Ancestral Studies MSc/PgDip

The first of its kind in the world, Ancestral Studies is an innovative new interdisciplinary programme. Uniting teaching across humanities and sciences, Ancestral Studies explores the social and biological contours of identity, allowing you to study across multiple disciplines, create your own curriculum and pursue self-directed unique research.

Key facts

Why this programme

  • A truly interdisciplinary degree programme taught collaboratively by world leading academic departments
  • An emphasis on building practical skills through professional masterclasses and skills workshops
  • An immersive learning experience drawing upon the unique Scottish landscape and its rich history  
  • The opportunity to contribute to, and shape, a new academic field of research

Programme structure

This course can be taken full or part time (at the convener’s discretion).  It is comprised of two core modules and several optional taught modules.  This structure allows you to shape your own curriculum and tailor it to your interests (insofar as staffing and course availability allows).  You will work closely with the convener to shape a meaningful and intellectually cogent programme of study.  Over the summer you will complete a dissertation or professional report dependent upon your interests.

Core and Optional Courses

Core Courses

Research Methods for Ancestral Studies introduces you to key research methodologies and practices drawn from a range of disciplines. You will receive an introduction to specialist and transferable skills such as working with archives and online genealogical resources, visual culture, heritage landscapes, museums and material culture.  Emphasis is placed on the interpretation of primary sources. 

Approaches to Ancestral Studies provides a conceptual framework for exploring core themes of the discipline through weekly topics drawn from multiple disciplines.  You will consider questions of identity (genetic and social), examine current trends in family history and heritage research and address questions of past generations and their experiences of place, language and material culture.  You will be exposed to theoretical, critical and practical insights from across the arts, humanities and sciences to explore ancestry, relational identity, intellectual inheritance and memory works.

Optional courses

Optional courses will be drawn from a range of disciplines and will therefore change on a yearly basis.  You will work with the programme convener to choose a complement of optional courses that will align with your interests.  These courses may be taken from History, Archaeology, Celtic and Gaelic, and more (depending on course offerings in any particular year).


MSc students will complete a dissertation.  Innovative, cross-disciplinary dissertations are encouraged and will be supervised/co-supervised within the appropriate School/s.  

Background and aims

Ancestral Studies is a new and emergent area of interdisciplinary research and practice. Concerned with the social, cultural and biological contours of identity, it explores how our ideas of who we are may be influenced by perceived relationships with our ancestors.  Ancestral Studies asks questions of how past generations have engaged with place, landscape, language, text, visual and material culture in order to create a sense of being and belonging. 

This unique and ground-breaking programme brings together arts and humanities disciplines with the social and physical sciences.  It aims to generate exciting cutting edge scholarship to examine people’s relationships with their own and others ancestors and the complex contemporary and trans-temporal relevance of these connections in wider socio-political and public contexts throughout the world.

Drawing on the outstanding backdrop of Scotland’s ancestral resources, including those of the global Scottish diaspora, the MSc in Ancestral Studies builds on established research strengths and expertise within the University and our partner organisations. This includes nationally significant collections housed in The Hunterian Museum, University Special collections and Archives, as well as the holdings of Glasgow Life and the Scottish Screen Archive.

Ancestral Studies balances this local Scottish and UK focus with wider European and global perspectives making it highly relevant to both home and international applicants looking for innovative teaching and learning provision in an exciting and ever-expanding field.


Ancestral Studies is a broad subject area which covers many interdisciplinary themes. Below are some of the types of pathways you could follow:

Ancestral Narratives

How do we tell people who we are and where we came from? What stories do we choose to tell or not tell? There are many forms of expressing ancestry – words (written, spoken and sung), performance, dance, creative craft, images and so on. We create biographies of people, objects and buildings in order to understand them in the present and the future. At the University of Glasgow, you can explore the narratives of ancestry in the past by examining these texts, music, film, art, data and images.

Ancestral Belonging

Ancestry is emotive. Often we experience an emotional connection to the place that we feel that we belong. But how do we constitute this place of belonging? Are we connected to landscapes? Communities? Or something else? With ever-fluid conceptualisations of family, community and place, how we locate ourselves in a connected world is becoming increasingly important.

Ancestral Bodies

Our bodies tell the story of who we are now. Inside and outwardly, bodies are a record of our multiple identities. Inside the body resides codes, passed on to us by recent and distant ancestors, that inform much of our identity and affect how we navigate the world around us. Increasingly access to these codes – DNA analysis and genetic profiling – impacts our understanding of ourselves in ways that have not yet been meaningfully interrogated. You can engage with this phenomenon critically and carefully, considering it alongside studies of outward communications of ancestry through dress and adornment, through the objects we carry with us and the heirlooms we wear. We are interested in the interactions and negotiations between these identities in both the individual and the collective.

