Comparative Literature MA

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Comparative literature is the study of literature across cultural and national frontiers, time periods, languages and genres, even across the boundaries between literature and the other arts.

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You can study Comparative Literature alongside a whole range of other subjects and you may want to consider studying it with a foreign language to further expand your horizons.

  • September start
  • Session dates
  • This programme can only be taken as joint honours

Programme structure

Defined most broadly, comparative literature is the study of ‘literature without walls’. The comparative or cross-cultural study of literatures is, in some ways, an idealistic academic discipline: it assumes that people from different cultures, times, places and languages can communicate with each other, understand (if not fully share) each other’s traditions, and benefit from such contacts. 

The comparatist needs to have intellectual curiosity, an open mind and the courage to confront unknown cultures and unfamiliar writers and texts. A degree in Comparative Literature at Glasgow also gives you the opportunity to include the study of a foreign language (even as a beginner) as part of your curriculum. Comparative Literature is available as a joint degree, meaning you will study another subject alongside it.

Year 1

The courses on our year 1 programme have heroism as the overarching theme. The courses interrogate the notion of heroism, its absence in our lives and our longing for it as this finds expression in various historical contexts and cultures.

Some of the texts currently studied across the three courses include: Aleksandr Pushkin, The Queen of Spades; The Tain (Táin Bó Cúailnge – The Cattle Raid of Cooley); Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter; Heinrich Böll, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum and Jean Racine, Phaedra.

Year 2

Courses in year 2 focus on the idea of crossing frontiers in geographical, scientific, political, psychological, social, cultural and gender-orientated terms. They examine the human motivations behind and the consequences of various “crossings”, as well as the exploration of identity, otherness, secrets, mysteries and taboos.

Some of the texts currently studied include: Edwidge Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory; Nikolai Gogol, "The Nose"; Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis; Mohsin Hamid, Exit West; Gianfranco Rosi, Fire at Sea (film); Gracialiano Ramos, Barren Lives, and José Eduardo Agualusa, Creole.

A range of subjects can be taken as your third option in years 1 and 2. You can learn another language (Chinese, Czech, French, German, Italian, Polish,  Portuguese, Russian and Spanish are all available at beginners level) or you can also take another course in Comparative Literature. Alternatively, you might choose to take another complementary course from the College of Arts in a subject like English or Scottish Literature: see Flexible degrees.

Years 3 and 4

If you progress to Honours (years 3 and 4) Comparative Literature may only be taken as a Joint Honours degree, meaning that you will also study another subject.

At Honours level you choose your own optional courses, which reflect the research specialisms of our staff. You will take core courses on literary and cultural theories, and you will read texts from an intercultural perspective. You will also gain an awareness of issues of language and translation as they relate to the reading of texts from different cultures.


Degree structure

Year 1

  • Students typically take two of:
    • 1A Heroic Men
    • 1B Heroic Women
    • 1C Heroism across Times and Cultures.
  • Joint Honours subject at Level 1
  • Third Level 1 subject.

Year 2

  • Students typically take two of:
    • 2A Crossing Borders
    • 2B Exploring Identity
    • 2C Displacement and Migration on Screen.
  • Joint Honours subject at Level 2
  • A new Level 1 subject may be taken.

Year 3

  • Comparative Literature Junior Honours
    [Year 3 could be studied abroad via exchange agreements]
  • Joint Honours subject at Junior Honours.

Year 4

  • Comparative Literature Senior Honours
  • Joint Honours subject at Senior Honours.


Programme alteration or discontinuation
The University of Glasgow endeavours to run all programmes as advertised. In exceptional circumstances, however, the University may withdraw or alter a programme. For more information, please see: Student contract.

Our international links

Some students take Comparative Literature as a joint degree programme with a modern language. In this case, the programme lasts five years, with a year abroad after year 2, in the country of the language you are studying.

If you study Comparative Literature as Joint honours with a non-language subject (for example English Literature), you may apply to spend your Junior Honours year (year 3 of study) abroad in any of the countries with which the University of Glasgow has an exchange agreement. 

This includes, for example, the Czech Republic, Canada and the USA.

