Undergraduate study - 2022 entry
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Degree Programme Specification 2021/2022

MA (Hons) Ancient and Medieval 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: Ancient and Medieval History
UCAS code: V190
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s):

QAA Benchmark Statement - Classics and Ancient History, History

Postholder with overall responsibility for QA:

SHCA Quality Director

Date of production/revision:

SHCA Quality Director

External summary

This combined programme offers a range of history courses available in the various subject areas of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology. It is intended to offer a focused programme concentrating on ancient history courses offered within Classics and medieval history courses offered within History, including Scottish History. In addition to the study of the Greek and Roman civilisations, the programme offers the study of other ancient peoples and civilisations, such as the Persians, the Carthaginians, the various peoples of Italy as well as post-classical, i.e. late antique topics, as part of the general study of ancient history at sub-honours level, and/or in more specialised study at honours level. Students are thus required to contextualise Graeco-Roman history within its wider Mediterranean context and to appreciate the early history of Europe in relation to other histories and peoples. Students also consider the roles played by sub-groups and individuals in the history of these ancient civilisations. The discipline of History involves study of the human past adopting a critical approach to evidence relevant to that enquiry. Work in History takes the form of interaction with the evidence in primary form and through sceptical reading of a wide body of historical writing. The Edinburgh experience is distinctive for the range of historical themes, chronological periods and geographical areas which can be studied using a variety of different intellectual approaches to the past.


Students will be expected to:

  • work independently, to organise and synthesise data derived from a variety of sources, to assess the reliability of evidence and weigh a variety of competing or conflicting factors, to analyse complex questions and make independent judgements, to develop and organise their arguments, and to present a coherent, reasoned and well supported set of conclusions.
  • make effective use of information sources and data.
  • understand the problems of historical interpretation.
  • present arguments and results in written form, in clear and correct English.
  • present information and arguments orally with clarity and confidence.
  • manage their time effectively.
  • show their ability to use information technology.

Educational aims of programme

  • to develop students' knowledge and understanding of the histories and societies of Greek, Roman and medieval civilisations, and of their complex interrelations
  • to enable the student to identify and analyse for this purpose a variety of different forms of evidence (literary, epigraphic, documentary and archaeological);
  • to provide the intellectual tools with which to apply such evidence to the investigation, understanding and critical evaluation of the social, economic and political structures of the Classical and medieval worlds across an extended temporal period
  • to provide a solid methodological foundation for further research in ancient history, or for further study and research in the Arts and Humanities
  • to introduce students to problems of methodology in a variety of contexts and to develop their analytical and critical skills through their studies at degree level.
  • to recognise the relationship of breadth of knowledge in relation to more specialised study.
  • 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

  • understanding of a range of viewpoints on problems of interpretation and evaluation of the past
  • understanding of economic, legal, social, cultural, ethical, 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 in the shaping of class, ethnic, gender, national and other identities with current, sometimes sensitive relevance
  • understanding of how to enjoy the life of the mind

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

  • ability to draw valid conclusions about the past
  • ability to identify, define and analyse historical  problems
  • ability to select and apply a variety of critical approaches to problems informed by uneven evidence
  • ability to exercise critical judgement in creating new understanding
  • ability to extract key elements from complex information
  • readiness and capacity to ask key questions and exercise rational enquiry
  • ability critically to assess existing understanding and the limitations of knowledge and recognition of the need regularly to challenge/test knowledge
  • ability to search for, evaluate and use information to develop knowledge and understanding
  • possession of an informed respect for the principles, methods, standards, values and boundaries of the discipline(s), as well as the capacity to question these
  • recognition of the importance of reflecting on one’s learning experiences and being aware of one’s own particular learning style

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

  • openness to new ideas, methods and ways of thinking
  • ability to identify processes and strategies for learning
  • independence as a learner, with readiness to take responsibility for one’s own learning, and commitment to continuous reflection, self-evaluation and self-improvement
  • ability to make decisions on the basis of rigorous and independent thought.
  • ability to test, modify and strengthen one’s own views through collaboration and debate
  • intellectual curiosity
  • ability to sustain intellectual interest

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

  • ability to make effective use of oral, written and visual means convey understanding of historical issues and one’s interpretation of them.
  • ability to marshal argument lucidly and coherently
  • ability to collaborate and to relate to others
  • readiness to seek and value open feedback to inform genuine self-awareness
  • ability to articulate one’s skills as identified through self-reflection

