The Master of Letters degree is a postgraduate degree awarded by a few select British and Irish universities, predominantly within the ancient English and Scottish universities.
Within the English University system MLitt degrees are not offered in all institutions, nor in all disciplines. An MLitt is a Master's degree by research, where a Master of Arts degree is taught. An MLitt may be awarded as an alternative to the Master of Philosophy research degree and is usually placed higher in the hierarchy; starting with degrees such as the postgraduate Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MSc), then Master of Philosophy, and finally Master of Letters. Note that this varies from the position in Scotland.
Students attending English Universities may apply for an MLitt in the first instance; for others who have completed two years of a Doctorate (such as a PhD or DPhil) and who do not wish to, or cannot, continue with the final year(s), there is the option to write up their completed research so far and graduate with an MLitt degree.
The MLitt is awarded within Scottish Universities on its own merit on the basis of a one year taught, or two year research course of postgraduate study rather than as a sub-PhD compensatory alternative as in the English model.
The MLitt is awarded as a one year taught postgraduate degree during which students study three/four taught components, sit examinations on those components (or complete assessed coursework) and successfully submit a dissertation (generally between 15,000 and 18,000 words).
The MLitt (Research) may be awarded to a student whose postgraduate course of special study and research represents a significant contribution to knowledge. The period of full-time study is two years and the thesis is normally 40,000-70,000 words.
The Scottish Universities; University of St Andrews, University of Aberdeen, University of Glasgow, University of Dundee, as well as University of Stirling for example, all award one year MLitt taught postgraduate degrees. In addition the University of Aberdeen also awards a one year MLitt by research.
The University of Edinburgh normally offers the degree of MSc for a one year taught postgraduate degree and offers either an MLitt or Master of Philosophy over two years by research.
The National University of Ireland Ireland offers MLitt degrees across the Human Sciences/ Arts. Often students register initially for the MLitt programme before being 'promoted' to PhD studies. Different schools and institutes have different requirements for an MLitt. Generally a number of seminars in the relevant area need to be completed as well as the substantial disseration researched and written over the period of 4 semesters (6 part-time).
The Master of Letters (M.Litt.) is awarded by at least six schools in the United States.
The M.Litt. is awarded by two universities in Australia:
The Australian National University, Monash University and the University of New England once offered the M.Litt., but have both discontinued the course. Monash, however, retained the Bachelor of Letters as a postgraduate arts degree.