THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
PROGRAMME SPECIFICATION M.A. Honours in Scottish
1) Awarding Institution: University of Edinburgh
2) Teaching Institution: University of Edinburgh
3) Programme accredited by: The University of Edinburgh
4) Final Award: MA (Hons)
5) Programme Title: Scottish Ethnology
6) UCAS Code: Q501
7) Relevant QAA Subject benchmarking Group(s): Area Studies
8) Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Head of School of
Literatures, Languages and Cultures
9) Date of production/revision: August 2011
10) External Summary
Ethnology is the discipline that studies the traditional and popular cultures of a
community, region or nation. While related in some respects to both anthropology
and cultural history, ethnology is now well established in its own right as an important
contributor to the humanities and social sciences throughout Europe and beyond.
Through close study of such cultural forms as folklore, music, song, oral narrative,
custom and belief, this programme examines the development of cultural systems
through time. The University of Edinburgh is the only institution in Scotland to offer an
undergraduate degree in this discipline. The Scottish Ethnology programme aims to
develop the analytic, critical, communication and creative skills of students by
engaging with a broad range of cultural forms and ethnographic materials relating
primarily, although by no means exclusively, to Scotland.
Specific areas which may appeal to graduates of this degree include heritage
organisations, broadcasting and other media, publishing, arts development, tourism,
local or national government, research, management or education. Having a
knowledge of culture and the creative arts is relevant to employers both in a national
context and overseas, given Scotland’s links to many countries across the world. The
ability to undertake original research through cultural fieldwork, emphasised in
several of the courses on this programme, is a key skill within many modern
The University of Edinburgh has a worldwide reputation for the quality of its teaching
and research and the resources for the study of Scotland at this institution and within
the city at large are second to none. Students have access to the University’s
libraries and computing facilities, to the internationally-renowned School of Scottish
Studies Archives, and to a range of audio and visual recording and editing
technologies, while the National Museums Scotland, National Library of Scotland and
National Archives of Scotland are all close at hand.
The main aims of the programme are to
Develop students’ understanding of the historical and ongoing development of
the discipline of ethnology in its international context.
Engage students in theoretical debates relating to the key issues and concepts of
Encourage students to critically deconstruct and evaluate cultural forms and
Develop students’ investigative skills through the provision of training in archive-
and field-based research techniques.
Encourage students to build a strong empirical knowledge base of the culture and
tradition of Scotland and selected comparative regions or nations, grounded in
the extensive sound, photographic, film and manuscript holdings of the School of
Scottish Studies Archives, the Scottish Studies library and related resources.
10) Educational aims of programme:
This programme provides in-depth study of the discipline of ethnology, focusing
specifically on Scotland but set within an international context. The central aims are
to engage with the question of how to study the cultural development of a nation, and
the role of tradition within the development of modern societies. The role of the past
within the present serves as a backdrop to the specific study of key manifestations of
cultural tradition, such as social organisation, folkloristics, custom, belief, orality,
music and song. The approach is principally from an arts and humanities
perspective, but drawing where appropriate on social science approaches and
methodologies. Initially, the focus is upon the contemporary cultural landscape,
leading to a diachronic investigation of the factors which came together to create this,
thus providing historical depth.
11) Programme outcomes:
11a) Knowledge and understanding
All students should acquire a knowledge and understanding of
The principal theoretical orientations and schools of thought within the discipline
The principal folklore genres and classification systems.
The concept of ethnography as process and product.
The concept of tradition.
The history, development and central theories of the core ethnological sub-
themes of social organisation, oral narrative, material culture and custom and
Key issues relating to the performance, transmission and representation of
The theory and practice of ethnological investigative methods and techniques.
The empirical base for the study of Scottish cultural tradition in its international
Teaching and Learning Methods and Strategies
Students’ knowledge and understanding of the above is facilitated through regular
illustrated lectures, small-group tutorials and seminars, practical workshops (e.g. for
fieldwork recording and oral presentation training), structured reading programmes
and use of electronic resources (delivered through WebCT). Significant emphasis is
placed on supervised use of the extensive audio and visual ethnographic holdings of
the School of Scottish Studies Archives which form a central resource for the entire
Knowledge and understanding is assessed through a combination of written
submissions (e.g. essays and literature reviews), oral presentations and degree
examinations. Innovative assessment forms are also utilised, e.g. the concept of
‘audio essays’ whereby students present their findings in the manner of a radio
features broadcast on CD. Assessment in the level 8 core courses tests
understanding of issues relating to specific disciplinary approaches as well as the
relationship between them. All students are required to complete a dissertation in
which ability to undertake a supervised individual research project is assessed. All
assessment adheres to the University’s Extended Common Marking Scheme.
11b) Graduate attributes: Skills and abilities in Research and Enquiry
By the end of the programme students should be able to
research, develop and draw on a strong empirical knowledge base of Scottish
culture and tradition, past and present, and in an international context;
contribute positively and authoritatively to ongoing debates relating to the social
and political context of cultural representation in Scotland and beyond and of the
value of the traditional arts;
demonstrate well-developed skills in the analysis and interpretation of a range of
cultural materials and forms;
appropriately and effectively use the principal national and international
platforms for the dissemination of area studies research and thought;
complete an original and self-initiated interdisciplinary investigation resulting
in the production of a dissertation, drawing on an enhanced ability to plan,
organise and produce extended subject-specific scholarly texts; and
apply a range of investigative techniques and synthesise evidence gathered
from a variety of source types relating to the study of both ethnology as a
discipline and of Scotland as a nation.
