Island Studies MLitt

What is special about this course?

This masters programme is the only dedicated postgraduate degree in Island Studies in Scotland. It focuses on the study of islands and their communities, both in Scotland and internationally. Delivered by the Institute for Northern Studies, the MLitt Island Studies gives you the opportunity to explore the islands of the world.

Island communities are often culturally unique, yet by their nature they share many commonalities, sometimes referred to as 'islandness'. As part of the degree you will undertake comparative and multi-disciplinary study of the Scottish islands, however, island communities as diverse as the Baltic, the Faroe islands, the Isle of Man, the Falklands and Canadian islands, will also be integral to your studies, particularly the critical appraisal of insular governance, tourism and autonomy.

Special features

  • The first masters degree in a flourishing and respected field of study and research
  • You will explore the insular identities, achievements, threats and futures of island communities, in Scotland and worldwide
  • You will study the cultural identity, language, literature and politics of island communities
  • There are opportunities to participate in question and answer sessions with islanders across the world
  • You can study individual modules for personal and professional development, or work towards the PgCert, PgDip or full masters degree

Entry requirements

  • 2.1 honours degree or above (or international equivalent) in a relevant subject, such as history, archaeology, literature or ethnology
  • Other disciplines, such as human geography and the social sciences, will also be considered
  • International students whose first language is not English must meet language competency standards as noted on the international page of our website


*Funding support notice*

Postgraduate Loans (SAAS) (Scottish domiciled and EU students)

Loans for tuition fees are available from SAAS for eligible Scotland domiciled and EU students, and loans for living costs for eligible Scottish students.

Access routes

Students can access the programme from a range of our undergraduate programmes including:


Core modules are:

  • From Atlantis to Utopia: the nature of islandness
  • From Muckle Flugga to Pladda: the Scottish islands

You will also choose an additional module from a range of Institute for Northern Studies and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig modules, the latter through the medium of Gaelic language.


Core modules are:

  • Island governance
  • Selling 'cold' islands

You will also choose an additional option from a range of Institute for Northern Studies and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI (via the medium of Gaelic language) modules. These may include:

  • Exploring creative writing
  • Celts and Vikings in the North Atlantic
  • Picts: revealing the painted past
  • Tour of the Highlands
  • Archaeological heritage of Orkney and Shetland
  • Medieval history of Orkney and Shetland


To achieve the award of MLitt Island Studies you must complete a research dissertation.

How will I study my course?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

As your course was designed using our blended learning approach and has run successfully for many years in this way, we can confirm that there will be no change to how the course will be delivered next year. You will study online through a combination of video conference seminars, tutor-supported study and self-directed study using the university's virtual learning environment. You will also have an online induction at the start of the course.
  • Full-time
  • Part-time (structured)
  • Part-time (unstructured)
  • You will study this course through a combination of video conference seminars and learning via the university's virtual learning environment (VLE), with support from your tutors and student advisor
  • International students requiring a Tier 4 visa to study with us must be based at Orkney College UHI during their studies. International students undertaking the course from their home country can study online and by video conference, in real-time or recordings
  • All other students can choose to study at Orkney College UHI or from their own location studying online and by video conference in real-time or recordings
  • An online induction will be offered at the start of your course

How long will my course last?

  • Full-time:1 year @ 20 hours per week
  • Part-time (structured): 2 years @ 10 hours per week

The number of hours per week indicates the total number of hours you should dedicate to the course, which includes time spent in lectures and your own time spent on individual study and research.

Where can I study my course?

  • Orkney College UHI

Start date

  • September
  • January



Fees payable for this online postgraduate course depend on your assessed fee status:

