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Explore the real stories of the men, women and children who left Scotland’s shores for a new life overseas.

Engage with unrivalled expertise and fascinating treasures as you develop your skills in separating fact from fiction to uncover the true stories behind Scotland’s diaspora.

A journey of discovery to be enjoyed as an inspiring short course with all the convenience of distance learning – or as a tempting taster to progress to a full online Masters in the history and heritage of Scotland.


For many people over the centuries, growing up in Scotland has been about preparing to leave their homeland. This course looks at the generations who have emigrated from Scotland: who they were and why they went, where they settled or spent time, and the long-term impact for Scotland and the communities in which they made new homes.

This course is for anyone, anywhere in the world, with a professional or personal interest in the rich history of Scotland and her people. You may work in the museum and heritage sector, art and art history, or in education. Or you may be retired and looking to gain the intellectual tools to pursue an area of special interest.

You’ll learn to work with many sources, written, visual and oral, and grow your analytical skills as you come to see the real people beyond the stereotypes which have sometimes dominated narratives of emigration and settlement. You can then relate this rich experience to yourself, wherever you live – and particularly if you are part of the Scottish diaspora.

You’ll enjoy engaging with highly-experienced and world-leading experts in Scotland’s rich written, visual and oral past, over a chronological spectrum that takes you from the 18th century to the present day. You’ll gain a global view, connecting this rich history and heritage with today’s Scottish diaspora.

This credit-bearing course will offer you an overview of a rich, eventful phenomenon. Should you decide to pursue your studies in greater depth, you can follow this with a short course on Scotland: A Millennium of History, starting next September, and with two courses completed you gain a PgCert. You can extend your studies a further year with short courses on Scotland’s Visual History, and Approaches to Research, and gain a PgDip. Adding a third year, in which you’ll undertake a dissertation, will gain you a full Masters degree. All options are available fully online.

Why Aberdeen for this course?

The combination of reputation, experience, breadth of expertise, teaching and research strength – and, importantly, international outlook – makes Aberdeen the obvious provider of first-class education in Scottish history and heritage. This is the first programme of its kind at a Scottish university.

The study of Scotland’s past is an integral part of the intellectual life of our University, founded over 500 years ago to bring learning to the unruly communities of northeast Scotland. We have always been ambitious and focused on the wider world, while remaining firmly rooted in our region and country.

The impact of history research at the University of Aberdeen was assessed as top in Scotland and second in the UK in the most recent national assessment of research at UK universities (Research Excellence Framework 2014).

With access to a rich stream of source materials located within the University and across the region, our academics conduct internationally-renowned research and make their expertise available to a broad range of constituencies. Acclaimed research projects include those on the medieval Aberdeen Bestiary, the Burgh Records, the Buildings of Scotland, and the Scottish Emigration Database.

You’ll have online access to the wonderful collections of our award-winning Sir Duncan Rice Library, including ancient Scottish records, manuscripts, prints, photographs and literary collections of leading Scottish writers and poets. Treasures include the magnificent Aberdeen Bestiary, a large Jacobite collection, works of the Scottish Enlightenment, and one of the best collections on Sir Walter Scott.

You can study this credit-bearing online short course standalone, or as a taster to delve more deeply into this fascinating theme of Scottish heritage through progressing to a full Masters programme, also available conveniently online.

What you'll study

Through a rich selection of literature, visual and oral history you’ll engage with the motives and experiences of emigrants and sojourners in the Scottish diaspora, and connect their themes back to Scotland.

You’ll cover topics including:

  • Historiographical debates, how historians study the Scottish diaspora
  • Causes and consequences of late eighteenth-century emigration from Scotland
  • The Highland and Lowland Clearances
  • The ‘recruitment business’
  • Scots in England
  • Journeying to new lands
  • The inter-war exodus from Scotland
  • The significance of return migration
  • Strengths and weaknesses of emigrant testimony as a source
  • The diaspora in religion, literature, and popular culture.

Depending on students' interests, particular attention may be paid to Scottish settlement and its impact in a particular location, particularly the USA, Canada, New Zealand, or Australia.

How you'll study

This online, 15-week distance-learning short course offers all the flexibility and convenience to study when, where and how you choose, and to fit your learning around your location, employment and personal commitments.

Our online courses are delivered through our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as self-contained units of learning taught and assessed to the same quality as our campus-based degree programmes, and developed specifically for an online audience using a range of learning materials and assessment activities.

We aim to create an online classroom experience and student community which enables you to enjoy the same learning environment as students on our full degree programmes, including access to a suite of learning resources and support.

You’ll be expected to spend 30-40 days on this course, and all material will be uploaded to our VLE for you to work through at your own pace and to suit your commitments.

You’ll be guided through your programme with weekly packages of video lectures and clips, presentations, discussions, and course reading. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to interact with your tutors, and with your classmates on our online discussion boards.

Wherever you are in the world, as you enjoy the convenience of online distance study, you will still feel part of our very special Aberdeen family and learning community.


You will keep a reflective learning journal and submit your 400-word entry every second week of your course (a total of six submissions). This will constitute 60% of your total mark.

A 2,600-word essay assignment in week 12 will contribute the remaining 40%.

Entry Requirements

You will be expected to have an Honours degree to at least 2:1 standard in an appropriate discipline or equivalent qualifications (normally a 3.0 GPA in North America).

However, for candidates who do not meet these admission criteria, alternative qualifications combined with relevant professional experience and supportive references may also be considered as a means for entry. Applicants who do not possess the formal degree qualification are required to submit a supporting personal statement.

All students entering the University, including online courses, must provide evidence that they can use English well enough to study our programmes effectively. Details of our English language entry requirements can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages. For details of our pre-sessional English courses see our Language Centre website.