At Honours level you choose your own optional courses, which reflect the research specialisms of our staff. Some of the courses we offer currently include:

  • magical narratives: Imagination, fantasy & the creation of worlds 
  • postcolonial literature, thought & visual culture
  • holocaust literature & film
  • narrating the city: representation of urban spaces in literature & film
  • classic European cinema.

You may also choose to write a dissertation on a comparative literature-related topic supervised by a specialist in the area.

Entry requirements

for entry in 2021

Summary of entry requirements for Comparative Literature

SQA Higher Entry Requirements (by end of S6) 

  • AAAAA Higher or AAAA Higher+B Advanced Higher (BBBB S5 minimum for consideration)
  • Additional requirements: Higher English and a Higher Humanities subject.

SQA Higher Adjusted Entry Requirements* (by end of S6)

  • Additional requirements: Higher English and a Higher Humanities subject. Successful completion of Top-Up or one of our Summer Schools.

* See Access Glasgow for eligibility.

A-level Standard Entry Requirements

  • AAB – BBB
  • Additional requirements: one A-level Humanities subject.

IB Standard Entry Requirements

  • 36 (6,6,5 HL) – 32 (6,5,5 HL)
  • Additional requirements: HL English and HL Humanities subject. 

Glasgow International College

International students with academic qualifications below those required should contact our partner institution, Glasgow International College, who offer a range of foundation certificates.

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

English language requirements

Important information for entry in Autumn 2020 and January 2021

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 (see below)

Common equivalent English language qualifications:

  • 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
  • IGCSE: English as a First Language (0500/0522): C in Reading and Writing, plus 1 in Listening, 2 in Speaking, where applicable. All four components (listening, writing, speaking, reading) must be examined and detailed on results slip
  • IGCSE: English as a Second Language (0510/0511): A in Reading and Writing, plus A in Listening, 2/B in Speaking, where applicable. All four components (listening, writing, speaking, reading) must be examined and detailed on results slip
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English: ISEII at Distinction with Distinction in all sub-tests

* Please note that TOEFL is still acceptable for admission to this programme for both home/EU and international students.

For international students, the Home Office has confirmed that the University can choose to use TOEFL to make its own assessment of English language ability for visa applications to degree level courses. We therefore still accept TOEFL tests taken in the last two years 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 School of Modern Languages and Cultures 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 External Relations

If you require a Tier 4 student visa, your qualification must be one of the secure English language tests accepted by UK Border Agency:

Visa requirements and proof of English language level

It is a visa requirement to provide information on your level of English based on an internationally recognised and secure English language test. All test reports must be no more than 2 years old. A list of these can be found on the UK Border Agency website. If you have never taken one of these tests before, you can get an initial idea of your level by using the Common European Framework self-assessment grid which gives you a level for each skill (e.g. listening B1/writing B2 etc.) However, please note that this is not a secure English language test and it is not sufficient evidence of your level of English for visa requirements.

For further information about English language, please see School of Modern Languages and Cultures: English for Academic Study.

Career prospects

Our graduates have gone on to pursue rewarding careers in the media, teaching, journalism, tourism, translating and interpreting, and the Civil Service, as well as business, commerce and marketing.

Degrees and UCAS codes

Comparative Literature can only be taken as a Joint Honours degree.

When applying you will need to know the UCAS code for the subject or subject-combination that you wish to apply to:

MA (Hons)

Comparative Literature/Central & East European Studies: RQ28 (4 years)
Comparative Literature/Classics: QQF8 (4 years)
Comparative Literature/Economics: LQC2 (4 years)
Comparative Literature/English Language & Linguistics: QQF3 (4 years)
Comparative Literature/English Literature: Q290 (4 years)
Comparative Literature/Film & Television Studies: PQ32 (4 years)
Comparative Literature/French: QRF1 (5 years)
Comparative Literature/Gaelic: QQ5F (4 years)
Comparative Literature/German: QRF2 (5 years)
Comparative Literature/History: QVF1 (4 years)
Comparative Literature/History of Art: QVF3 (4 years)
Comparative Literature/Italian: QRF3 (5 years)
Comparative Literature/Music: QWF3 (4 years)
Comparative Literature/Philosophy: QVF5 (4 years)
Comparative Literature/Russian: RQT2 (5 years)
Comparative Literature/Scottish Literature: Q291 (4 years)
Comparative Literature/Spanish: RQ42 (5 years)
Comparative Literature/Theatre Studies: QWF4 (4 years)
Comparative Literature/Theology & Religious Studies: VQ62 (4 years)

Fees and funding

Tuition fees

How and when you pay tuition fees depends on where you’re from: see Tuition fees for details.


