The Taught MLitt in Ethnology and Folklore is the only degree programme of its kind in the UK. It aims to develop a broad-based understanding of how the disciplines of Ethnology, Folklore, and Ethnomusicology evolved, and offers an introduction to the major genres of study—including material culture, custom and belief, music and song, oral narrative, childlore and games, sports and pastimes—with special emphasis on Scottish culture and tradition in context.

Three people sitting around a table in classGraduates from a variety of backgrounds will gain knowledge of the concepts, practical skills, and methodologies of Ethnology, Folklore, and Ethnomusicology. While a number of graduates go on to, for example, museum, archive, and cultural tourism careers following their MLitt, the programme also provides a sound basis for further research at the doctoral level.

In addition to the four core taught courses, students complete a 20,000-word fieldwork-based dissertation, attend a week-long Field School at the beginning of the academic year, take part in regular fieldwork exercises, develop practical skills in archiving, sound and video editing, and participate in an internship programme.

The Taught MLitt in Ethnology and Folklore

  • trains graduates in the arts, humanities, and social sciences for advanced research in Ethnology, Folklore, and Ethnomusicology;
  • includes a week-long Field School and internship programme;
  • develops practical skills in recording and editing sound and video;
  • develops archival skills;
  • develops presentation skills;
  • can be taken full-time (12 months) or part-time (24 months);
  • can lead to a Master of Letters degree (MLitt) or a diploma;
  • equips successful candidates with the knowledge and practical skills needed to embark on doctoral research, or to work in museums, archives, education, and other cultural fields.

The programme covers

  • the history and development of the disciplines of Ethnology, Folklore, and Ethnomusicology;
  • contemporary issues such as reflexivity, contemporary mythologies, the treatment of place and time, identity, ethics, and gender;
  • case studies involving the application of Ethnology, Folklore, and Ethnomusicology concepts to issues in contemporary society, including cultural change and stability, language change, emigration and immigration, and the 'invented Scot';
  • digital field recording, processing, and archiving.

Resources include


  1. History and Core Genres of Ethnology and Folklore
  2. Oral Traditions
  3. Intellectual Backgrounds and Methodologies
  4. Scottish Contexts and Practical Fieldwork
  5. Dissertation


Assessment for the degree is based on 3 essays, 2 presentations, and 4 examination papers, along with class participation (Courses 1–4) and practical assessments. Assessment for Course 5 is based on the 20,000-word dissertation, processing of the archival materials generated, and on preparatory written and oral work.

Entry requirements

A good undergraduate degree, normally in the arts, humanities, or social sciences. Occasionally students without a degree but with extensive life experience and strong writing skills are accpeted onto the programme.

MLitt staff and teaching responsibilities

Elphinstone Institute teaching staff 

  • Dr Thomas A. McKean, Director - oral tradition, song and ballad, Gaelic tradition, methodology and ethics, transcription, narrative
  • Dr Frances Wilkins, Lecturer in Ethnomusicology - Scottish instrumental tradition, song, ethics, reflexivity, fieldwork
  • Professor Ian Russell, Emeritus Professor - oral tradition, music, drama and speech
  • Dr Colin Milton, Honorary Associate Director - dialect, vernacular literature, revival and reconstruction, Historical Sociolinguistics
  • Nicolas Le Bigre, Teaching Fellow, Archives - narrative, immigrant experience, fieldwork, cataloguing and archiving, digital folklore

Invited University of Aberdeen lecturers