Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

MA Celtic and Scottish Literature

UCAS code: Q590

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Celtic and Scottish Literature

Leugh an duilleag seo sa Gàidhlig

Edinburgh is the first UNESCO World City of Literature, a fantastic literary city which many writers have called home. Scotland's capital has a long-established Gaelic community and a lively contemporary cultural scene.

Drawing on Edinburgh's exceptional resources, this joint honours programme gives you the opportunity to study the literatures, languages and cultures of the Celtic world alongside the literature of Scotland in both English and Scots.

Our four-year programme is extremely flexible. During your time with us, you will study a range of subjects, with the option to take courses in other areas of the humanities and social sciences. You will specialise as you progress through your honours years.

When you graduate, you will have the combination of a broad cultural education and specialist knowledge valued by employers worldwide.

Celtic

Study Celtic at the University of Edinburgh and you will learn about extraordinarily rich cultures, from the Middle Ages to the 21st century.

At all levels of study on our four-year programme, we offer courses in the languages, literatures, histories, and cultures of the Celtic world.

You have the option to study Scottish Gaelic and build up to advanced competency in the language.

A choice of pathways through the programme enables you to develop your own interests in particular areas, periods and disciplines of Celtic studies.

Our expertise covers:

  • Scottish Gaelic from the late Middle Ages to the present, including language policy and revitalisation
  • the medieval literary tradition in Early Irish and Medieval Welsh - the most extensive in the whole of Europe
  • the rich oral tradition recorded from the 18th century to the present day
  • poetry from the 18th century golden age of Gaelic literature
  • 19th and 20th century responses to the rapid social, cultural, and linguistic changes in countries where the Celtic languages are spoken
  • the writing, song, and media production emerging from the lively and varied contemporary cultural scene in Gaelic Scotland, Ireland, and Wales

Language study

If you choose to study Scottish Gaelic, it does not matter if you are a complete beginner; we stream our Year 1 classes to suit all levels of prior knowledge or none.

You can also learn a medieval Celtic language at honours level (Years 3 and 4). Both Old Irish and Middle Welsh are available. For this path, you will study Celtic civilisation and literature in Years 1 and 2, with texts presented in English translation.

Scottish Literature

You will study in the oldest department of literature in the UK, one of the longest established in the world.

After gaining the essential skills needed for the critical close reading of poetry, drama and prose in your first year, you will explore the cultural contexts of all major periods of Scottish literature from the late Middle Ages to the present.

At honours level, you will select courses on the basis of your own interests in specific topics, periods or literary genres.

Studying literature with Celtic prepares you to contribute to a society in which an understanding of texts of all kinds is crucially important. It shows an openness to ideas and perspectives other than your own, an essential attribute in many careers and a global marketplace.

One of the most attractive characteristics of this four-year programme is its flexibility.

In Years 1 and 2, your pre-honours years, you will choose option courses from a wide range of disciplines in addition to your core subjects of Celtic and Scottish Literature.

As well as broadening your education and skill set, this may enable you to change the focus of your programme in Years 3 and 4, your honours years.

Year 1

One of the most attractive characteristics of this four-year programme is its flexibility.

In Years 1 and 2, your pre-honours years, you will choose option courses from a wide range of disciplines in addition to your core subjects of Celtic and Scottish Literature.

As well as broadening your education and skill set, this may enable you to change the focus of your programme in Years 3 and 4, your honours years.

Year 2

Celtic

You can choose between continuing to study the Gaelic language, or studying Celtic Literatures.

If you take the language pathway, you will refine your language skills and learn about linguistic structure. You will also learn more about Scottish Gaelic culture and literature, exploring verse and prose.

If you take the literature pathway, you will gain an overview of key literary genres and texts from Gaelic Scotland, Ireland and Wales from the early medieval period to the present. Texts are presented in English translation.

Scottish Literature

You will be introduced to the study of Scottish literature in its cultural and historical contexts, focusing on a selection of major periods.

