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For many people over the centuries, growing up in Scotland has been about preparing to leave their homeland.

Find out about the generations who have emigrated from Scotland: who they were and why they went, where they settled or spent time, and the long-term impact for Scotland and the communities in which they made new homes.

Learn to work with many sources and grow your analytical skills as you come to see the real people beyond the stereotypes that have sometimes dominated narratives of emigration and settlement.

Engage with fascinating treasures and unrivalled expertise in Scotland’s rich written, visual and oral past, from the 18th century to the present day. Gain a global view, connecting this rich history and heritage with today’s Scottish diaspora.

This course is for anyone, anywhere in the world, with a professional or personal interest in Scotland’s history and her people. Flexible and fully online, it’s designed to give you a taste of our unique online Masters in Scottish Heritage.

What will I study?

Through a rich selection of literature, visual and oral history you’ll engage with the motives and experiences of emigrants and sojourners in the Scottish diaspora, and connect their themes back to Scotland.

You’ll cover topics including:

  • historiographical debates, how historians study the Scottish diaspora
  • causes and consequences of late-18th-century emigration from Scotland
  • the Highland and Lowland Clearances
  • the ‘recruitment business’
  • Scots in England
  • journeying to new lands
  • the inter-war exodus from Scotland
  • the significance of return migration
  • strengths and weaknesses of emigrant testimony as a source
  • the diaspora in literature, religion and popular culture.

The focus of the course can also be adapted to you and your own connections to Scotland. Depending on your interests, particular attention may be paid to Scottish settlement and its impact in a specific location, such as the USA, Canada, New Zealand, or Australia.

Why study online with the University of Aberdeen?

How will I study?

Our Scottish Diaspora course spans 16 weeks, including a three-week spring holiday. It’s delivered entirely online. You can study with us anywhere in the world and manage your study hours to suit you.

Part of our Masters in Scottish Heritage, this course is taught at Masters level. You’ll learn from academics with world-leading expertise in Scottish emigration. You’ll enjoy access to a rich stream of written, visual and oral source materials from within the University and across Scottish archives.

Teaching is delivered through MyAberdeen, our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It’s designed specifically for online learners and features a range of resources, including:

  • video lectures
  • audio clips
  • presentations
  • reading materials
  • the online resources of our award-winning Sir Duncan Rice Library
  • discussion boards with colleagues and tutors.

The main interaction on the course takes place through the online discussion boards. You'll interact with each week’s subject through these discussions. Typically, there will be 8 – 10 discussion questions set each week.

You’ll be able to explore our Sir Duncan Rice Library collection online, including ancient Scottish records, manuscripts, prints, photographs and literary collections of leading Scottish writers and poets. Treasures include a large Jacobite collection, works of the Scottish Enlightenment, and one of best collections of Sir Walter Scott.

Where will this take me?

The Scottish Diaspora is one of our growing number of online Language and Culture short courses. These can be used to build up credits towards higher qualifications.

Find out more about credits.

Build your learning

You'll earn 30 credits at Masters level (SCQF Level 11) with this course. It’s part of a suite of four Scottish Heritage short courses that we offer:

Each of these carries 30 credits that you can use towards a PgCert, PgDip and our innovative:

Masters in Scottish Heritage

Delve deeper into Scotland’s history with our online Masters in Scottish Heritage. Study anywhere in the world, with flexible hours to fit around your work or personal commitments.


Your employer or professional institute may recognise this course for Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Talk to your employer or institute to find out more.

Course coordinator

Am I ready?

This course has no formal entry requirements. You decide if it’s suitable for you.

The course is delivered at Masters level. At this level, you’d usually have at least

  • a 2:2 (second-class) degree
  • or relevant experience that supports this level of study.

The main interaction on the course takes place through online discussion boards. You’ll interact with each week’s subject through these discussions. Typically there are 8 – 10 discussion questions set each week. We ask that you review an extract from an example discussion board to help you self-assess your academic suitability for this course.