Social Anthropology MA (Honours) 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.

The MA (Hons) in Social Anthropology explores the fundamental question of ‘what it is to be human’. It seeks to answer this by examining the diverse ways in which human beings establish and live social lives in the contemporary world. 

Social anthropology at St Andrews has a distinctive orientation that combines interpretive, experiential, philosophical and historical research that is politically engaged, reflexive and critically aware. 

Although social anthropology involves studying a full variety of human contexts, at St Andrews the chief focus is on societies in Africa, the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia.

UCAS code
Start date
September 2024
End date
September 2028
Four years full time
School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies
“Social Anthropology is a subject that has not only supplemented but encouraged my personal development, offering me a means through which I can understand and decode the world I live in rather than a rigid understanding of a specific issue or subject. ”
- West Lothian, 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.

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
    • Applications of Mathematics
    • 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.

Do I need to have studied this subject before?

No previous knowledge of social anthropology is required.

Alternative study options

Students interested in this course may also be interested in the following:

Study abroad

Social anthropology 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.

International applicants

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide an English language test score to evidence your English language ability. Find out more about approved English language tests and scores for this course.

Course details

The MA (Hons) in Social Anthropology is a four-year course run by the Department of Social Anthropology. Social anthropology at St Andrews has a distinctive orientation that combines interpretive, experiential, philosophical and historical research that is politically engaged, reflexive and critically aware. 

In the first two years, you will be introduced to the wide variety of societies that anthropologists study and some key theoretical approaches. This is a good opportunity to explore a number of different anthropological topics and to see where your interests lie. 

Alongside social anthropology, 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.  

During your final two years, you will build on what you have already learned and be able to advance into topics that suit individual interests. Specialist subject areas may include: 

  • medical anthropology 
  • anthropology and history 
  • art and material culture 
  • global capitalism, resource extraction and energy 
  • human movement and migration 
  • issues in European anthropology 
  • justice and ethics 
  • language and culture 
  • medical anthropology 
  • sex and gender 
  • visual anthropology. 

Modules in anthropological theory and research methods will prepare you to undertake a 10,000-word dissertation in your final year on a topic of interest chosen in consultation with teaching staff. 

Graduates in social anthropology from St Andrews can expect to have a thorough grounding in the anthropological discipline, to have a broad learning of Western and non-Western societies, and to be able to explore a variety of important themes in depth.

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 social anthropology alongside modules in at least one other subject. 

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

Students will take the following compulsory first-year module: 

  • Ways of Thinking: concentrates on the ways in which human beings think about their worlds and on the different modes of thought and systems of belief that are manifest in societies across the world. Covering a range of ethnographic areas of study, both classical and contemporary, the module aims to stimulate new ways of thinking anthropologically about human being and becoming. 

Students can also take the following optional first-year module: 

  • Anthropology in the World: provides an introduction to some of the key issues and debates in social anthropology and what it means to be human in the 21st century.  

Students will take both of the following second-year modules:  

  • Ethnographic Encounters: explores the emergence of fieldwork practice in social anthropology, and reflexively considers the social, methodological and theoretical relations produced through ethnography. 
  • The Foundations of Social Anthropology: explores the history of theory in anthropology that underlies our current understanding of anthropology as the comparative study of human social experience. 

If you decide to take Social Anthropology in your third and fourth years, you choose from a wide variety of advanced options that cover a range of ethnographic areas and theoretical concerns. These will include modules that will allow you to explore societies in regions such as Africa, Europe, Central Asia, Latin America and the Pacific. 

Honours modules which have been offered in previous years include: 

  • Anthropology and Religion 
  • Anthropology of Catastrophe 
  • Anthropology of Latin America: Contemporary Issues 
  • Crisis and Rupture: Theories of social change in the contemporary world 
  • Sorcery and Conspiracy: The Anthropology of Alternate Realities 
  • The Anthropology of Borders, Boundaries and Frontiers 
  • Visual Anthropology 
  • Youth in Africa. 

In fourth year, students also undertake a 10,000-word dissertation on a topic of their choice. This research project enables you to independently explore a theme of your choice, which can include fieldwork in a selected community. 

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.


Social anthropology sub-honours modules are primarily delivered through formal lectures (100 to 350 students) complemented by small group tutorials (10 students), workshops and ethnographic film screenings.

At Honours level, instruction is predominately through seminars (maximum 30 students) which combine elements of lectures, films, presentations and discussions. 

When not attending lectures, tutorials and workshops, 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.

Modules in social anthropology are assessed by a combination of coursework (at least 40%) and written exams. Coursework includes: 

  • presentations 
  • essays 
  • projects 
  • take-home exams 
  • student diaries and learning journals 
  • creative writing 
  • tutorial participation. 

Written 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 a research-led teaching team with expertise and knowledge of social anthropology. Postgraduate research students who have undertaken teacher training may also contribute to the teaching of tutorials under the supervision of the module leader.  

