School of Social and Political Science

MSc Nationalism Studies


As part of the University-wide response to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the University has reluctantly decided that we will be unable to offer this programme for entry in 2022. We will still be offering a broad range of courses, including courses on nationalism and ethnicity, and we have an alternative programme that may be of interest. Please see MSc Sociology and Global Change. Applications for the next intake usually open in October.

Social conflict; chauvanism; collective self-determination

The MSc in Nationalism Studies is an inter-disciplinary programme designed to give you an understanding of nationalism that is broad in scope and theoretically informed, while also tailored to your specific interests within the field.

Nationalism is implicated in social conflict and chauvinism, but also in constructive efforts at meaningful collective self-determination. Whether it is experienced as part of the common sense of everyday life, or as a heightened form of feeling and belief, it is almost inescapable. That is why we think it is imperative to understand it as best we can.

A unique perspective

Here at Edinburgh we have a unique perspective on this subject, one that drives our interest in it. Scotland has its own version and vision of nationalism, one that led to the (re-)establishment of a Scottish Parliament in 1999, reviving national-level democratic institutions. It is a nationalism with deep cultural and historical roots, but one that develops largely through constitutional and civil forms of politics. Scotland is, of course, part of the United Kingdom and thus other forms of nationalism are also significant, not least after the 'Brexit' referendum of 2016.

But although the nationalisms at play in Scotland are democratic and constitutional, we know that nationalism engenders conflict, violence and oppression elsewhere - including neighbouring Ireland. Thus having a variety of nationalisms on our very doorstep stimulates our comparative thinking, and hopefully will do the same for you.


Our most basic aim is to provide you with a stimulating and intensive experience of intellectual inquiry into the phenomenon of nationalism.

Specifically our programme aims to:

  • give you a sense of the multidisciplinary nature of nationalism studies
  • provide you with a thorough grounding in the central concepts and major theories of nationalism
  • help you get a comprehensive view of the ideas and key figures in the field
  • convey the need to understand nationalism in the context of long-term, historical social change
  • identify key issues and problems in comparative and case study approaches to the study of nationalism
  • provide explorations of a variety of substantive cases of nationalism, helping you to think concretely about the phenomenon
  • enable you to carry out substantial independent research and write a dissertation on a topic of your interest within the field


The dissertation offers you the chance to choose and explore a topic in-depth, working with the guidance of an academic supervisor. It is an ideal chance to get to grips with an issue that fascinates you, and excellent preparation for further graduate level study.

Work-based project

The MSc in Nationalism Studies offers the possibility of undertaking a work-based project with local, national and international organisations as part of the dissertation. 

These work-based dissertations offer a unique opportunity to partner with organisations worldwide. They enable students to apply academic training to real-world problems. 

Placements feature eight weeks of on-location research with a host organisation. Our extensive network of partners includes NGOs, charities, social enterprise, think-tanks and government bodies.

Additional information

Broad expertise

The programme draws on a range of expertise across the University, in the Centres of African Studies, Canadian Studies, and South Asian Studies, and in Politics and International Relations, Economic and Social History, and Social Anthropology, coordinating these contributions through the host subject area of Sociology, which plays a leading role in research on nationalism and national identity in the UK.

A stimulating research environment

This stimulating research environment provides a range of seminars of interest to students of nationalism, showcasing the expertise of prominent international scholars and practitioners. You will have the opportunity to meet and engage with leading academics in the field. Recent speakers have included Mark Beissinger, John Breuilly, Jon Fox, Montserrat Guibernau, John A Hall, Michael Hechter, John Hutchinson, Michael Ignatieff, Will Kymlicka, Sinisa Maleševic, Michael Mann and Umut Özkirimli.

Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism

We are very proud to be part of a broader, active and vibrant community of nationalism students and scholars. From 2017 this has been focussed around the first 'regional' branch of the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism - ASEN Edinburgh - and one of our faculty, Professor Jonathan Hearn, is currently President of ASEN.


Undergraduate contact

The School of Social and Political Science sits within the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.  All enquiries and applications relating to undergraduate admissions to the School are handled by our College. Please contact:

CAHSS Undergraduate Admissions
University of Edinburgh
57 George Square
Edinburgh, EH8 9JX

Tel: +44 (0)131 650 3565