Ancestral Sites

In Ancestral Studies, ‘sites’ are thought of more broadly than geographical locations or the place at which something occurred in the past. Sites can, of course, be physical – landscapes, human bodies, physical resources like centres of research such as archives. They can also be conceptual – memories and data. In Ancestral Studies, we bring together a range of disciplines to consider issues of ancestry; the interdisciplinary intersections created generate new ‘sites’ from which we can think in new and innovative ways. We are particularly interested in how these nodes help us to anticipate ancestral futures through studies of ancestral pasts.


You will have the option of completing a dissertation or professional report. Innovative, cross-disciplinary dissertations are encouraged and will be supervised/co-supervised within the appropriate School/s.  This will provide good grounding should you choose to pursue further study.

Industry links and employability

Due to its interdisciplinary nature, Ancestral Studies enjoys links with a range of departments across the University of Glasgow and beyond.  Our Professional Masterclasses and Skills Workshops bring in world leading academics in their fields and external experts.  You will be able to build a wide network of contacts through these connections.

Career prospects

The combination of practical and theory based learning will equip graduates of Ancestral Studies with a well-balanced and broad set of transferrable skills.  You will have practical research skills in primary and secondary sources (from artefacts to archives), the ability to critically evaluate sources, to debate and formulate your own arguments and theories, and to present your research to your peers.

Potential career paths include academic and commercial archaeology, a variety of positions within museums, galleries, archives and libraries, or within the growing Ancestral Tourism sector.

Entry requirements

Normally a 2:1 undergraduate degree or equivalent in Anthropology, Archaeology, Ancient History, Classics, Celtic and Gaelic, English, Geography, Theology, History or a related subject at the programme convener's discretion.

English language requirements

For applicants whose first language is not English, the University sets a minimum English Language proficiency level.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module (not General Training)

  • overall score 6.5
  • no sub-test less than 6.0
  • or equivalent scores in another recognised qualification:

Common equivalent English language qualifications

All stated English tests are acceptable for admission for both home/EU and international students for this programme:

  • ibTOEFL: 90; no sub-test less than:
    • Reading: 20
    • Listening: 19
    • Speaking: 19
    • Writing: 23
  • CAE (Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English): 176 overall; no sub-test less than 169
  • CPE (Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English):  176 overall; no sub-test less than 169
  • PTE Academic (Pearson Test of English, Academic test): 60; no sub-test less than 59
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English: ISEII at Distinction with Distinction in all sub-tests

For international students, the Home Office has confirmed that the University can choose to use these tests to make its own assessment of English language ability for visa applications to degree level programmes. The University is also able to accept an IELTS test (Academic module) from any of the 1000 IELTS test centres from around the world and we do not require a specific UKVI IELTS test for degree level programmes. We therefore still accept any of the English tests listed for admission to this programme.

Pre-sessional courses

The University of Glasgow accepts evidence of the required language level from the English for Academic Study Unit Pre-sessional courses. We also consider other BALEAP accredited pre-sessional courses:


What do I do if...

my language qualifications are below the requirements?

The University's English for Academic Study Unit offers a range of Pre-Sessional Courses to bring you up to entry level. The course is accredited by BALEAP, the UK professional association for academic English teaching; see Links.

my language qualifications are not listed here?

Please contact the Recruitment and International Office:


For further information about English language requirements, please contact the Recruitment and International Office:

Fees and funding

Tuition fees for 2017-18


Home and EU
Full time fee£9500
Part time 20 credits£1056
Full time fee£18600


Fees are subject to change and for guidance only

Additional fees

  • Fee for submission by a research student: £460
  • Fee for re-assessment of a dissertation (PGT programme): £300
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work: £1,000
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed: £200
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship: £680
  • Research students registered as non-supervised Thesis Pending students (50% refund will be granted if the student completes thesis within the first six months of the period): £260
  • Registration/exam only fee: £110
  • General Council fee: £50

Alumni discount

A 10% discount is available to University of Glasgow alumni applying to the MSc. This includes graduates and those who have completed a Junior Year Abroad, Exchange programme or International Summer School at the University of Glasgow. The discount is applied at registration for students who are not in receipt of another discount or scholarship funded by the University. No additional application is required.

