Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2018/2019

MA (Hons) Chinese and History

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 (Hons)
Programme title: Chinese and History
UCAS code: TV11
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Language and Related Studies
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Head of School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
Date of production/revision: May 2012

External summary

The University of Edinburgh is the only university in Scotland to offer an Honours degree in Chinese.

The Scottish Centre for Chinese Studies offers courses in Chinese at all levels, taught by three full-time members of staff and a Chinese Language Assistant. Staff research interests cover literature, translation, film, history and culture in both modern and traditional Chinese: the expertise of the teaching staff was reflected in an excellent performance in the recent Research Assessment Exercise. For anyone thinking further ahead, this expertise has led to the development of an expanding programme of postgraduate studies.

You will discover Edinburgh to be a cosmopolitan city with ever-increasing opportunities to engage with China on academic, professional and cultural terms.

The Scottish Centre for Chinese Studies serves as a platform to link China related research at University of Edinburgh and at other HEI's in Scotland. The Centre organises interdisciplinary research seminar series, and hosts the interdisciplinary Master of Chinese studies programme.

The Confucius Institute was established in 2006 as a partnership between the University and Fudan University in Shanghai. Within four years of operation the Institute has developed into a comprehensive cultural centre, providing non degree language training as well as a large outreach and knowledge transfer programme.  In 2010, it has been honoured as ‘Institute of the Year’ by Hanban, sponsor of the global network of Confucius Institutes and Classrooms, for the fourth consecutive year, a recognition of its status as a world class Institute.

During the first two years of the MA in Chinese and History, students attend a range of classes which provide a solid foundation in the Chinese language (Mandarin). Together with courses on modern Chinese society and culture as well as outlines on China's rich history from earliest times to the present day students are well prepared for the third year of the programme, which is spent studying at a Chinese university. In the fourth year intensify their study on primary sources in courses on key notions of classical philosophy and literature as well as courses on modern and contemporary China.

The programme is taught within the Schools of Literatures, Languages and Cultures and History, Classics and Archaeology.

The main programme aims of the programme are

  • to enable students to understand, evaluate and compare a range of theoretical and methodological frameworks.
  • to enable students to develop and apply their knowledge and skills to the understanding and evaluation of issues and problems in the contemporary world.
  • to enable students to develop and apply key generic skills in critical thinking, research, oral and written articulation of information and argument.
to equip students for progression to a wide variety of careers or to further academic study.

Educational aims of programme

The programme aims to enable students with little or no previous knowledge of Chinese language and culture to acquire and develop interest in and understanding of Chinese speaking countries, including the Chinese language (Mandarin), history, literature, culture and society. It offers society the resource of intellectually trained individuals capable of acting as conduits of knowledge and understanding between Britain and Chinese-speaking countries. 

The programme, taught in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures and History, Classics and Archaeology, offers society the resource of intellectually trained individuals capable of acting as conduits of knowledge and understanding between Britain and Chinese-speaking countries.  The programme also enables students to acquire and develop knowledge of the history of the different cultures of East and South-east Asia. In general, the History part of the programme offers a broad based curriculum covering a wide range of history courses available in the various subject areas of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

  1. Modern spoken and written Chinese (Mandarin)
  2. Modern and classical Chinese literature
  3. Chinese history and thought
  4. Political and social issues related to Chinese speaking countries
  5. Linguistic issues related to the Chinese language (its structure, functions, registers, writing systems etc.)
  6. Key methods and concepts of literary, historic and linguistic analysis
  7. Teaching/learning methods and strategies       

Chinese language is acquired through small-group classes, tutorials and regular, assessed coursework.  Additional support is provided through the self-access facilities for language learning at the Language and Humanities Centre and the Languages MicroLab.  The third year abroad provides total immersion in the Chinese language and culture.

Knowledge of Chinese literature, history, thought, culture and society is acquired through a combination of lectures and tutorials or seminars including group discussion and individual or joint presentations.


Testing on the knowledge base is through unseen written examinations in all areas, combined with assessed regular language exercises and oral examinations in Chinese language; and essays, coursework assignments and a dissertation in Chinese studies.

