Social Anthropology allows you to study human societies and carry out research with cultural and critical awareness.

This programme is studied on campus.

Anthropology is the comparative study of human societies in all their diversity. It seeks to understand cultural life in a wide range of social activities. Anthropologists carry out their research through long-term, in-depth fieldwork in their places of regional expertise.

The MRes introduces you to current directions of research in social anthropology and fosters critical reflection on the problems and possibilities entailed in anthropological research. It aims to guide students in how to access and use key sources of research material (e.g. archival, visual, and museological) and to provide training in ethnographic fieldwork research methods (e.g. participant observation, interviewing, recording).

Students completing the programme should be adequately prepared either to undertake further research towards the PhD in Social Anthropology, or to enter employment as trained researchers in the public or private sectors. We offer supervision in most areas of the discipline and we have particular strengths in our four principal research themes: Anthropology of the North, Environment and Perception, Creativity and Knowledge, and Religion, Belief and Practice.

Key Programme Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
12 months or 24 months
Study Mode
Full Time or Part Time
Start Month

What You'll Study

Semester 1

Semester 1

Compulsory Courses

Supervised Reading i (AT5029) - 15 Credit Points

The course comprises a programme of readings that will be devised in advance through consultation between student and supervisor, in light of the student’s intended research interests. The student will write a 3000 word essay on the readings.

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Research in Social Anthropology 1 (Extended) (AT5032) - 30 Credit Points

Research in Social Anthropology 1 (30 credits, first semester) will provide a broad introduction to the discipline of social anthropology at postgraduate level. We will discuss the history of social anthropology, its position within the social sciences and the humanities, the nature of anthropological theory and further themes in contemporary anthropological research. Coursework will comprise of a 5000 essay on a topic to be decided in consultation with the student’s supervisors.

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Research Skills in Anthropology (AT5033) - 15 Credit Points

This course allows students to learn about and practice research skills in social anthropology through a series of workshops. It will encourage reflexive awareness of the role of research skill, technique and methodology in the discipline. Topics will include the history of methods in anthropology, participant observation, writing fieldnotes, interviews, analysis, and working with media technologies, historical resources and museums. Case studies of how these skills are combined in practical fieldwork will be held. Students will be expected to bring any previous experience of anthropological fieldwork to bear on the discussions, and to develop ideas for their future research practice.

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Semester 2

Semester 2

Compulsory Courses

Research in Social Anthropology 2 (Extended) (AT5531) - 30 Credit Points

Research in Social Anthropology 2 (Extended) (30 credits, second semester) will discuss key topics within social anthropology. These may include religion, politics and the state, environmental anthropology, the anthropology of the north, creativity and knowledge, medical anthropology, linguistic anthropology, oral traditions, media, or museums, amongst others. Following the class each week a student-led seminar will be held to discuss the issues raised. Coursework will comprise of a 5000 essay on a topic to be decided in consultation with the student’s supervisors.

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Research Design and Practice in Anthropology (AT5532) - 15 Credit Points

This course will introduce students to a range of conceptual and philosophical issues that are relevant to research design in anthropology, and will enable them to write their own research proposal. Taking its lead from critiques of knowledge production in anthropology, it will describe how the contemporary discipline has been shaped by the interplay of objectivity and subjectivity, the representation of the anthropologist and their informants, and new forms of ethical practice. Students will be enabled to respond to these trends by designing research in ways that are both theoretically informed and politically aware.

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Scottish Training in Anthropological Research (Star) (AT5906) - 15 Credit Points

Scottish Training in Anthropological Research (STAR) is a week-long residential course undertaken in partnership with the Universities of St Andrews, Edinburgh and Glasgow. MRes and pre-fieldwork PhD students in Social Anthropology are normally required to attend. Students will take part in a series of lectures, seminars and workshops related anthropological methods and disciplinary practice. Specific topics will vary from year to year but may include participant observation, fieldnotes, documentary research and the ethics and politics of anthropological research.

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Semester 3

Semester 3

A Dissertation of 12,000 words on an agreed topic.

Compulsory Courses

Dissertation in Social Anthropology (AT5910) - 60 Credit Points

This is a compulsory element on the MRes Social Anthropology programme.

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Course Availability

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

How You'll Study

Assessment Methods

Assessment will be based on extended essays for each individual course module and the dissertation.