Funding opportunities

Please note this programme is not yet approved for US Federal Loans funding.  If you wish to apply for US Federal Loans funding to study on this programme please notify Carol Barnett (

How to apply

We ask that you apply online for a postgraduate taught degree. Our system allows you to fill out the standard application form online and submit this to the University within 42 days of starting your application.

You need to read the guide to applying online before starting your application. It will ensure you are ready to proceed, as well as answer many common questions about the process.

Guide to applying online

Do I have to apply online for a postgraduate taught degree?

Yes. To apply for a postgraduate taught degree you must apply online. We are unable to accept your application by any other means than online.

Do I need to complete and submit the application in a single session?

No. You have 42 days to submit your application once you begin the process. You may save and return to your application as many times as you wish to update information, complete sections or upload additional documents such as your final transcript or your language test.

What documents do I need to provide to make an application?

As well as completing your online application fully, it is essential that you submit the following documents:

  • A copy (or copies) of your official degree certificate(s) (if you have already completed your degree)
  • A copy (or copies) of your official academic transcript(s), showing full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained
  • Official English translations of the certificate(s) and transcript(s)
  • Two supporting reference letters on headed paper
  • Evidence of your English Language ability (if your first language is not English)
  • Any additional documents required for this programme (see Entry requirements for this programme)
  • A copy of the photo page of your passport (Non-EU students only)

If you do not have all of these documents at the time of submitting your application then it is still possible to make an application and provide any further documents at a later date, as long as you include a full current transcript (and an English translation if required) with your application. See the ‘Your References, Transcripts and English Qualification’ sections of our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Do my supporting documents need to be submitted online?

Yes, where possible, please upload the supporting documents with your application.

How do I provide my references?

You must either upload the required references to your online application or ask your referees to send the references to the University as we do not contact referees directly. There is two main ways that you can provide references: you can either upload references on headed paper when you are making an application using the Online Application (or through Applicant Self-Service after you have submitted your application) or you can ask your referee to email the reference directly to See the 'Your References, Transcripts and English Qualifications' section of the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

What if I am unable to submit all of my supporting documents online?

If you cannot upload an electronic copy of a document and need to send it in by post, please attach a cover sheet to it that includes your name, the programme you are applying for, and your application reference number.

You may send them to:

Postgraduate Admissions
Marketing, Recruitment & International Office
71 Southpark Avenue
G12 8QQ
Fax: +44 141 330 4045

Can I email my supporting documents?

No. We cannot accept email submissions of your supporting documents.

What entry requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

You should check that you have met (or are likely to have met prior to the start of the programme) the individual entry requirements for the degree programme you are applying for. This information can be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab on each individual programme page, such as the one you are viewing now.

What English Language requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

If you are an international student, you should also check that you have met the English Language requirements specific to the programme you are applying for. These can also be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab for each specific programme.

Further Information

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on applying to a postgraduate taught programme.

Guidance notes for using the online application

These notes are intended to help you complete the online application form accurately, they are also available within the help section of the online application form. If you experience any difficulties accessing the online application then you should visit the Application Troubleshooting/FAQs page.

  • Name and Date of birth: must appear exactly as they do on your passport. Please take time to check the spelling and lay-out.
  • Contact Details: Correspondence address. All contact relevant to your application will be sent to this address including the offer letter(s). If your address changes, please contact us as soon as possible.
  • Choice of course: Please select carefully the course you want to study. As your application will be sent to the admissions committee for each course you select it is important to consider at this stage why you are interested in the course and that it is reflected in your application.
  • Proposed date of entry: Please state your preferred start date including the month and the year. Taught masters degrees tend to begin in September. Research degrees may start in any month.
  • Education and Qualifications: Please complete this section as fully as possible indicating any relevant Higher Education qualifications starting with the most recent. Complete the name of the Institution (s) as it appears on the degree certificate or transcript.
  • English Language Proficiency: Please state the date of any English language test taken (or to be taken) and the award date (or expected award date if known).
  • Employment and Experience: Please complete this section as fully as possible with all employments relevant to your course. Additional details may be attached in your personal statement/proposal where appropriate.
  • References: Please provide the names and contact details of two academic references. Where applicable one of these references may be from your current employer. References should be completed on letter headed paper and uploaded on to your application.

Standard application deadlines

  • International applications (non-EU): 21 July 2017 
  • UK and EU applications: 25 August 2017

Classes start September 2017 and you may be expected to attend induction sessions the week before.

Apply now