The Autism (Adults) programme is a distance learning programme which is studied part-time. It is appropriate for practitioners working with adults across the autism spectrum in a range of services and in both specialist and mainstream environments. The course draws upon your own experience as a practitioner, and through the set assessments, you will consider how your learning informs your practice.
The University of Birmingham is the leading provider of degree-level education in autistic spectrum disorders in the UK - offering Professional Development courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Our courses develop real insight and encourage reflective practice. You will be tutored by senior practitioners and researchers in the field who work within the Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER). You will have access to an extensive library, research materials and a large online community of students in the field of autism. Academic credits and qualifications can be used as a springboard to further study and we accept both vocational and academic qualifications as entry criteria.
Download the Autism Studies brochure (PDF, 533KB), which provides information on all our autism courses.
Programme lead tutor
Ms Andrea MacLeod
Tel: +44 (0)121 415 8442
The Autism (Adults) distance learning programme aims to provide you with knowledge of the autism spectrum, including Asperger syndrome, based on theory, research and practice. You will be taught to consider how autism theory applies to the individuals that you support in their adult lives, and what this should mean for your own practice. Autistic authors and researchers contribute to our study materials, so that you will gain insights into the diversity of the autistic experience, and learn about the range of individual and social barriers that can be experienced. The course will also encourage you think for yourself and use your professional skills to select and research topics of relevance to your own situation.
You will have a personal tutor in a small online or regional tutor group, with study supported through study packs, tutorial groups, telephone, email and the online virtual learning environment network, encouraging you to develop through shared experience. Internet access is required for the programme.There are two University-based study weekends in the first year. (Find out more in the Learning and Teaching section).
The following awards are offered for this programme.
- AdCert (Level H) Three core modules
- PGCert (Level M) Three core modules
- BPhil (Level H) Three core modules plus one optional module and a 10,000 word dissertation
- PGDip (Level M) Three core modules plus three optional modules
- MEd (Level M) Three core modules plus two optional modules, PIE and a 15,000 word dissertation
View the structure of our Progression Routes.
The entry level will depend on your academic qualifications as well as professional experience. Learn more about admission requirements in the School of Education. If you don't already hold a recognised degree, the appropriate level for entry will be the undergraduate level. However, you will have the opportunity to progress through to postgraduate level.
We also run two more autism programmes which may interest you:
Autism Adults: Understanding and Working with the Continuum of Need (Core module)
Autism Adults: Intervention, Support and Education (Core module)
A Special Studies (project) Module (Core module)
What follows these modules in autism (adults)?
For those students studying at Level H for an Advanced Certificate in Education (Autism: Adults) if you have achieved good passes in your first two assignments, you can opt to progress on to the BPhil programme.
For those students studying at Level H for a BPhil (Autism: Adults) If you do a single project for your core module, then you can choose to do your fourth subject module in either Challenging Behaviour and the Autism Spectrum, or an option from outside the Autism Programmes. You will then write a dissertation of 10,000 words on a topic discussed with your regional tutor.
For those students studying at Level M for a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (Autism: Adults), if you have achieved good passes in your first two assignments, you can opt to progress on to the MEd/PGDip programme.
For those students studying at Level M for a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (Autism: Adults) you can then choose two or three other subject modules from another programme of study at the University to complete the 6 module requirement for the Diploma.
For those students studying at Level M for a Masters degree in Autism, you can then choose one or two other subject modules from another programme of study at the University, plus the research module PIE, to complete the 6 module requirement for the MEd, before your dissertation. The research module (PIE) prepares you for your dissertation of 15,000 words on a topic discussed with your regional tutor.
Fees 2016 - 2017
- Code 2742 AdCert £3,230
- Code 2790 BPhil £3,230
- Code 2822 PGCert £3,230
- Code 2853 PGDip £3,230
- Code 2905 MEd £3,230
- Code 2742 AdCert £6,930
- Code 2790 BPhil £3,465
- Code 2822 PGCert £4,950
- Code 2853 PGDip £4,950
- Code 2905 MEd £4,950
Fees for distance learning programmes are based on students studying 60 credits per year.
