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.
If you started this programme in 2019, you can find information about 2019 entry on the 2019 Social Anthropology 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: AAAB
Minimum entry grades: AABB
Gateway entry grades: BBBB
Standard entry grades: AAB
Minimum entry grades: ABB
Standard entry grades: 36 (HL 6,6,5)
Minimum entry grades: 36 (HL 6,5,5)
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 7.0, with a minimum score of 6.5 in each component (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking), or an equivalent English Language qualification.
No previous knowledge of this subject is required.
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 Department of Social Anthropology has a well-established record of research and publication, with particular regional strengths in African, Caribbean, European, Latin American and Pacific studies. Academic staff are actively involved in anthropological debates around cosmopolitanism, migration, ethics, new media, medicine, mental health, art and literature, human-animal relations, economics, energy and climate change.
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 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:
language and culture
anthropology and history
sex and gender
anthropology, literature and art
resource extraction and energy.
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 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 webpage.
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 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.
Social Anthropology Honours modules which have been offered in previous years include:
Anthropology of Catastrophe
Anthropology of Religion
Colonial and Post-Colonial Representations
Contemporary Issues in Social Anthropology
Living with Material Culture
Perception, Imagination and Communication
The Anthropology of Crisis
The Anthropology of Migration
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 available for the current academic year can be found in the module catalogue.
Social Anthropology sub-honours modules are primarily delivered through formal lectures (100 to 350 students) complimented by small group tutorials (8 to 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.
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.
In addition to your studies in the Department, 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.
Modules in Social Anthropology are assessed by a combination of coursework (at least 40%) and written exams. Coursework includes:
student diaries and learning journals
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 Honoursand 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 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 Social Anthropology 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:
international or non-profit organisations
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.
Social Anthropology students 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 more information about study abroad options, please see the study abroad website.
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.
Social Anthropology operates a mentoring scheme. This scheme matches incoming first-year students with Honours students in the Department. The scheme aims to help first-year students integrate into the anthropological community, encourage stronger links between sub-honours and Honours students, give a sense of what modules are like, and cultivate an enthusiasm and love of Social Anthropology.
Social Anthropology students may be interested in joining the Anthropology Society, which aims to foster enthusiasm and curiosity towards studying humans around the world. The group hosts a range of informal and friendly events including lectures, workshops and socials.
The Department of Social Anthropology is located at the centre of the University in a three-storey building dating back to the 15th century. It is only a minute’s walk to the University Library and St Salvator’s College. Most of your lectures, seminars and tutorials will be held here or in nearby buildings.
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.
“I chose Social Anthropology as a part of my degree as it is the study of what it is to be human. What makes the anthropological study at St Andrews special are the staff. It is a fantastic experience to study with them. Their research (to list a few) includes literary, linguistic, or feminist anthropologies.”
Dani (Kolobrzeg, Poland)
Department of Social Anthropology University of St Andrews 71 North Street St Andrews KY16 9AL
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).