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Social Anthropology MA (Hons) 2021 entry

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.

How to apply Register your interest

UCAS code


Course type

Master of Arts (single Honours degree)

Course duration

Four years full time

  • Start date: 6 September 2021
  • End date: 30 June 2025

Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.

Entry requirements

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.

International applicants

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.

How to apply

Do I need to have studied this subject before?

No previous knowledge of social anthropology is required.

General entry requirements

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

Other qualifications

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.

Course information

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.

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.

Find out more about studying social anthropology at St Andrews


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). 

Find out more about the modular Scottish degree system.

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: This module 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.

Social anthropology Honours modules which have been offered in previous years include:

  • Anthropology of Catastrophe
  • Anthropology of Latin America: Contemporary Issues
  • Anthropology of Politics and Governance
  • Anthropology of Religion
  • Colonial and Post-Colonial Representations
  • Contemporary Issues in Social Anthropology
  • Melanesian Anthropology
  • Perception, Imagination and Communication
  • Sorcery and Conspiracy: The Anthropology of Alternate Realities
  • The Anthropology of Crisis.

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.


Teaching format

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.

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

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 web page.


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. 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 see the common reporting scale

Meet us online

If you're interested in studying at St Andrews, join us on a virtual visiting day or daily information session to find out about our courses, how to apply, and to meet current students.


Upcoming online visiting days:

  • Wednesday 30 September 2020
  • Wednesday 7 October 2020
  • Wednesday 14 October 2020
  • Wednesday 28 October 2020
  • Wednesday 4 November 2020


Tuition fees for 2021 entry

Scotland Tuition fees for Scottish applicants have yet to be set for 2021 entry.
Rest of the UK £9,250
EU and overseas £25,100

For overseas students, tuition fees will be fixed at this level for the duration of your programme.

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.

Special joint degree notes

The joint option with Psychology can also be taken as a degree programme with British Psychological Society accreditation.

In taking a joint degree, you are required to take core modules in all of your subjects. Find out more about joint degrees.

"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 named subject.

In taking a "with" degree, you are required to take core modules in all of your subjects. Find out more about joint degrees.

Your future


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. 

Study abroad

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


Student life

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.

The University 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 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, parks and beaches, providing a rich, beautiful backdrop to learning. Find out more about the town of St Andrews.

Find out more about student life at the University of St Andrews


Department of Social Anthropology
University of St Andrews
71 North Street
St Andrews
KY16 9AL

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2977

Department of Social Anthropology


Admission to the University of St Andrews is governed by our admissions policy.

Curriculum development

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).

Tuition fees

The University will clarify compulsory fees and charges it requires any student to pay at the time of offer. The offer will also clarify conditions for any variation of fees. The University’s approach to fee setting is described online (PDF, 84 KB).

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