Social Anthropology, MRes

Social Anthropology, MRes


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

Study 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
Location of Study

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

We are interested in various aspects of people’s everyday lives, whether ordinary day-to-day activities or special festivals and events. Researchers observe these events and activities to learn more about other societies and to reflect on their own.

Such observations and analysis provided by anthropologists are important and generate knowledge about remote cultures or help address urgent issues in communities nearby.

Anthropology helps understand current developments in our changing world too and contributes to critical reflection on these processes, whether it is the refugee crisis or social consequences of a disease outbreak, for instance.

The MRes programme introduces students to the work anthropologists do, the methods they use to conduct fieldwork, to past and current anthropological research in perspective. The programme encourages critical reflection on the problems and possibilities entailed in and presented by anthropological research.

Students on the programme will learn how to access research material, conduct ethnographic fieldwork, apply research methods (participant observation, interviewing and recording), and adhere to the ethics of anthropological research.

Students who complete the programme are prepared to undertake further research towards the PhD in Social Anthropology or to enter employment as trained researchers in the public or private sectors.

What You'll Study

Stage 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.

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.

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.

Stage 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.

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.

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.

Stage 3

Compulsory Courses

Dissertation in Social Anthropology (AT5910)

60 Credit Points

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

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.

Fee Information

Fee information
Fee category Cost
EU / International students £23,800
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year
Home / RUK £11,100
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year

Additional Fee Information

  • 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.


Eligible self-funded international Masters students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Visit our Funding Database to find out more and see our full range of scholarships.

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?

  • The Department of Anthropology was established in 2003 by Professor Tim Ingold and we now have 13 members of staff who pursue different interests, including the North, landscape and environment, human-animal relationships, religion and belief, museums and material cultures.
  • MRes stands for Master's of Research, which means you are actively engaged in research while also taking taught courses.
  • Students are free to choose their own research topic and working together with members of staff and their peers they can develop this idea into a full blown research project.
  • Many of our students conduct research on the northern environment, for example among the Sámi in Iceland or in Siberia. Others have focused on human-animal relationships, while more recently we’ve seen students research material studies, using the extensive museum collections close to us.
  • We also have students who do research on migration and asylum seekers and some of these students have gone on to work for charities and international organisations working with refugees.
  • The programme is organised in three terms, so for the first two terms, you are taught the main core research skills including field research, participant observation and ethnography.
  • This training prepares you for the third term when undertake your research. 

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 a 2:1 standard from a recognised university or body.

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. Also taken into careful consideration is the trajectory of results, an applicant without an overall 2.1 but with 2.1 results in their final two years of study may be admitted.

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 - 59; Reading - 59; Speaking - 59; Writing - 59

Cambridge English B2 First, C1 Advanced or C2 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)
Personal Statement
a detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme
Reference x 2
two reference letters, one of which should be 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 employers, or other professional individuals


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.

What our Alumni Say

Iliana Papangeli

Iliana Papangeli

Iliana Papangeli

Job Details
Graduated 2017

“For me, Aberdeen was a turning point, a new direction towards what it is like to do anthropology. The department and staff were friendly, supportive and inspiring all the way. I am grateful for the opportunity to do the MRes in Social Anthropology with these wonderful people and I would strongly recommend Aberdeen to anyone thinking of doing Master’s degree in Anthropology.”

Dr Donatas Brandišauskas

Dr Donatas Brandišauskas

Dr Donatas Brandišauskas

Job Details
Associate Professor in Anthropology
Graduated 2004

“The MRes programme is an important training which provides all necessary tools to conduct fieldwork successfully and start writing your thesis. MRes programme helps students make first steps as independent researchers.”

Maddi Dorronsoro Olamusu

Maddi Dorronsoro Olamusu

Maddi Dorronsoro Olamusu

Job Details
PhD Student
Graduated 2018

“I chose Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen because I wanted to study in Scotland and liked the research profile of the department. The MRes programme in anthropology was a perfect transition from my undergraduate to PhD. This programme has a nice balance between taught and research elements. I have learned a lot in this past year, this Department has an incredibly friendly and warm atmosphere, which made me feel supported and cared throughout my Masters."

Our Experts

Programme Coordinator
Dr Johan Rasanayagam

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

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Get in Touch

Contact Details

Student Recruitment & Admissions
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
AB24 3FX