2020-21Scottish (SC) On-campus or onlineEU On-campusRest of UK (RUK) On-campusRest of UK (RUKO) and EU (EUO) OnlineInternational (INT) On-campusInternational (INTO) Online
Per module (20 credits) £560 £560 £650 £650 £1,380 £980
Postgraduate certificate (3 modules, 60 credits) £1,680 £1,680 £1,950 £1,950 £4,140 £2,940
Postgraduate diploma (6 modules, 120 credits) £3,360 £3,360 £3,900 £3,900 £8,280 £5,880
Masters degree (6 modules + dissertation) £5,000 £5,000 £5,850 £5,850 £12,420 £8,820
2019-20Scottish (SC) or EU On-campusScottish OnlineRest of UK (RUK) On-campusRes of UK (RUKO) and EU (EUO) OnlineInternational (INT) On-campusInternational (INTO) Online
Per module (20 credits) £560 £560 £650 £650 £1,340 £960
Postgraduate certificate (3 modules, 60 credits) £1,680 £1,680 £1,950 £1,950 £4,020 £2,880
Postgraduate diploma (6 modules, 120 credits) £3,360 £3,360 £3,900 £3,900 £8,040 £5,760
Masters degree (60 modules + dissertation) £5,000 £5,000 £5,850 £5,850 £12,060 £8,640

Fees are payable in advance each academic year unless otherwise agreed.


From 2017, eligible Scotland domiciled students studying full time for any taught postgraduate course up to full Masters level can access loans up to 10,000 from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). This comprises a tuition fee loan up to £5,500 and a non-income assessed living cost loan of £4,500. EU students studying full time can apply for a tuition fee loan up to £5500.

Part-time students undertaking any taught postgraduate course over two years up to Masters level who meet the residency eligibility can apply for a for a tuition fee loan up to £2,750 per year.

Full details can be found on the SAAS website. Applications for loans open in April.

Students from the rest of the UK who meet the eligibility requirements may be able to apply for a loan from the Student Loan Company

External scholarships and financial support may be available. Contact the relevant university partner college for more information.

What can I do on completion of my course?

Once you have successfully completed your masters course in Island Studies, there are a variety of careers you might like to consider. Here is just a taster of the kind of opportunities available to you:

  • Tourism and heritage sector
  • Journalism
  • Local government agencies
  • Community or adult education
  • School teaching on completion of relevant PGDE qualification

Can I progress into further study?

You can progress to PhD study at the University of the Highlands and Islands, and other institutions.

Is there more information available online?

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What our students, graduates and staff say

I was attracted to studying in Orkney because it gave me the chance to physically visit the sites and access specialised material. I received great support and encouragement from all teaching staff and the lecturers always had time to invest in their students and their needs. Studying on the course has helped me to develop fundamental interpersonal, problem solving and team building skills.

Fleur Ward, originally from Melbourne, Australia, relocated to Orkney to undertake the MLitt Orkney and Shetland Studies. She is now a PhD researcher in the discipline of Island Studies based at the Institute for Northern Studies, Orkney College UHI.

The Institute for Northern Studies is based in Orkney and Shetland, the northern most part of the UK. Our students come from a variety of places and backgrounds, even from as far away as Canada and Australia. Our exciting, innovative programmes are embedded in the history and culture of our area. These include Viking Studies, Highlands and Islands Culture, Highlands and Islands Literature, Orkney and Shetland Studies and Island Studies.

Dr Andrew Jennings, programme leader for the institute’s masters programmes, is the author of a number of publications on Scottish history, Norse place-names and island studies, and is currently involved in a number of projects, including an international project with the Estonian War Museum.

Studying at the Institute for Northern Studies gave me an opportunity to expand my horizons while still working. I could join from anywhere in the world while still taking part in an academically rigorous programme. Despite the virtual course, the Institute retains a community feel and students have the opportunity to get to know each other. Studying on the course has been a gateway into the Scottish Islands and has improved my own understanding of the joys and challenges of living in the region.

James Ellsmoor from Shropshire, England, studied the MLitt in Island Studies online. James was awarded UHI Postgraduate Student of the Year, 2018. He now runs his owns consulting company called Island Innovation, specialising in renewable energy projects for remote regions.

Apply for Island Studies MLitt

I want to start in Jan/Feb 2021 or Aug/Sep 2021 or Jan/Feb 2022

We are delighted that you are thinking about studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands. We operate a fair and open admissions system committed to equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. We consider all applications on merit and on the basis of ability to achieve, without discrimination on grounds of gender, age, disability, ethnicity and socio-economic background. We welcome applications from all prospective students and aim to provide appropriate and efficient services to students with disabilities.