These courses will explore the relationship between literary texts and the construction of national, international and imperial cultures.

Option courses

As in Year 1, you will choose from a range of option courses.

You can opt to:

  • learn (or continue to learn) a language
  • take classes in Linguistics, Scottish Ethnology or Scottish History
  • do something completely different

Year 3

This is the first of your honours years when you will specialise in the aspects of Celtic and Scottish Literature which interest you most by choosing from a range of courses in both subjects.

Celtic

Modern courses in Celtic explore literary, cultural, and historical aspects of Gaelic Scotland and Ireland - such as linguistics and sociolinguistics - from around 1600 to the present day.

If taking advanced language courses, you will learn to speak and write confidently in Scottish Gaelic about a variety of topics including current affairs and cultural issues using appropriate vocabulary, grammar and idioms.

Medieval courses in Celtic introduce the Early Irish and Medieval Welsh languages and develop your study of literature, history and culture.

Scottish Literature

Our courses explore many different literary periods, topics and approaches.

Depending on staff research and other commitments, we typically offer a wide range to choose from over Years 3 and 4.

If you are particularity interested in writing from and about the Celtic nations, course options typically include:

  • Edinburgh in Fiction
  • Haunted Imaginations: Scotland and the Supernatural
  • Modern and Contemporary Scottish Poetry
  • Celtic Revivals: Writing on the Periphery, 1890-1939
  • Joyce and style
  • Poetry and Northern Ireland

Year 4

This is the second of your honours years, when you will continue to specialise.

You will choose further honours-level courses from either the modern or medieval side of the Celtic programme and from Scottish Literature.

You will also complete your dissertation, which gives you the opportunity to research a topic in depth.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2024/25)

Our facilities

On campus

When you are on campus, you can expect to spend most of your time in the University of Edinburgh's Central Area - in class, in the library, or in one of the University’s many social and support spaces.

The Central Area is located on the edge of Edinburgh's historic Old Town, surrounded by lots of green space.

Take a virtual tour of the Central Area

Libraries and collections

Our resources for the study of Celtic and Scottish Literature are outstanding. They are largely held over three sites clustered around George Square in the University's Central Area:

  • The Main University Library and its Centre for Research Collections
  • The School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) and its Celtic Class Library
  • The School of Scottish Studies Archives and its Scottish Studies Library

Across these sites, you will find:

  • academic books, journals and databases
  • more than 400,000 rare books
  • six kilometres of archives and manuscripts
  • 33,000 recordings of songs, music, stories, rhyme and verse in Scots, Gaelic and English, as well as in dialects now extinct
  • thousands of works of art, historical musical instruments and other objects
  • thousands of photographs and rarely-seen historic documents which capture exceptional and everyday aspects of Scottish culture and heritage
  • films, newspapers and other media

Highlights for the study of Celtic include:

  • the Carmichael-Watson Collection
  • the Donald MacKinnon Collection
  • the David Laing Collection

Highlights for the study of Scottish Literature include:

  • the Corson Collection of works by and about Sir Walter Scott
  • the libraries of Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Hugh MacDiarmid and Norman MacCaig

Many of the University's Special Collections are digitised and available online from our excellent Resource Centre, computing labs and dedicated study spaces in LLC.

Centres for research, teaching and outreach

Through the Gaelic Algorithmic Research Group (GARG), an international team researching modern technologies for Gaelic, we have led the development of the world’s first working Automatic Speech Recognition system for Scottish Gaelic. We are also founding members of Faclair na Gàidhlig, a collaborative project to publish a historical dictionary of the language.

Read our feature on what Automatic Speech Recognition means for the future of Scotland’s Gaelic language

We work closely with Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the national Gaelic development agency, of which Professor Rob Dunbar is a Board Member (2023 to 2027). Rob also sits on the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages - the only treaty in the world designed to protect and promote regional and minority languages and to enable speakers to use them both in private and public life.

We are home to the SWINC project and network, which promotes awareness of the richness and diversity of Scottish writing and culture in the 19th century.

