Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2020/2021

MA Honours in Classical Studies

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: Classical Studies
UCAS code: Q810
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

The MA in Classical Studies combines the study of the literature (in translation or the original) history and archaeology of the classical world. The evidence for the Greco-Roman world is richly varied in nature and relatively limited in quantity. Even with increasing specialisation within Classics, it is possible for the student to explore that intrinsically interesting world from several different disciplinary angles and to build up a reasonably comprehensive view of the Greek and Roman civilisations which, though remote in time, are still highly significant for us today. The study of the classical world in a multi-disciplinary manner thus affords the opportunity to acquire a rounded view of the origins of European civilisation through the combination of philological, historical and archaeological inquiry.

Educational aims of programme

The programme aims

  • to develop students’ knowledge and understanding of the literatures of the Greek and Roman civilisations (in English translation or in the original) in the classical period in combination with the development of the skills required for historical and archaeological inquiry;
  • to enable students to place this knowledge into the wider Mediterranean context that has produced the Greek and Roman civilisations;
  • to enable the student to identify and analyse for these purposes a variety of different forms of evidence (literary, epigraphic, papyrological and archaeological);
  • to enable students to embark on further study and research in Classics, to teach (after professional training) classical studies and classical civilisation; and to acquire methods and techniques needed 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 Classical Studies will possess and demonstrate

  • an understanding of other cultures, their histories, literatures, and material records, and ways of critically engaging with them
  • an understanding of the different value of various bodies of evidence for the study of different problems and topics
  • an understanding of a range of viewpoints on problems of interpretation and evaluation of the past
  • an acquaintance with the major genres of ancient classical literature and the literary conventions of these genres, major historical events and developments in classical antiquity, and major bodies of archaeological evidence
  • an understanding and critical appreciation of the thoughts, beliefs, ideas and concepts held in classical antiquity as expressed in the literature, history and material culture of ancient society
  • an understanding of (esp.) economic, legal, social, cultural, ethical, and political responsibilities and issues surrounding the study of the past and its applications
  • an understanding of the role of the past and its study in the shaping of class, ethnic, gender, national and other identities with current, sometimes sensitive relevance
  • an understanding of how to enjoy the life of the mind with particular reference to an intellectual engagement with the ancient world

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

Graduates from the MA in Classical Studies will possess and demonstrate

  • an ability to draw valid conclusions about the Graeco-Roman past and to place the Graeco-Roman past into its Mediterranean setting
  • an ability to apply philological, historical and archaeological knowledge in the study and interpretation of ancient evidence
  • an ability to analyse and comment on the thoughts, beliefs, ideas and concepts of ancient voices with due consideration of their social, political and historical contexts and of pertinent secondary literature
  • an ability to identify, define and analyse problems and issues pertaining to the study of the ancient world through the collection and interpretation of a wide range of primary sources
  • an ability to exercise critical judgement in the evaluation of the opinions and arguments of other scholars of the classical world
  • an ability to think creatively and imaginatively in order to solve difficult philological, historical and archaeological problems with often scanty and/or complex evidence
  • an ability to formulate own questions of the classical past, and to search for, evaluate and successfully employ ancient evidence and/or modern theories in answering these questions

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

Graduates from the MA in Classical Studies will possess and demonstrate

  • an ability to gather and evaluate complex and variegated data, and to organise this into complex and lengthy arguments of a philological, historical and/or archaeological nature
  • ability to organise complex and lengthy arguments pertaining to the study of the ancient world and to present well-reasoned conclusions
  • an ability to seek out source material independently and to employ that material in the analysis of problems and the answering of questions arising from the study of the ancient world
  • an ability to formulate an own opinion on the basis of the ancient evidence that is new or different to the views expressed by others
  • an ability to test, modify and strengthen one’s own views through collaboration and debate with peers and seniors
  • an ability to turn intellectual curiosity in the ancient world into the responsible study of an important aspect of the human past, and to relate that past to one’s own place in the world
  • an ability to analyse how national, cultural, social or political assumptions and viewpoints can influence the study of the ancient world and the roles and places of the different elements that made up the ancient world
  • an ability to reflect on the role of the ancient world, its history, literatures and material cultures in the making of the modern world
  • an ability to reflect on the role of inquiry into the classical past in the making of the modern world

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

Graduates from the MA in Classical Studies 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 evidence, questions or topics and to propose remedies and answers in a clear and persuasive manner in the time given
  • 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 Classical Studies 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 Classical Studies 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 Classical Studies is full-time.

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

  • The programme is open to students with or without prior knowledge of ancient history, archaeology, the classical literatures or languages.
  • At first-year level, all students are required to successfully complete (at 40% or above) four 20-credit Classics courses that provide an introduction to the study of the ancient world (‘The Roman World 1a’; ‘The Roman World 1b’; ‘The Greek World 1a’; ‘The Greek World 1b’); students are moreover required to take a further 40 credits of their choice. Students are encouraged to take Greek or Latin as their outside option course.
  • At second-year level, students are required to complete successfully (at 50% or above at first attempt) ‘Classical Literature 2’ and ‘Ancient History 2a’. They must moreover complete successfully (at 50% or above at first attempt) another 40 credits from a choice of three courses: ‘Ancient History 2b’, ‘Classical Art 2A’ and ‘Classical Archaeology 2B’; and 40 further credits of their choice. Students may wish to substitute up to forty credits with Greek or Latin at second year level, depending on their first year choices, but they must ensure to take at least one ancient history option, one archaeology option, and the classical literature option.
  • At Honours level, students are required to take in each of the two Honours years 120 credits. In Year 4, 40 credits must be from the Dissertation. In both Years 3 and 4, at least 20 credits must come from each of the three core areas (ancient history, classical archaeology, and classical literature).
  • Assessment in the MA in Classical Studies 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.
  • The range of possibilities in Years 1 and 2 enables sideways movement into and out of this particular programme as the student's preferences and aptitudes emerge, and it provides different contexts and insights which are valuable for more advanced classical study.

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 Classical Studies (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

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials

In Year 2

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials

In Year 3

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Groupwork
  • Museum visits

In Year 4

  • Research Project
  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Groupwork
  • Museum visits

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 123770
Year 218820
Year 314860
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

  • Essays
  • Written Examinations
  • Class Tests
  • Source Analysis
  • Coursework

In Year 2

  • Essays
  • Written Examinations
  • Class Tests
  • Coursework
  • Critical Analysis

In Year 3

  • Essays
  • Written Examinations
  • Seminar Presentations/Assignments
  • Archive/Museum project
  • Workshop report
  • Practical Projects
  • Group Exercise

In Year 4

  • Dissertation
  • Essays
  • Written Examinations
  • Seminar Presentations/Assignments
  • Archive/Museum project
  • Workshop report
  • Practical Projects
  • Group Exercise

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 158042
Year 263037
Year 354838
Year 442553

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.