Why Study Social Anthropology?

  • Social Anthropology will involve you in the comparative study of human societies.
  • At Aberdeen, our staff specialise in Anthropology from regions as diverse as Canada, the Central Asian Republics, Iceland and Scandinavia, Siberia, Scotland and the UK, South America, Tibet and the Himalayas.
  • You will benefit from close personal supervision from a member of staff throughout your degree.
  • We have a large contingent of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers.
  • A particular strength of Anthropology at Aberdeen is the study of the circumpolar North, and we also have research themes on Environment and Perception, Creativity and Knowledge and Religion, Belief and Practice.
  • You will find out about the large-scale programmes of funded research currently underway in the Department.
  • Social Anthropology is taught in the School of Social Science, one of six schools in the College of Arts & Social Sciences.
  • The School provides an exciting and vibrant research-led learning environment for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. The University of Aberdeen is a research-led institution and the School of Social Science is committed to producing research of the highest quality across a range of subjects.
  • All of our degree schemes offer a thorough training in the basic principles of social science, a wide choice of specialised subjects, training in the practice of social research and preparation for a wide variety of career opportunities.
  • The Department of Anthropology's research is of international quality and is funded by a wide range of external grants. Our successes in winning grants are based in our collaborative way of working and our commitment to extending the scope of anthropological research in innovative ways. These are underpinned by a coherent set of research themes in the department.
  • Since its founding in 2003 the Department has been a focus internationally for the Anthropology of the North, involving the Nordic and Baltic countries, northern Russia, Iceland, Greenland, Canada and Alaska together with their links to north east Scotland.
  • The environment, and human relations with it, is an important theme in the Department's research and teaching. Current interests include perceptions of society and nature, human-animal relations, the politics of landscape and resource management and place, paths and movement.

Entry Requirements


The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

Applicants for admission will normally be expected to hold a relevant Honours degree with at least 2:1 standard from a recognised university or body. In exceptional circumstances applicants without this qualification may be admitted subject to having an alternative qualification, or an approved level of work experience, appropriate to the field of study.

Two academic references are also required for application.

The MRes is a research degree in the sense that, alongside courses in research methods, students work out their own specific research topic under the supervision of the department. Many students, but not all, intend to go on to study for a PhD, in which case the dissertation written at the end of the MRes serves as a PhD research proposal. To apply for MRes, please include a short outline of your intended research theme. This need not be very detailed, up to about 1000 words in length.

Please enter your country to view country-specific entry requirements.

English Language Requirements

To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.5 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 6.0; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0


OVERALL - 90 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 21; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 62 with: Listening - 51; Reading - 54; Speaking - 51; Writing - 54

Cambridge English Advanced & Proficiency:

OVERALL - 176 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 169; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Document Requirements

You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme. If you have not yet completed your current programme of study, then you can still apply and you can provide your Degree Certificate at a later date.

Degree Certificate
a degree certificate showing your qualifications
Degree Transcript
a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
a reference letter from your university discussing your academic ability. If you have been out of education for a long time you may wish to use your current or most recent employer, or another professional person

Fees and Funding

You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
Home / EU / RUK Students £9,000
Tuition Fees for 2020/21 Academic Year
International Students £19,000
Tuition Fees for 2020/21 Academic Year

Additional Fees

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.


There will be many career options open to you after graduating in Anthropology. Recent postgraduate researchers in Anthropology from Aberdeen have gone to work in a range of top universities around the world and in other organisations including governments and museums.

Social Anthropology Research 2nd in UK

The results of the last Research Excellence Framework (2014) acknowledged our department as one with the highest research environment score in the University and the second highest in the UK.

Image for useful fact about this Degree

Top in Scotland for Anthropology

Source: National Student Survey 2016

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Our Experts

Programme Coordinator
Dr Tatiana Argounova-Low

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.


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Sir Duncan Rice Library

Sir Duncan Rice Library

The University’s award winning Sir Duncan Rice Library is listed in the “Top 20 spellbinding University libraries in the World”. It contains over a million volumes, more than 300,000 e-books and 21,000 journals.

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Get in Touch

Contact Details

School of Social Science
University of Aberdeen
Edward Wright Building
Dunbar Street
AB24 3QY