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

  1. to reason critically and cogently
  2. to apply linguistic, literary and historical concepts
  3. to identify and solve problems
  4. to analyse and interpret
  5. to find information on and use information technology
  6. To use the Internet and bibliographic resources in both Mandarin Chinese and English
  7. plan, undertake and (in a scholarly and literate fashion) report on a piece of
  8. self-initiated research, retrieve, sift and select information from a variety of sources and media, including those in the target language; analyse and interpret information and texts

Teaching/learning methods and strategies

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


The variety of assessment methods employed all place great emphasis on the learner’s ability to demonstrate the above skills through the production of cogent and coherent written and oral responses to problems and tasks set.  Essays and dissertations produced in the Honours years provide an especially valuable vehicle for the training of those skills.  In particular, the combination of Chinese and History allows for the development of a variety of skills in researching material produced not just in different languages, but with widely varying ideological content.

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

  1. to work independently
  2. to be self-reliant
  3. to assess and respond to the ideas of others
  4. demonstrate and exercise independence of mind and thought
  5. distinguish relevant from irrelevant considerations in argument
  6. construct clearly organised arguments

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.  Independent work and self-reliance are developed during the year abroad.  IT skills are developed through University-wide training courses and individual learning.


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.  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 communication

  1. To speak, write and read Mandarin Chinese at an advance level of proficiency
  2. To translate and interpret from and into Mandarin Chinese
  3. To communicate effectively in English to inform and educate others about Chinese language and culture
  4. to structure and communicate ideas effectively in both oral and written form
  5. to be a constructive and efficient member of a team

Teaching/learning methods and strategies

Classes are given on literary, historical and linguistic concepts and on approaches to translation.  Throughout their studies, students take classes and receive instruction in Mandarin Chinese language.  The year abroad further promotes the active learning of the Chinese language to an advanced level.

Comprehensive bibliographies are provided for each course, as are guidelines for the production of essays, coursework assignments and dissertations.


All skills listed are primarily assessed through essays, coursework assignments and dissertations.  Use of the Mandarin Chinese language and translating and interpreting from and into Chinese are assessed by class and home exercises, tests and degree examinations.  The ability to gather information on Chinese speaking countries and to present it effectively in English is assessed through degree examinations on Chinese literature, history, thought, culture and society.

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

  1. the confidence to rely on one’s own intellectual capacities
  2. the ability to motivate oneself, to plan one’s own work, and to set one’s own
  3. goals and deadlines
  4. ability to work autonomously
  5. time and priority management skills
  6. be sensitive to ambiguity and multiplicity of meanings
  7. to exercise leadership skills

The small classes in the final year of the degree allow space for extensive discussion involving all the students.

The dissertation and the year abroad work for History test the ability to sustain skills over a more extended and complex piece of work.

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

Students should acquire skills that can be used in a wide variety of intellectual contexts and forms of employment.  These include: -

  • computing skills – the ability to use computers for word-processing, information storage and for retrieving information from the world wide web.
  • use of libraries – 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.

Students are given instruction in how to access material in Chinese through the use of internet resources. Students routinely use Chinese word processing software to insert Chinese characters into essays and dissertations.

During the year abroad, students carry out guided reading under the supervision of a member of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, and write an essay on a historical theme preferably related to China.

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.  Optional courses in Year 4 are taught through seminars.

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

  • Year Abroad Work
  • Dissertation
  • Independent Study

In Year 4

  • Seminars
  • Lectures
  • Presentations
  • Group Work

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 126740
Year 227730
Year 324850
Year 415850

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
  • Oral Examinations
  • Coursework Essays
  • Coursework Exercises

In Year 2

  • Written Examinations
  • Oral Examinations
  • Coursework Essays
  • Coursework Exercises

In Year 3

  • Year Abroad Work
  • Dissertation

In Year 4

  • Written Examinations
  • Coursework Essays
  • Oral Examination
  • 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 142256
Year 248547
Year 300100
Year 450248

Career opportunities

Graduates have a broad range of careers available to them. Chinese and History graduates are in demand in the media, commerce and the Civil Service, and many are recruited by companies based in East Asia.

Graduates in Chinese and History can use their language skills to work as translators, interpreters or teachers. 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, the Diplomatic Service or teaching. Previous graduates have also gone on to work in finance, law or local government or have chosen postgraduate study.

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: -


further information about Asian Studies can be found at http://www.asianstudies.ed.ac.uk/

further information about History can be found at