University offers a rich array of unique resources which facilitate scholarship and learning.  Excellent libraries are among the many factors that make the city an ideal place for the study of literature.  As well as the wealth of resources in the main University Library, the National Library of Scotland, one of the finest bibliographical collections in Europe, is only five minutes’ walk from both departments.  The Archives of the School of Scottish Studies are an outstanding research resource offering material from both the Gaelic and the Scots tradition collected over a period of over sixty years.

The Celtic programme is designed to

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Enable students to recognise and evaluate the social, historical and intellectual contexts by which literary texts are shaped.
  4. Engage students in the theoretical debates about language and literature in order to encourage critical engagement with texts.
  5. Understand developments at the forefront of both subjects and to participate in research-led study.
Develop the independent critical, analytic and communicative skills which will fit students for a wide range of employment, further training and life-long learning.

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.

The programme aims to develop the critical, analytic, linguistic and creative skills of students by engaging with a broad range of texts and a variety of theoretical approaches.  By enhancing the linguistic, literary, and critical faculties of individual students, the programme prepares them to contribute to a society in which an understanding of texts of all kinds is crucially important.

In their Honours years students will be able to choose from a wide range of courses reflecting the interests and research expertise of their lecturers.

Students undertaking this programme will be exceptionally well placed to pursue difficult and important post-graduate research in either field.  Graduates will also be very well placed to enter employment where linguistic skills are of special value, e.g. in the heritage industries, education, the Civil Service, the non-governmental sector, industry, and commerce.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

  1. Scottish Gaelic (written and spoken)
  2. The linguistic structures of Scottish Gaelic and/or other Celtic languages
  3. 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
  4. The history and culture of the Gaelic-speaking world
  5. The significance of historical and cultural contexts to our understanding of literary works in Scottish Gaelic and/or other Celtic languages
  6. Key methods and concepts of linguistic, literary, and historical analysis in both subjects
  7. Current research and emerging issues, at the very forefront of both subjects

Teaching/learning methods and strategies.

For Celtic, acquisition of 1, 2, 6, and 7 is through classes, tutorials and regular coursework.  Additional support is provided through access to the facilities for language learning in the Language and Humanities Centre and to recommended materials on the Web.

Acquisition of 3-5 and 8-10 is through a combination of lectures/classes and tutorials in Years 1 and 2, and subsequently developed through small-group teaching in Years 3 and 4.

In Celtic, courses are taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials and seminars.

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.


Testing of the knowledge base is through a combination of written examinations, assessed coursework in the form of exercises, presentations, and/or essays, oral and aural examinations, and a dissertation.

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

Celtic graduates will be able to:

  1. retrieve, sift, select and analyse and interpret information from texts and other media in Scottish Gaelic;
  2. reason critically and cogently, assessing and applying critical methods, including those for historical, literary, cultural, and political analysis;
  3. identify and solve problems;
  4. work independently to plan, undertake and complete a variety of assignments in a scholarly and literate fashion;
  5. evaluate and critique other scholars’ deployment of methods of literary and critical analysis;
  6. formulate questions and structure an argument to express resolutions to these questions critically and analytically;
  7. examine self-reflexively the intellectual practices that they are using;
  8. demonstrate their creative, reflective and imaginative thinking in extended pieces of independent scholarly writing.

These intellectual skills are developed through the teaching and learning programme.  Each course, whatever the format of the teaching, involves discussion of key issues, practice in applying concepts both orally and in writing, analysis and interpretation of material, and feedback sessions on work produced.

Great emphasis is placed, in the various methods of assessment used, on the student’s ability to demonstrate the above skills (1-8) through the production of cogent and coherent written and oral responses to problems and tasks set.  Students also submit a dissertation in their final year which is an ideal vehicle for demonstrating these skills (and especially 4), although they are constantly demonstrated also throughout their other 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.

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

Graduates in Celtic will be:

  1. able to work independently and be self-reliant;
  2. open to new ideas, methods and ways of thinking;
  3. intellectually curious and able to sustain intellectual interest;
  4. able to demonstrate and exercise independence of mind and creativity in thought.
  5. able to assess and respond to the ideas of others, constructing cogent arguments through critical reasoning and the application of linguistic, literary, historical and social concepts.

