Comparative Literature MA (joint degree) 2024 entry

The information on this page is for 2024 entry. If you are considering applying for 2025 entry or later, some of these details may differ and we advise you to check the page again before you apply. To receive a notification of when applications open for 2025 entry, please register your interest.

Comparative Literature at St Andrews opens up literary study across boundaries of culture and language. It offers students the chance to read texts of any genre, of any period, and written in a multitude of languages, all in English translation. Drawing on expertise from across The School of Modern Languages and beyond, the programme considers the relationships that exist between literatures around the world, allowing students to push at the boundaries of textual analysis and read without borders.

As well as exploring the different cultural, socio-political, and historical forces that have helped form national and transnational canons, the course also focuses on close reading and introduces you to comparative methodologies and literary theories, developing your analytical, descriptive, and evaluative skills. You will have the opportunity to read, discuss, and present reasoned arguments, and work on writing with precision, clarity and creativity.

Whilst St Andrews does not offer Comparative Literature as a single Honours degree, you can take it in combination with a wide variety of other subjects as part of a joint Honours degree.

If you are taking Comparative Literature with a modern language, you will have the opportunity to take an integrated year abroad between second and third year in a country in which the language you study is spoken. For information about other study abroad options, please see the study abroad site.

Start date
September 2024
End date
June 2028
Four years full time
Department of Comparative Literature
“I love that Comparative Literature has been a window into so many different perspectives. Not only have I had the chance to study literary texts from all over the world, and from numerous time periods and genres, but the international student community in Comparative Literature here at St Andrews means that our classes and lectures always see a wide range of opinions and backgrounds brought to the texts that we study. ”
girl with long blond hair and glasses
- Renfrewshire, Scotland

Entry requirements

The University offers different entry requirements, depending on your background. Find out more about Standard, Minimum and Gateway entry requirements using academic entry explained and see which entry requirements you need to look at using the entry requirements indicator.

We accept a wide range of qualifications for entry on to our programmes, please see our entry requirements for more information.

For degrees combining more than one subject, the subject with the higher entry requirements determines the grades you need. You will also need to meet any further subject-specific entry requirements as outlined on their pages.

  • Standard entry grades:
    Minimum entry grades:
    Gateway entry grades:
    Applicants who have narrowly missed the minimum entry grades, but meet the University's contextual criteria, may be interested in one of the University’s Gateway programmes.
  • Standard entry grades:
    Minimum entry grades:
  • Standard entry grades:
    36 (HL 6,6,5)
    Minimum entry grades:
    36 (HL 6,5,5)

General entry requirements

All applicants must have attained the following qualifications, or equivalent, in addition to the specific entry requirements for individual programmes.

  • SQA National 5 (B) in English and one SQA National 5 (B) from the following:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Computing science
    • Geography
    • Lifeskills Mathematics (A grade)
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology.
  • GCSE (5) in English language or English literature, and one GCSE (5) from the following:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Computing Science
    • Geography
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology.

Other qualifications

We accept a wide range of qualifications for entry on to our programmes. Please see our entry requirements for more information.

More information on how to apply via other entry routes or accreditation of prior learning and experience can be found on the University’s entry requirements web page.

Alternative study options

Study abroad

Comparative literature students can apply to participate in the University-wide St Andrews Abroad programme. You may also have the opportunity to participate in the School Abroad exchange programme. For information about study abroad options, please see the study abroad site

Do I need to have studied this subject before?

No previous knowledge of comparative literature is required.

Course details

The Comparative Literature element of the four-year joint Honours degree course is run by the School of Modern Languages.

In the first two years, you will gain awareness of different genres and themes as they appear in a range of literatures (typically including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Persian, Russian, Spanish, Latin American, British and North American). You will address the issue of how to study literature comparatively, especially when reading in translation. This will equip you with the range of literary experience and critical skills necessary for a more in-depth study of specialist subject areas at Honours level.

Specialist subject areas include:

  • adaptation and intermediality
  • cultural memory
  • digital media
  • cultural studies
  • postcolonialism and the transnational
  • influence, reception and the circulation of texts
  • literary translation
  • petrocultures
  • world literature.

Alongside comparative literature, in the first year of your studies, you will be required to study an additional two subjects, one of which must be your other joint honours subject. In the second year, you will usually carry on at least one of these subjects, sometimes two. Find out more about how academic years are organised.

The University of St Andrews operates on a flexible modular degree system by which degrees are obtained through the accumulation of credits. More information on the structure of the modules system can be found on the flexible degree structure web page.


In the first two years of your degree (known as sub-honours), you will take the required modules in comparative literature along with modules from your chosen joint subject.

Typically, you will take one comparative literature module per semester during your first two years, and two modules per semester during your third and fourth year (known as Honours). 

Find out more about the modular Scottish degree system.

Students are required to take the following compulsory modules in their first year:

  • The Nineteenth-Century Novel of Adultery: introduces the study of comparative literature through 19th-century novels, typically from France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and the UK.
  • Political Drama in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries: introduces the study of comparative literature through plays written in the 20th and 21st century from a range of literatures, typically China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Russia, Spain, the UK and the US.

