Programmes of Study

Programmes of Study

What do our students study?

Photo taken by Jan TavendaleWe are all innately creative, whether through the stories we recount, the jokes we tell, the songs we sing, the traditions we keep, the online 'memes' we create and share, our customs and beliefs, the ways we remember those who have passed away, the festivals we celebrate, or the clothes we wear.

These creative everyday expressions are the core of what we study at the Elphinstone Institute. Students will explore this vibrant vernacular culture within the context of wider society, when and where it comes from, what it means to people today, and the different ways scholars have studied this material since the beginnings of the disciplines.

What are our students like?

Teacher and students in front of a wooden structure in Newtonmore.We don't have typical students – our students come from a variety of disciplinary and national backgrounds and are of all ages. Past graduates have come from Scotland and the UK, Canada, Germany, the USA, China, Japan, Thailand, Russia, Taiwan, and elsewhere, and have ranged in age from 21 to 81!

Some come because they are keen to learn more about Ethnology, Folklore, and Ethnomusicology, and wish to pursue a career in the disciplines, while others come because they want to research local topics that are of particular interest to them. This mix of local students and students from abroad creates an exciting balance of interests and perspectives that greatly enriches discussions, research, and fieldwork.

Studying here at the Elphinstone Institute is thus of value both to those who have particular interests in Scotland and its contexts, as well as to students whose interests lie in the disciplines themselves but who would like to apply this knowledge to contexts around the world.

What skills do our students gain from our courses?

The disciplines of Ethnology, Folklore, and Ethnomusicology are incredibly interdisciplinary and wide-ranging. In addition to gaining a thorough understanding of the disciplines, their history, and contemporary contexts in Scotland and beyond, students completing our courses will:

  • learn how to conduct in-depth, ethical ethnographic fieldwork;
  • learn how to produce research incorporating fieldwork and archival and historical research both in short form (ethnographic report) and long form (dissertation);
  • learn digital production and editing skills as part of a radio/podcast project and then an ethnographic film project;
  • learn archival cataloguing skills;
  • learn how to deliver academic, conference-style presentations;
  • learn how to present academic research in non-academic, public engagement contexts;
  • have the opportunity to join in community engagement work, working with communities for communities. 

What career pathways are there?

Graduates from the Institute’s programmes have gone on to work in academia, public arts, museums, archives, cultural tourism, cultural administration and provision, and other fields.

What are the paths of study?

The Elphinstone Institute is the only research centre specialising in the vibrant vernacular culture of the North-East and North of Scotland, and the only Folklore-degree granting institution in Scotland. We offer a one-year taught MLitt (Master's) degree in Ethnology and Folklore, as well as MLitt Res, and PhD research degrees, all of which can be undertaken full- or part-time.


See our funding page for funding opportunities for local and international applicants to our MLitt and PhD programmes.

About the North-East of Scotland

The North-East of Scotland is internationally renowned for its traditional singers and musicians, its unmatched legacy of traditional balladry (for example, the Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection), and the global impact of its whisky and fishing industries. It is also the main European centre for offshore oil and gas activity. Further, Aberdeen is the most diverse city in Scotland, with roughly one in five residents being born outwith the UK. Aberdeen thus offers unmatched opportunities for both historical and contemporary ethnographic research. More information about the research being undertaken by staff and students at the Institute can be found on our research and staff pages.

How to Apply

Apply online and please contact us by e-mail or by phone (01224 272996) if you would like to speak with a member of staff.