1-5 are all fostered throughout the curriculum. 1 is learned through the extensive independent study and self-discipline required in both language learning and the Humanities and Social Sciences. 2, 3, 4 and 5 are also developed throughout the programme. Formative and summative assessment is used to develop, consolidate and evaluate these skills. All five are particularly developed by the Dissertation.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

Graduates in Celtic will be able to:

  1. process, structure and communicate ideas effectively and at an advanced level of proficiency, both orally and in written form in Scottish Gaelic;
  2. communicate clearly and accurately, constructing cogent arguments;
  3. participate constructively in group discussions, assessing and responding effectively to the ideas of others;  and
  4. communicate effectively in English to inform others about aspects of Scottish Gaelic (and/or another Celtic language), culture, history, politics and literature.
All courses require regular written work, on which feedback is provided, so that students develop not only their understanding but also their powers of written expression, while tutorials and tutorial presentations allow development of oral expression, participation in groups and communication with others.

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

Graduates in Celtic will be able to:

  1. work autonomously, setting their own goals, and organising their own learning;
  2. manage their time and priorities, working to self-imposed and external deadlines, particularly with reference to the planning and execution of essays, presentations and other writing and project work;
  3. collaborate effectively and productively with and in relation to others in the presentation of ideas and information, and the collective negotiation of solutions;
  4. adapt and transfer the critical methods of their discipline to a variety of working environments;
  5. respond flexibly, adaptably and proactively to changing surroundings;
  6. exercise sensitivity to ambiguity and multiplicity of meanings;
  7. make decisions with confidence, based on their understanding and personal/intellectual autonomy;
  8. work with, manage, and lead others in ways that value equality and diversity, and encourage their contribution to the organisation and the wider community.
Essays, dissertations, exam-essays and exams test students’ ability to work to a specific deadline (and there are penalties for failing to do so).  Sit-down exams, in particular, test students’ ability to fulfil tasks under pressure of limited time.  Presentations develop students’ skills in explaining and elaborating a topic in front of an audience and in participating in discussion with others.  The diversity and inclusivity of our curricula enables those who take this degree to develop further skills in all these areas.

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

Expertise in one or more of the Celtic languages is by far the most important technical skill acquired in the course of the Celtic programme. Students will be able to:

  • read, write, and speak Scottish Gaelic at a high level of proficiency, and/or be able to read Medieval Welsh and/or Early Irish, and be able to analyse literary material in the respective language(s);
  • translate from and into Scottish Gaelic or translate from Medieval Welsh and/or Early Irish;

In addition, graduates will also develop:

  • IT skills—the ability to use computers for word-processing, information storage and for retrieving information from the worldwide web; and
  • library skills—the ability to use libraries for the recovery of information, and related research skills, including the ability to discriminate between different types of information.

Throughout their studies, students take classes and receive instruction in Celtic. Language skills are assessed by class and home exercises, tests and degree examinations (including oral and aural examination). Likewise IT and library skills are fostered throughout the degree programme and are tested in coursework and examinations, especially the dissertation or equivalent courses.

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
  • Language Workshops

In Year 2

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials
  • Language Workshops

In Year 3

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Workshops

In Year 4

  • Seminars
  • Lectures
  • Workshops

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 133670
Year 223770
Year 314860
Year 417830

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
  • Oral Examinations

In Year 2

  • Written Examinations
  • Coursework Essays
  • Oral Examinations

In Year 3

  • Written Examinations
  • Coursework Essays
  • Dissertation

In Year 4

  • Written Examinations
  • Coursework Essays
  • Dissertation

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 157934
Year 250644
Year 3331255
Year 4332047

Career opportunities

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

1.  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 and should be the student’s first point of contact for course-related worries or concerns.

2.  The School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures has 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:


3.  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.

4.  In addition to having Celtic as a Single Honours degree, Celtic may be combined with other subjects in a Joint Honours degree.  These joint degrees currently include:

  • MA (Hons) in Celtic and Archaeology
  • MA (Hons) in Celtic and Education
  • MA (Hons) in Celtic and English Language
  • MA (Hons) in Celtic and English Literature or Scottish Literature
  • MA (Hons) in Celtic and German
  • MA (Hons) in Celtic and Linguistics
  • MA (Hons) in Celtic and Scandinavian Studies
  • MA (Hons) in Celtic and Scottish Historical Studies
  • MA (Hons) in Scottish Ethnology and Celtic
  • LLB (Hons) in Law and Celtic

5.  More detailed information on these programmes, and the department of Celtic and Scottish Studies, can be found at: http://www.celtscot.ed.ac.uk/