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

  • ability to approach historical problems with academic rigour
  • ability to manage and meet firm deadlines
  • flexible, adaptable and proactive responsiveness to changing surroundings
  • possession of the confidence to make decisions based on one’s understanding and personal/intellectual autonomy
  • ability to transfer knowledge, learning, skills and abilities flexibly from one context to another
  • ability to work effectively with others, capitalising on diversities of thinking, experience and skills
  • working with, managing, and leading others in ways that value their diversity and equality and that encourage their contribution

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

  • a command of bibliographical and library research skills, as well as a range of skills in reading and textual analysis
  • close reading of texts
  • ability to deal with quantitative evidence, where relevant
  • ability to read foreign language material, where relevant
  • a command of palaeography, where relevant
  • an ability to produce coherent and well presented text, sometimes of considerable length
  • an ability to produce text to meet standard presentational specifications as laid out in a style sheet
  • an ability to make effective presentations, perhaps using audio visual support

Programme structure and features

Each year of the programme carries 120 credit points. In the first year of study there are two compulsory courses: The Historian's Toolkit (20 credits) and Medieval Worlds: A Journey through the Middle Ages (20 credits). You will also choose 40 credits of courses from a list of courses on the Greek and Roman Worlds. You have the opportunity to study 40 credits of courses from other disciplines. In second year there are four compulsory courses: Introduction to Historiography (20 credits), Making and Breaking Medieval Britain: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, c. 1100-1500 (20 credits), Ancient History 2a (20 credits) and 2b (20 credits). You have the opportunity to study 40 credits of courses from other disciplines. In third year there is one compulsory course, Skills and Methods in History I (20 credits). In total you will study 120 credits of courses in Ancient and Medieval History, Skills and Methods in History II (20 credits) is strongly recommended for students who wish to write the History dissertation. In fourth year you will take 40 credits of History courses. This may be one level-ten 4MA, 40-credit, course which runs over both semesters, or two relevant 20-credit courses, and a further 40 credits of Ancient History courses. You will also write a level-ten dissertation of 8,000-12,000 words, which may be in History (medieval) or Ancient History (40 credits).


To progress from Year 1 to Year 2, passes are required in all first year courses (120 credits); to progress from Year 2 into Year 3 passes are required in all of the courses taken in second year (120 credits).

Entry into third year Honours normally requires (i) passes in 240 credits of courses taken in the first two years and (ii) passes at 50% or above in Ancient History 2a and 2b and in Introduction to Historiography and Making and Breaking Medieval Britain: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, c. 1100-1500 .

Progression from third to fourth year is dependent upon the completion of at least eighty credits and the award of an aggregate pass for the 120 credits of study in third year.

Exit awards

  • Certificate of Higher Education: year one
  • Diploma of Higher Education: year two
  • BA in Humanities and Social Science: year three (although entry to honours means the commencement of two years of integrated study leading to an honours degree and not all students will be qualified for the BA HSS)
  • MA Honours in Ancient and Medieval History: year four

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

Teaching and Learning Methods

The learning outcomes are achieved through a variety of modes of study and assessment practices.

In first and second year the courses are of a broad survey type. These deal with a wide span of chronology and, sometimes, of geographical area. Teaching is delivered at this level through a combination of lectures to the whole class and small group sessions. A variety of different pieces of work will be assessed. These may include: essays, examinations, seminar presentations, tutorial performance, document commentaries and seminar diaries.

In third and fourth years students take more specialised courses which are partly defined by the research interests of the members of staff. These are taught in seminar classes where a greater degree of independent study is required. These classes engage in a deeper way with the historiography relating to the course and may involve work with primary source materials.

In fourth year the engagement with primary evidence is central to the work of all classes and the writing of a dissertation which is an exercise in independent study. In the honours years work will be assessed through a variety of different means: essays, examinations, seminar presentations, seminar performance, document commentaries, projects, dissertations and seminar diaries.

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



Written Examinations

In Year 2



Tutorial work

Written Examinations

In Year 3


Logbook/Seminar work

Seminar Presentation


Group Exercise

Written Examinations

In Year 4



Logbook/Seminar work

Seminar Presentation

Group Exercise

Written Examinations

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.