The University is committed to supporting students and rewarding academic excellence. That's why we've invested more than £1m in additional scholarship funding in recent years.

Undergraduate Excellence Scholarship

The University of Glasgow has a total of 100 Undergraduate Excellence Scholarships available to new international students for 2020 entry. The scholarship is awarded as a tuition fee discount of £5,000 per year of study and is subject to satisfactory progress for consecutive years of study.  

RUK Access Bursary 2020 Entry

The bursary supports talented students who might not be able to take a place at University for reasons of financial hardship. It is available to new entrant full-time, undergraduate students of the University of Glasgow who are fully registered for Session 2020/21, as being domiciled in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and paying annual tuition fees of £9,250 per annum.

RUK Excellence Scholarship 2020

The RUK Excellence Scholarship of £1,000 for each year of study will be awarded to first degree entrants who have attained AAA or better in one sitting at A Level (or equivalent). 

James McCune Smith Scholarship

The University of Glasgow has 30 undergraduate scholarships available for students of African/African-Caribbean backgrounds. The scholarship supports students who could face financial difficulties taking up their place to study at the University. The value of the scholarship is £2,000, paid in instalments for one year of undergraduate study. The scholarship is open to both current and new applicants to the University.

The Ronald and Rita McAulay Scholarship

Mr Ronald McAulay, alumnus of the University (MA 1965), and his wife Rita wish to establish a Scholarship to support students who are Hong Kong nationals wishing to take up an undergraduate course of study at the University of Glasgow.

The McAulays would like to establish a scholarship which encourages Hong Kong residents to achieve an international education, therefore the award will cover course tuition fees and a living cost stipend.

Beaconhouse Schools

The University of Glasgow offer a 15% discount on the first year of tuition fee to students from Beaconhouse Schools and who enrol on an undergraduate programme at the University of Glasgow. The discount does not apply to Veterinary Medicine, Medicine and Dentistry programmes.

University of Glasgow/Glasgow International College Achievement Award

In conjunction with GIC we are pleased to reward our best-performing students who finish the Foundation or Pre-masters course with excellent grades and attendance. This is awarded as a one off tuition fee discount of £3,000

Humanitarian Scholarships

The University of Glasgow is offering four scholarships (one per college) for applicants to the University who are staying in the UK on humanitarian grounds and are facing challenges in progressing onto Higher Education. The scholarship is open to prospective undergraduate and postgraduate taught students of the University of Glasgow applying for entry in 2020. The scholarship meets the full cost of tuition fees for the duration of your programme as well providing an additional £5,000 per year stipend, if the eligibility criteria for university accommodation is met this will also be provided for the duration of your degree. For more information on the accommodation criteria, please see the Residential Services section on the website.

We are also offering four scholarships to students who hold refugee status. This scholarship is awarded as a £5,000 per year stipend toward living costs per year of study.

The scholarships above are specific to this programme. For more funding opportunities search the scholarships database

How to apply


Full-time students must apply through the Universities & Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). 

International students can also apply using The Common Application: however, if applying to more than one UK university, we recommend using UCAS.

Application deadlines

  • 15 October: if including Dentistry, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine or also applying to Oxford or Cambridge
  • 15 January: all other UK/EU applicants (unless otherwise stated on the UCAS website)
  • 30 June: international (non-EU) students

We do not usually accept any applications after these deadlines.

It's your responsibility to ensure the accuracy of your application before submission. Requests to correct application content, change degree programme or change college of entry, will not be accepted after these deadlines. This policy is in place to ensure fairness and consistency to all applicants, and no exceptions will be made.

How to apply for Advanced Entry

Apply for year 2 (Y2) on your UCAS application. If the specific subject is unavailable for Advanced Entry or your application for year 2 entry is unsuccessful, you will be automatically considered for year 1 entry. You do not have to submit a separate UCAS application.

Apply via UCAS

More information about this programme


Literature in English students satisfied

Discover Uni, January 2020
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