Students are required to take the following compulsory modules in their second year (all texts are read in English translation): 

  • Good and Evil: examines a broad range of texts from a number of national literatures, periods and genres in which the theme of good and evil is explored in different literary, social, political and historical contexts. 
  • Journeys: explores a broad range of texts from different national literatures, periods and genres offering variants on the theme of journeys, explored in a range of literary, social, political and historical contexts. 

If you decide to take comparative literature in your third and fourth years, as well as advancing your theoretical engagement with the discipline, you will choose from a wide variety of advanced options, each based on at least three national literatures and taught by a team of experts from Modern Languages.

Here is a sample of Honours modules which have been offered in previous years:

  • Autobiography and the Visual Arts
  • Bad Books
  • Crossing the Mediterranean
  • Cultural Memory and Literature
  • Experiences of Exile
  • Folk and Fairy Tales
  • Great Works and their Adaptations
  • Issues in Cultural Studies
  • Literature and the Bible
  • The Literary Canon
  • The Short Story.

In fourth year, students may also choose to undertake a 5,000 or 10,000-word dissertation on a topic of their choice, with individual supervision. This independent project enables you to develop key research skills which are desired by both prospective employers and by graduate schools offering postgraduate degrees.

The compulsory modules listed here must be taken in order to graduate in this subject. However, most students at St Andrews take additional modules, either in their primary subject or from other subjects they are interested in. For Honours level, students choose from a range of Honours modules, some of which are listed above. A full list of all modules appropriate to the programme for the current academic year can be found in the programme requirements.


Comparative literature modules involve traditional lectures supported by small discussion seminars. Lectures provide information, stimulate thought, and suggest directions for further reading and personal study. Small group seminars allow you to work with your peers and your tutors to discuss texts, theories and methodologies in detail.

Sub-honours comparative literature modules are delivered through lectures (100 to 150 students) and small-group tutorials (10 to 15 students). At Honours level, lectures are replaced by seminars of 8 to 15 students.

When not attending lectures and tutorials, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve:

  • reading set primary and secondary texts
  • preparing for seminar discussions
  • undertaking research in the library
  • preparing coursework assignments and presentations
  • preparing for examinations.

Comparative literature sub-honours modules are assessed by 50% coursework and 50% written examination. Assessment at Honours level varies, with most modules being assessed entirely by coursework. Coursework covers a wide range, from traditional essays and commentaries to more creative modes (for example writing and commenting on a short story; writing a censor’s report; devising your own syllabus)

Examinations are held at the end of each semester during a dedicated exam diet with revision time provided beforehand.

The Department aims to provide feedback on every assessment within three weeks to help you improve on future assessments.

Undergraduates at the University of St Andrews must achieve at least 7.0 on the St Andrews 20-point grade scale to pass a module. To gain access to Honours-level modules, students must achieve the relevant requisites as specified in the policy on entry to Honours and in the relevant programme requirements.

To find out the classification equivalent of points, please see the common reporting scale.

You will be taught by leading researchers in the field with an emphasis on research-led teaching. Postgraduate research students who have undertaken teacher training may also contribute to the teaching of tutorials and seminars under the supervision of the module leader.

You can find contact information for all Comparative Literature staff on the School of Modern Languages website.

In addition to your studies in the School of Modern Languages, optional academic support is available through practical study skills courses and workshops hosted within the University.

The University’s Student Services team can help students with additional needs resulting from disabilities, long-term medical conditions or learning disabilities. More information can be found on the students with disabilities web page.



England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland

Channel Islands, Isle of Man

EU and overseas

More information on tuition fees can be found on the undergraduate fees and funding page.

Accommodation fees

Find out about accommodation fees for University accommodation.

Funding and scholarships

The University of St Andrews offers a number of scholarships and support packages to students each year.

Joint Honours degrees

You can also take Comparative Literature MA (joint degree) as part of a joint Honours degree in which you will take core modules of your chosen subjects.

  • Ancient History
  • Arabic
  • Art History
  • Biblical Studies
  • Chinese Studies
  • Classical Studies
  • Classics
  • English
  • Film Studies
  • French
  • Geography
  • German
  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • International Relations
  • Italian
  • Latin
  • Management
  • Medieval History
  • Modern History
  • Persian
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Russian
  • Social Anthropology
  • Spanish

Triple subject degree options

It is also possible to combine a degree in Comparative Literature with two modern languages. Any combination of Arabic, French, German, Italian, Russian or Spanish is available.

Triple degrees taken with Arabic, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish and joint degrees taken with Arabic, Chinese Studies, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish are also available 'With Integrated Year Abroad'.



The skills you gain through studying comparative literature are marketable in many career areas, and your capacity to process and assimilate complex material from a range of cultures will make you highly employable.

Recent graduate career paths include:

  • business and commerce
  • civil service
  • IT development
  • journalism
  • marketing
  • media and the arts
  • publishing.

Graduates may also go into postgraduate study, either at St Andrews or to other universities.

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.

What to do next

Online information events

Join us for one of our information events where you can find out about different levels of study and specific courses we run. There are also sessions available for parents and college counsellors.

Undergraduate visiting days

We encourage all students who are thinking of applying to the University to attend one of our online or in-person visiting days.

Contact us

+44 (0)1334 46 2953
Department of Comparative Literature

School of Modern Languages
University of St Andrews
Buchanan Building
Union Street
St Andrews
KY16 9PH

Department of Comparative Literature website