We are the Scottish base of The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle, Duke-Edinburgh edition, one of the major editorial projects in Victorian studies of the last half-century.

We are collaborators in the Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network and have developing strengths in the Digital Humanities. For example, we have led both phases of LitLong, a digital transformation project to interactively map the ways in which Edinburgh has been used as a literary setting over the course of five centuries.

Events and activities

The Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) supports more than 300 student-led societies and clubs. It also promotes opportunities with local charities through its volunteering centre.

An Comunn Ceilteach (The Highland Society) is the University’s oldest student society and organises the city’s largest annual cèilidh.

Across the University, there are lots of opportunities to get involved in:

  • reading and writers' groups
  • poetry slams
  • creative writing and publishing
  • student theatre

Passionate about music, literature, song and storytelling, we regularly hold events for staff, students and visiting guests to speak, perform or present research.

We also have a Traditional Artist and Gaelic Writer in Residence, a composer/musician and a writer who work with staff and students on a range of projects and performances.

Read an interview with Martin MacIntyre, the University’s Gaelic writer in residence

Our Writer in Residence in English and Scottish Literature organises talks and workshops by visiting writers and runs our annual writing prizes. Their drop-in sessions give you the chance to:

  • share your work
  • get feedback
  • meet other student writers
  • get inspiration and prompts for new work

Annual student writing prizes include awards for prose and verse in Lowland Scots vernacular.

Over the past half century, our Writers-in-Residence have included:

  • Jenni Fagan
  • Liz Lochhead
  • Sorley Maclean
  • Norman MacCaig
  • Michael Pedersen
  • Alan Warner

In the city

A UNESCO World City of Literature, Edinburgh is a remarkable place to study, write, publish, discuss and perform prose, poetry and drama.

The city has a long-established Gaelic community and a lively contemporary cultural scene. For example, there are conversation groups for practicing Gaelic socially, fèisean for performers, and an annual festival, Seachdain na Gàidhlig.

In addition to a fantastic range of publishing houses, bookshops, theatres, and cinemas, you will study near the:

  • National Library of Scotland
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • Edinburgh Central Library
  • Scottish Poetry Library
  • Scottish Storytelling Centre
  • Writers’ Museum

We have strong links with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which annually welcomes around 1,000 authors to our literary city.

Study abroad

In Year 3, you may have the opportunity to spend the year studying abroad through the University's international exchange programme. There are also shorter term and virtual opportunities to study or work abroad throughout the four years, including over the summer months.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

University is a place to plan your own goals under expert guidance, study independently and in groups, and reflect upon your learning throughout your degree.

Our approach to learning and teaching is active, inclusive and question driven, so it may be different to your experiences at school. It will help you gain the skills for life after university, and we will guide you through the steps from one phase to the next.

Depending on the size of your year group, and which option courses you take, your classes will typically fall into three categories:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars

In addition to these classes, and to get the most out of your courses, you will need to read widely.

Lectures

Lectures are taken by all students on a course, typically at the same time. They are delivered as interactive presentations which may involve audio-visual material.

Lectures are given by an experienced academic. They are designed to guide you through the background, questions and debates related to the topic you are studying.

Tutorials

Tutorial groups are smaller. They are also led by an academic, but here the emphasis is more on what you think about the topic yourself. So, tutorials are your chance to discuss and expand upon what you have learned in a lecture.

If you choose to study Gaelic, language tutorials give you the opportunity to develop your linguistic skills in a range of real-world tasks under the supervision of an experienced language teacher.

These classes typically cover skills such as reading, writing, listening and speaking – all of which involve learning and applying grammar.

Seminars

Seminars blend features of lectures and tutorials. Again, they are designed to encourage and enable your active participation in learning.

On some courses, you will have seminars instead of lectures, especially in your honours years (Years 3 and 4).

Support

As well as the teaching staff and other staff members you will meet day-to-day, there are lots of ways to get help with your learning, including through the University’s Institute for Academic Development (IAD).