You can find contact information for all social anthropology staff on the Department of Social Anthropology website. 

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 undergraduate students each year.

Joint Honours degrees

You can also take Social Anthropology as part of a joint Honours degree in which you will take core modules of your chosen subjects.

Course name UCAS code
Master of Arts (Honours) Ancient History & Archaeology and Social AnthropologyVVL6
Master of Arts (Honours) Ancient History and Social AnthropologyV1L6
Master of Arts (Honours) Arabic and Social AnthropologyLT66
Master of Arts (Honours) Arabic and Social Anthropology (With Integrated Year Abroad)TV81
Master of Arts (Honours) Art History and Social AnthropologyLV63
Master of Arts (Honours) Classical Studies and Social AnthropologyLQ68
Master of Arts (Honours) Classics and Social AnthropologyQ8L6
Master of Arts (Honours) Comparative Literature and Social AnthropologyQL26
Master of Arts (Honours) Economics and Social AnthropologyLL16
Master of Arts (Honours) English and Social AnthropologyQL36
Master of Arts (Honours) Film Studies and Social AnthropologyPL36
Master of Arts (Honours) French and Social AnthropologyLR61
Master of Arts (Honours) French and Social Anthropology (With Integrated Year Abroad)LRP1
Master of Arts (Honours) Geography and Social AnthropologyLL67
Master of Arts (Honours) German and Social AnthropologyLR62
Master of Arts (Honours) German and Social Anthropology (With Integrated Year Abroad)RL26
Master of Arts (Honours) Greek and Social AnthropologyQ7L6
Master of Arts (Honours) International Relations and Social AnthropologyLL62
Master of Arts (Honours) Italian and Social AnthropologyLR63
Master of Arts (Honours) Italian and Social Anthropology (With Integrated Year Abroad)RL36
Master of Arts (Honours) Latin and Social AnthropologyQL60
Master of Arts (Honours) Medieval History and Social AnthropologyLV61
Master of Arts (Honours) Middle East Studies and Social AnthropologyTL66
Master of Arts (Honours) Modern History and Social AnthropologyLVP1
Master of Arts (Honours) Persian and Social AnthropologyLQ66
Master of Arts (Honours) Philosophy and Social AnthropologyLV65
Master of Arts (Honours) Psychology and Social AnthropologyCL86
Master of Arts (Honours) Russian and Social AnthropologyLR67
Master of Arts (Honours) Russian and Social Anthropology (With Integrated Year Abroad)LRP7
Master of Arts (Honours) Scottish History and Social AnthropologyLVQ2
Master of Arts (Honours) Social Anthropology and SpanishLR64
Master of Arts (Honours) Social Anthropology and Spanish (With Integrated Year Abroad)LRP4
Master of Arts (Honours) Social Anthropology and Sustainable DevelopmentF894
Master of Arts (Honours) Social Anthropology and Theological StudiesLV66

It is also possible to combine a degree in Social Anthropology with both Arabic and Russian.

Joint degrees taken with Arabic, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish and the triple degree with Arabic and Russian are also available 'With Integrated Year Abroad'.

"With" degrees

You can take Social Anthropology as part of a "with" Honours degree in which the majority of the course deals with the first name subject. St Andrews offers the following "with" degrees in Social Anthropology:

  • Master of Arts (Honours) Economics with Social Anthropology - UCAS code L1L6
  • Master of Arts (Honours) Geography with Social Anthropology - UCAS code L7L6
  • Master of Arts (Honours) Social Anthropology with Geography - UCAS code L6L7
  • Master of Arts (Honours) Social Anthropology with Religion in Society - UCAS code LT30


A degree in social anthropology is important for any career where knowledge of other cultures is vital, such as in overseas development or in community relations work. Graduates from the Social Anthropology MA have entered into a wide range of careers, including the diplomatic service, social work, law and business. 

Popular career paths for social anthropology graduates include: 

  • advertising and marketing 
  • civil service 
  • education and social work 
  • human rights 
  • humanitarian aid 
  • international or non-profit organisations 
  • media and journalism. 

The insight of an anthropologist is valued in any occupation that requires a sensitivity to different ways of life and thought, or which demands the manipulation of theoretical ideas in regard to the context of complicated human needs. A full understanding of 'the human element' in technological processes is increasingly in demand. 

In your degree, you will also gain a number of transferable skills which are highly valued by employers across all sectors. These include the ability to: 

  • understand how human beings are shaped by and interact with social, cultural and physical environments 
  • read and interpret texts within their historical, social and theoretical contexts 
  • express ideas in writing, summarise arguments and distinguish between them 
  • use skills in information technology and oral and written communication 
  • recognise the politics of language, indirect forms of communication, forms of power, theoretical statements and claims of authority.

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

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School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies

School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies website

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