The MA (Hons) in English will teach you to closely read texts across a range of genres and historical eras, and to consider the ideas, human values and historical forces that have helped shape literature.
As part of your degree, you will be introduced to a wide spectrum of literary works, from medieval texts in Old English and Scots to Renaissance plays, contemporary poetry, revolutionary 19th-century novels and more.
If you started this programme in 2019, you can find information about 2019 entry on the 2019 English MA page. Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.
These grades are the overall standards required to consider you for entry. 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.
Standard entry grades: AAAAB, including A in English
Minimum entry grades: AABB, including A in English
Gateway entry grades: BBBB, including B in English
Standard entry grades: AAA, including A in English or English Literature
Minimum entry grades: ABB, including A in English or English Literature
Standard entry grades: 38 (HL 6,6,6), including HL6 in English
Minimum entry grades: 36 (HL 6,5,5), including HL6 in English
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 entrance requirements as outlined on their pages.
If English is not your first language you will need an overall IELTS score of 8.0, with a minimum score of 6.5 in each component (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking), or an equivalent English Language qualification.
Students must have studied English or English Literature at SQA Higher, GCE A-Level or equivalent.
Faculty entry requirements
You must also meet the Faculty of Arts minimum qualifications. These vary depending on which qualifications you hold.
SQA National 5 (B) or equivalent in English and one SQA National 5 (B) from the following:
Computing Science or equivalent
Lifeskills Mathematics (A grade)
GCSE (B or 5) in English, English Language or English Literature, and one GCSE (B or 5) from the following:
Computing Science or equivalent
Passes in other examinations at equivalent levels and subjects may be accepted by the Dean of the Faculty. 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.
The University publishes its expected timetables before the advising process, and aims to provide each student with a personalised timetable once module choices have been made and confirmed during matriculation.
The School of English at the University of St Andrews enjoys an international reputation as a centre for both academic research and literary creativity.
The University of St Andrews as a whole was voted top in the UK for student academic experience in The National Student Survey 2019 as 95% of St Andrews final year students gave the University top marks for the quality of the learning and teaching experience.
The University has secured a TEF Gold award for the quality of teaching and the undergraduate experience.
The MA (Hons) in English is a four-year course run by the School of English. In the first two years, you will read and reflect on a broad range of topics across a variety of literary genres from the Middle Ages to the present day. This will equip you with the range of literary experience and critical skills necessary for more in-depth study of specialist subject areas at Honours level.
Specialist subject areas include (but are not limited to):
Old English literature
literature and ecology
literature and gender
Cold War writing
Alongside English, in the first year of your studies, you will be required to study an additional two subjects. 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.
Breadth of knowledge and perspective are highly encouraged, and all Single Honours students are expected to take at least one module from each of the Medieval, Early Modern and 18th-century periods. Final year students must also complete a dissertation on a topic chosen in consultation with teaching staff at the School of English.
Graduates in English from St Andrews can expect to have a highly developed sense of independent critical thinking and judgement, be alert to the possibilities of expressive language, and will have developed both a broad, and - in some areas - a deep knowledge of literature in English.
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 webpage.
Students will take both of the following compulsory first-year modules:
Culture and Conflict: An Introduction to Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Literature: introduces a small number of texts, in prose and verse, from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Explorers and Revolutionaries: Literature 1680-1830: examines travel, colonialism, and different constructions of “man’s natural estate” in the early 18th century.
Second year students must take the following two modules:
Drama: Reading and Performance: introduces a number of representative plays from the Renaissance period and from the 20th century. Emphasis is placed upon the context in which these plays were first created and those in which they are now received.
Medieval and Renaissance Texts: introduces early forms of English language and literature, using specially edited texts from Old English, Middle English and Older Scots.
If you decide to take English in your third and fourth years, you choose from a wide variety of advanced options, including:
modern American drama
the Victorian novel.
The School of English offers between 40 and 50 Honours modules in each academic year. Here is a sample of Honours modules which have been offered in previous years:
Civil Wars on Page and Screen
Contemporary British Fiction
Postcolonial Literature and Theory
Literature and Childhood in the Eighteenth Century
The Younger Romantics: Poetry and Prose (1810-1830).
In fourth year, students also undertake a substantial dissertation on a topic of their choice. 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 available for the current academic year can be found in the module catalogue.
English modules are delivered through lectures which are supported by smaller seminar groups or tutorials.
Typical class sizes:
First year: lectures – 240, tutorials – 5 to 9 students
Second year: lectures – 150, tutorials – 5 to 9 students
Honours: generally no more than 20 students
When not attending lectures and tutorials, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve:
working on individual and group projects
undertaking research in the library
preparing coursework assignments and presentations
preparing for examinations.
Though a good deal of the study of English involves individual effort, group work provides a sense of confirmation, fruitful disagreement, and community to complement the sometimes solitary business of reading and writing.
You will be taught by an experienced teaching team with expertise and knowledge of English. Postgraduate research students who have undertaken teacher training may also contribute to the teaching of tutorials under the supervision of the module leader.
In addition to your studies in the School of English, 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 webpage.
Almost all of the modules in English are assessed by a balanced combination of coursework and written exams.
In each English sub-honours module, there are two essays and two examination questions each worth 25%. Assessment at Honours level varies, although essays and examinations remain a central component.
Examinations are held at the end of each semester during a dedicated exam diet with revision time provided beforehand.
Coursework takes the form of essays, along with other kinds of assessed work including oral presentations, electronic projects and creative writing portfolios.
Several Honours-level modules involve creative coursework, such as:
literary journal keeping
writing a short play
The School aims to provide feedback on assessments and coursework 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. Please note that some Schools offer qualified entry to Honours, and this will be clearly specified in the programme requirements. To find out the classification equivalent of points, please visit the common reporting scale webpage.
Visit St Andrews
If you are interested in studying at St Andrews, join us at a visiting day to explore the town, find out about our courses and meet current students.
A degree in English from St Andrews will open doors to a large and varied number of possible careers.
A degree in English from St Andrews demonstrates to employers that you are a good writer with the ability to craft and edit prose in English. It shows you are able to absorb and process information and are good at conducting research. It shows that you are good at verbal and written communication and that you have high-level analytic skills. These are skills that are invaluable in most jobs.
Career destinations for recent graduates include:
art administration (the Barbican Centre and Sotheby's)
internships with the United Nations
public policy (Scottish Executive and the British Council)
sales (Waterstones and WHSmith)
the financial sector (KPMG and Santander)
writers and editors (Oxford University Press, Penguin Books, Harper Collins and more).
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.
Students on the English programme may 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.
From the outset, the University of St Andrews offers an array of events and opportunities which result in a truly unique student experience. Students participate in a range of traditions, notably, the red academic gown and the academic family, where older students adopt first year students as ‘children’ and help guide them in a system of mentoring. These traditions and the choice of over 150 sports clubs and student societies to choose from ensures a community feel amongst students from first year onwards.
Students of English may be interested in joining Inklight, a creative writing society which runs poetry slams, open mic nights, workshops and an annual journal of student writing.
The School of English is situated in Castle House, a beautiful Victorian building situated directly in front of the St Andrews Castle ruins on the coast. English students will usually attend lectures, seminars and tutorials here.
The town of St Andrews itself has lots to offer. As University buildings are located throughout the town, walking around you encounter ancient and modern buildings and areas of greenery and seaside which provide a rich, beautiful backdrop to learning. If you want a change of scenery, St Andrews' position near surrounding towns and cities such as Anstruther, Dundee and Edinburgh make it ideal for getting to know more about Scotland.
“It is the passion and enthusiasm of the lecturers that makes English here great. Everyone is extremely encouraging and willing to offer additional assistance. There are weekly writing labs that are open to every English student. These sessions focus on a specific topic each week, with the aim of helping everyone improve their essay writing skills.”
Euan (Perth and Kinross, Scotland)
School of English University of St Andrews Castle House The Scores St Andrews KY16 9AR
As a research intensive institution, the University ensures that its teaching references the research interests of its staff, which may change from time to time. As a result, programmes are regularly reviewed with the aim of enhancing students' learning experience. Our approach to course revision is described online (PDF, 72 KB).