Additionally, the Students’ Association facilitates the LitPALS peer support scheme, bringing literature students across year groups together to help each other with specific study skills, topics or themes.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a combination of coursework, exams and final assessments.

Coursework is generally completed throughout the year, while exams and assessments take place at the end of a teaching block.

Coursework may take a range of forms to give you the opportunity to practice different skills. For example, you may be asked to:

  • write an essay, review, blog post, opinion piece or learning journal
  • respond to a piece of writing, film, or other media, including through close reading
  • give a short talk or presentation
  • record a podcast or video
  • design a poster or presentation

If studying Scottish Gaelic, your exams will include oral exams to test your spoken language skills.

In your final year, you will also complete a dissertation.

Skills and experience

Graduating with a four-year Master of Arts degree from the University of Edinburgh shows intellectual maturity, resilience, and flexibility.

The skills you will be able to demonstrate to employers include the ability to:

  • understand, analyse and articulate complex issues and concepts
  • manage your time to meet deadlines on different types of projects
  • work independently and as part of a group

In addition to these qualities, graduating in Celtic and Scottish Literature shows that you have a nuanced understanding of other cultures and societies and how they shape our world. This gives you the Intercultural Competence that is so valued by employers internationally.

Local and global opportunities

Thanks to an ever-broadening international reach, Celtic languages, literatures and cultures have a steady stream of enthusiastic new speakers and audiences.

In Scotland, particularly, developments such as the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, the creation of BBC Alba (the Gaelic digital television service), and the ongoing expansion of Gaelic-medium education has increased demand for highly-educated Gaelic speakers and specialists in Celtic culture who also have a wider grounding in literary study.

Employment prospects are particularly high within:

  • education, outreach, advocacy and training
  • journalism, broadcasting and media
  • communications, marketing, advertising and public relations
  • politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
  • publishing, culture, heritage and the arts

In some areas, there are more Gaelic-related jobs than there are people qualified to fill them.

Your transferable humanities skills and Intercultural Competence will also set you apart in sectors such as:

  • business, finance and commerce
  • leisure, tourism and travel
  • research, development and venture acceleration
  • translating and interpreting

Further study

The enhanced research skills that you develop on a four-year programme, particularly in your honours years, are valuable assets if you wish to continue studying at postgraduate level.

At the University of Edinburgh, we typically offer:

  • MSc by Research degrees in Celtic and Scottish Studies and in literature
  • Taught MScs in Playwriting, Creative Writing and different periods of literature
  • MSc programmes in Comparative Literature and Intermediality

These programmes are a good foundation for a PhD, but are equally of value as stand-alone qualifications.

Beyond literature, cultural study and associated fields, your degree will prepare you for further study in almost any humanities and social science discipline.

Careers advice

Throughout your time with us, we will encourage you to identify and hone your employability skills.

LLC has a dedicated Careers Consultant within the University's excellent Careers Service.

Through our careers service you can:

  • book one-to-one appointments and practice interviews
  • access a range of online resources
  • attend themed fairs such as the Creative and Cultural Careers Festival

Popular peer support includes Life After LLC, a panel event where you can draw inspiration from our recent graduates.

Be inspired by our alumni

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or AABB/ABBBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: English at B. National 5s: a language other than English at B.
  • A Levels: English Literature or combined English at B. GCSEs: a language other than English at B or 6.
  • IB: HL: English at 5. SL: a language other than English at 5.

Additional requirements

Language requirement

For degrees that have a subject requirement of a language other than English, students may not use their own native language to meet this requirement. In these instances, English or an alternative language other than native will be acceptable.

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

SQA, GCSE and IB

For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 54 in each component.

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start of the month in which the degree you are applying to study begins. If you are using an IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE test, it must be no more than two years old on the first of the month in which the degree begins, regardless of your nationality.

English language requirements

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for MA Celtic and Scottish Literature

Additional costs

There are likely to be additional costs if you choose to study abroad in Year 3.

Funding

For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding