Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2018/2019

MA Honours in Classics

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: Classics
UCAS code: Q800
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Classics & Ancient History
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: SHCA Quality Director
Date of production/revision: May 2012

External summary

Classics is the study of the languages and literatures of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Ancient Greek is the language in which many of the basic concepts underlying Western society to this day found expression for the first time; Latin was the language of the most powerful and durable empire of the classical world and remained the principal language of scholarship, record and much literature for more than a thousand years thereafter. In these two languages highly influential literary works of great intrinsic quality and interest were composed; and the fusion of Greek and Roman culture produced a heritage which is fundamental to later Western civilisation.

The study of Classics is not only a valuable pursuit in itself but also informs our views of the world in which we live. The MA in Classics combines both linguistic and philological work as well as the study of two civilisations that utilised what we call the classical languages in a wide range of different contexts (e.g. political, religious, philosophical, etc.) and in different societal niches, i.e. by individuals from different social levels, emphasising the need to appreciate social status and equality in the context of personal and other diversity.

To acquire a sound grammatical understanding of both ancient Greek and Latin, a good knowledge of the vocabulary and the different uses of both languages by different authors, and an appreciation of the rapport between the different ancient societies that used these languages as well as these societies’ relationship to their languages and literatures are, thus, the central aims of this programme.

Educational aims of programme

The programme aims

  • to develop students’ knowledge of ancient Greek and Latin, leading to growing fluency, accuracy of comprehension and sensitivity to linguistic nuance
  • to develop students’ understanding and critical appreciation of a wide range of ancient Greek and Latin literature, with due attention to its literary, historical and cultural context
  • to extend students' study of ancient Greek and Latin literature beyond the normal classical limits either end of the chronological spectrum
  • to enable students to embark on further study and research in the fields of the classical language and literature
  • to enable students to teach (after professional training) ancient Greek and Latin language and literature at all study levels
  • to provide a solid methodological foundation for further research in ancient Greek and Latin studies, or for further study and research in the Arts and Humanities
  • to develop the general critical, analytical and communicative skills which prepare students for vocational training, for a wide variety of employment opportunities, and for continued life-long learning

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

Graduates from the MA in Classics will possess and demonstrate

  • a sound grasp of both ancient Greek and Latin grammar and vocabulary
  • a good knowledge of both ancient Greek and Latin syntax and its similarities to and differences from the syntax of the English language
  • an acquaintance with the major genres of ancient Greek and Latin literature and with the linguistic and literary conventions of these genres
  • a sensitivity of a range of different styles in prose and verse
  • an understanding and critical appreciation of the thoughts, beliefs, ideas and concepts of classical authors (literary, historiographic, philosophic, rhetorical, didactic, etc.) in their social, political and historical contexts
  • an understanding of ideas and patterns of thought current in the Graeco-Roman world
  • an awareness of historical and social concepts pertaining to the use of both ancient Greek and Latin, and of continuities and differences in their uses in the near two millennia in which these languages were used
  • an understanding both of the modern preconceptions with which students approach classical antiquity and of the various traditions of classical scholarship

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

Graduates from the MA in Classics will possess and demonstrate

  • an ability to apply linguistic and philological knowledge in the close reading and interpretation of both ancient Greek and Latin texts
  • an ability to analyse philological and linguistic problems, compare and evaluate different views and formulate independent and well-argued hypotheses
  • an ability to analyse and comment on the thoughts, beliefs, ideas and concepts of ancient authors with due consideration of their social, political and historical contexts and of pertinent secondary literature
  • an ability to comment on the major genres of ancient Greek and Latin literature and on the linguistic and literary conventions of these genres as well as on a range of different styles in prose and verse
  • an ability to think creatively and imaginatively about both ancient Greek and Latin, and about both ancient Greek and Latin literature, in the setting and pursuit of own research agendas

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

Graduates from the MA in Classics will possess and demonstrate

  • an ability to appreciate linguistic, literary and cultural difference in the use (and users) of both ancient Greek and Latin
  • an ability to analyse and explain, on the example of both ancient Greek and Latin, how language influences modes of expression and thought
  • an ability to compare different literary styles and linguistic choices through the study of a range of ancient Greek and Latin authors and texts
  • an ability to gather and evaluate complex and variegated data, and to organise this into complex and lengthy arguments of either (or both) a linguistic or philological nature
  • an ability to exercise informed critical judgement regarding the study of ancient Greek and Latin as well as ancient Greek and Latin literature
  • an ability to reflect on own language use through comparison with the ancient Greek and Roman use of the classical languages
  • an ability to reflect on the influence of the classical languages on the development of modern languages
  • an ability to reflect on the influence of classical literature and Graeco-Roman culture on the development of modern literatures and cultures