Teaching and Learning
Illustrated lectures, small group discussions, library and online learning materials and
fieldtrips/site visits all combine to nurture a strong empirical knowledge of a variety of
forms of Scottish cultural expression and of dissemination platforms for area studies’
research and thought. Care is taken in the design and delivery of all contributing
courses to ensure students are exposed to wider international contexts and
materials. Detailed individual feedback on all formative course work submissions
enhances students’ ability to produce scholarly texts, while research and study skills
in the core level 10 courses provide support for dissertation work.
Formative and summative assessment is provided for all levels of the Programme in
relation to the ongoing development of the subject-specific and practical skills
outlined above. The precise nature of this assessment may vary across different
contributing disciplines but includes essays, oral (or audio-visual) presentations,
short reports or exercises and degree exams and all students must complete a
11c) Graduate Attributes: Skills and abilities in Personal and Intellectual
The programme is designed to facilitate the development of a range of skills which
will prepare students for a wide variety of professions and employment. Chief among
a reflexive approach to learning and personal development;
self reliance and personal responsibility;
the ability to distinguish relevant from irrelevant considerations in argument;
the ability to construct clearly organised arguments, formulating logical and
critical presentations of points and arguments.
Teaching and Learning
Regular submission of written work allows for the development of written
communication skills, while the presentation of the Honours dissertation represents
the culmination of this development process. Study skills taught in the compulsory
level 8 courses include emphasis on time management, self reliance and personal
responsibility. Oral communication skills are honed in tutorial discussions and
presentations, while many of the level 10 courses require students to undertake a
formal oral presentation. Presentation skills workshops are held for students in Year
3 and detailed advice and guidance documents are provided for each student.
Listening skills are practised in second year level 8 courses. The group subject
nature of the programme introduces students to a range of discipline-specific
investigative techniques and a wide range of source types.
11d) Graduate Attributes: Skills and abilities in Communication
Scottish Ethnology graduates will be able to:
structure and communicate ideas effectively in both oral and written form,
using a variety of resources/media;
participate constructively and efficiently in group discussions, assessing and
responding effectively to the ideas of others; and
exercise advanced listening and interview skills.
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. IT skills are developed through University-wide
training courses and individual learning, and within the subject area instruction is
provided on using pertinent electronic resources such as catalogues, e-
books/journals and the rich audio/visual resources of the digitised archives of the
School of Scottish Studies collections.
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. Many
level 10 courses on this programme require assessed oral presentations to be
undertaken. These are assessed by two members of staff and copies of powerpoint
slides are submitted for the external examiner to view. A detailed pro forma feedback
sheet is provided for each presentation, and workshops are held to help students
prepare. 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.
11e) Graduate Attributes: Skills and abilities in Personal Effectiveness
Scottish Ethnology graduates will be able to:
work autonomously, setting their own goals, self-motivating and organising
their own learning;
manage their time and priorities and work to both self-imposed and external
collaborate effectively and productively with others in the process of learning
and presenting conclusions, exercising leadership skills as appropriate;
confidently rely on their own intellectual capacities;
exercise sensitivity to ambiguity and multiplicity of meanings.
confidently engage with a range of groups and individuals through application
of communication skills developed through fieldwork.
Teaching/learning methods and strategies
The teaching and support ethos within this programme is to encourage students to
develop self-confidence in their intellectual abilities and in their planning and
organisation skills. This is encouraged through formative feedback for all
assessment forms, instruction in planning and delivery of oral presentations and in
staged, developmental meetings with a supervisor in the case of dissertations.
Exposure to, and close discussion of different examples of well-written academic
articles and papers is a feature of most courses in order to foster appreciation of well-
argued, clearly organised academic texts.
These skills and abilities are integrated across the various assessment forms
employed in this programme. Oral presentations and ‘audio essays’ are used to test
verbal and ‘live’ communication skills while essays, reports and dissertations provide
platforms for assessment of in-depth and sustained analytical discussion and
commentary. All students are required to undertake a dissertation which requires
guided, yet independent planning, research and presentation of findings.
11f) Technical/Practical Skills
Scottish Ethnology students will develop:
IT skills – the ability to use computers for word-processing, information
storage, searching and retrieving information from the world wide web, and
using presentational packages such as PowerPoint; and
library skills – 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.
Archival skills – the ability to conduct original research using both physical
and online archival collections
Teaching/learning methods and strategies
Strategies for helping students acquire and develop these skills are integrated into
teaching and learning at all levels of the programme. Interview and fieldwork skills
are taught in small-group sessions in two of the compulsory level 8 courses
(Conceptualising Scotland and Scotland and Orality) and are further enhanced in
specific level 10 courses. Sessions are also held at level 8 in use of printed and
online research resources, and two of the compulsory level 8 courses deal
specifically with audio and visual sources.
Assessment on many level 10 courses includes audio/visual ‘live’ presentations to be
undertaken, while the dissertation provides the chance to assess all of these
technical and practical skills being brought together in a holistic manner.
12 Programme structure and features
Full details of the degree programme and structure can be found at: -
Courses are taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials. Optional courses
in Years 3 and 4 are taught through seminars.
Details of Scottish Ethnology courses can be found at: -
Entrance requirements – see
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.
13 Other Items
all students are assigned a Director of Studies 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 Celtic and Scottish Studies can be found at