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

Graduates from the MA in Classics will possess and demonstrate

  • an ability to make effective use of oral, written and visual means to critique, negotiate, create and communicate understanding
  • an ability to marshal argument lucidly, coherently and concisely, be it in writing or in speaking
  • an ability to think on their feet when presented with unexpected and/or unusual linguistic problems, questions or topics and to propose remedies and answers in a clear and persuasive manner
  • an ability to present one’s views in collaboration with others, both in group discussion and in joint presentations
  • an ability to present lucidly the results of investigation to specialists and non-specialists alike, orally or in written form

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

Graduates from the MA in Classics will possess and demonstrate

  • an ability to work independently and investigate purposefully
  • an ability to approach intellectual challenges with academic rigour and mental agility
  • an ability to think under pressure when addressing often difficult questions
  • an ability to manage and meet firm deadlines and to organise their own learning and workload to that effect
  • an ability to contribute to wider debates and issues on the basis of their knowledge and understanding of the ancient world that shows a high level of social responsibility
  • an ability to collaborate effectively with others, including peers and academic seniors such as tutors and lecturers, capitalising on diversities of thinking, experience and skills in ways that value personal difference

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

Graduates from the MA in Classics will possess and demonstrate

  • a command of bibliographical and library research skills, as well as a range of skills in reading and textual analysis
  • an ability to employ a range of electronic resources and presentation aids, and means of electronic communication (e.g. electronic databases, powerpoint, wikis, etc.)

Programme structure and features

Modes of study: the standard mode of study for the MA in Classics is full-time.

Programme-specific entry, typical programme structure and progression requirements:

  • The programme is open to total beginners in both languages as well as to students who have already attained some knowledge of either or both of the classical languages
  • Both first-year Greek and Latin are taught in two different streams to take account of the students’ previous linguistic attainment. In Year 1, absolute beginners in Greek take Greek 1a (1st semester) and Greek 1b (2nd semester); and absolute beginners in Latin take Latin 1a (1st semester) and Latin 1b (2nd semester). Those who already have a secure knowledge of either or both the classical languages take Greek 1c (1st semester) and Greek 1d (2nd semester), and/or Latin 1c (1st semester) and Latin 1d (2nd semester) respectively. [Students in 1c and 1d read the same texts and attend classes with those in 2a and 2b (see below), but have separate and different tutorials and examinations.]
  • In Year 2, both streams converge to Greek 2a (1st semester) and Greek 2b (2nd semester), and to Latin 2a (1st semester) and Latin 2b (2nd semester). A pass at 40% is required in the first-year courses to progress to the second-year courses. And a pass at 50% (at first attempt) is required in second-year to progress to Honours in Classics. In addition to their courses in ancient Greek and Latin, students are required to take in both Year 1 and Year 2, a further 40 credits of their choice.
  • At Honours level, students are required to take in each of the two Honours years 120 credits. In Year 3, 20 credits must be from ‘Greek Language A’ and 20 credits from ‘Latin Language B’; and a further 60 credits from Honours courses in Greek and Latin. In Year 4, 20 credits must come from ‘Greek Language B’ and 20 credits from ‘Latin Language B’; and a further 40 credits from Honours courses in Greek and Latin, as well as 40 credits from the Dissertation (Classics).
  • Assessment in the MA in Classics typically involves a combination of coursework and examinations. Full information on the programme and course specific learning outcomes and assessment practices are laid out clearly in the Classics Sub-Honours Handbook, the Classics Honours Handbook, and in specific course booklets available for each course of this programme.

SQCF credit points: courses at 1st and 2nd year level are at SQCF credit level 8; courses at Honours level are at SQCF credit level 10.

Exit awards: the MA in Classics (Honours) is the typical exit award for the programme after a normal study period of four years. Students who fail to progress into Honours or who experience difficulties with the completion of their Honours programme might be able to move to a General BA in the CAHSS subject to a number of conditions as laid out from time to time by CAHSS.

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

Specific activities will vary with course options taken, but may include:

In Year 1 (for core courses)

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials

In Year 2 (for core courses)

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials

In Year 3

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Groupwork

In Year 4

  • Research Project
  • Lectures
  • Seminars

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 127730
Year 224760
Year 315850
Year 410900

Assessment methods and strategies

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

Various assessment methods are used dependent on course options taken, but may include:

In Year 1 (for core courses)

  • Essays
  • Coursework
  • Written Examinations

In Year 2 (for core courses)

  • Essays
  • Coursework
  • Written Examinations

In Year 3

  • Essays
  • Written Examinations
  • Seminar Presentations/Assignments
  • Group Exercise

In Year 4

  • Dissertation
  • Essays
  • Coursework
  • Written Examinations

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 160040
Year 262038
Year 365035
Year 432068

Career opportunities

Classics graduates often progress to further study or careers in academia, teaching and museum work. Previous graduates have also gone on to work in law, accountancy, finance, IT, publishing or the Civil Service.

Other items

Students on all the Classics degrees can do a non-compulsory year abroad in their third year, through ERASMUS or International Exchange.