The fees shown above are the annual fees for students starting their courses September in 2016. Please note that where courses last more than one year, the annual fees for subsequent years on the course may increase due to inflation.
Learn more about fees and funding
Scholarships, Studentships and Loans
Funding for part-time students
The UK Government provides non-means tested loans to cover the full cost of part-time tuition for all eligible English resident or non UK EU undergraduates. Find out more about the funding for part-time students.
Postgraduate Loans for Masters students
The new postgraduate loans system for Masters degrees in the UK will be introduced for students commencing in the 2016-17 academic year. The government-backed student loans will provide up to £10,000 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas including part-time and distance learning. For more detailed information view our Postgraduate funding page.
Scholarships and studentships
Scholarships may be available. International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government. More details may be found on the international scholarships page
For further information contact the School directly or the Student Funding Office via online enquiries.
Please refer directly to the School of Education entry requirements web page for information on the requirements for academic qualifications and professional experience.
We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.
English language support
Birmingham Foundation Academy (BIA)
provides free English language services to international students who are currently studying on undergraduate or postgraduate courses at the University of Birmingham. Services include Open-access English classes, online self-assessment, online materials through CANVAS, email answers to quick questions and individual one to one tutorials.
When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages
You can study this distance learning programme on a part-time basis from anywhere in the UK or internationally (if you have access to the Internet). By studying at a distance, you remain in your work setting and can therefore tailor the programme to meet your professional needs or your particular interests and experiences.Learning and teaching take place through:
Self-study materials in the form of booklets are sent to you and other online resources are available within the virtual learning environment (VLE) and the e-library which has an extensive collection of online journals and ebooks. The VLE is designed to enhance your studies, giving you immediate access to resources and documents including interview footage with prominent autistic authors and researchers. It is designed to be viewed alongside your reading to help you translate theoretical ideas into actual practice. The VLE also offers you an important opportunity to make contact with other students, not only in your own tutor group but across the Autism programmes, through bulletin boards and online chats.
The programme is structured as Modules and divided into Units. Each Module has overall aims and outcomes and the specific aims and outcomes of the Units contribute to achieving these. By keeping the aims and outcomes in mind as you study, you will be able to check your own development and make sure that you are 'on target'. The core reading materials are designed to provide a comprehensive overview of theory and practice in relation to adults on the autism spectrum. Depending on your work setting, previous experience, and your personal goals in pursuing this study, you may choose to either work methodically through all of the materials, or to select parts that are relevant to your particular area of interest. Some students wish to develop a broad spectrum of knowledge and have never studied autism before; others join the course with an existing knowledge base and wish to use the course to develop one particular area of interest through their study. You will know best how best to utilise the study materials to suit your own personal study needs. In addition to the programme booklets, you are expected to read a range of other books and journal articles, especially at Masters level.
Online or regional tutorials
Online tutorials or regional tutorials (with a tutor and small group of other students) will support you in your learning. At the tutorials you will discuss course materials, plan assignments and share your experiences of practice in the field of autism. The tutorials are a compulsory part of the course and must be attended.
Study weekends at the University of Birmingham are arranged for September and March/April. The first study weekend for 2016-17 will be 23rd - 25th September 2016 (other dates TBC). Attendance is required in the first year of study and if attendance is missed for other than medical reasons, the University tutor will negotiate another activity with the student. Study weekends operate from Friday lunchtime to Sunday lunchtime. In the second year, you may be attending other study weekends but will also be invited to attend the second autism study weekend. The first residential school acts as an induction to the course. It introduces many of the ideas in the course and prepares you for the particular approaches to study. The second weekend offers a mix of lectures and workshops. In both weekends, it is a chance to visit the University, buy relevant books, mix with students and tutors and meet people on the autism spectrum who are able to articulate what their autism means to them.
Learning is assessed through a written assignment at the end of each module. The assignments for the first three modules on the programme are essays, addressing an issue that is of practical and intellectual significance to you as a practitioner. You are expected to draw on the literature and your own experience to support your arguments. The third assignment in the first year is a project module in which you undertake and write up a piece of reflective practice. These first three modules form the 'core' and are compulsory for an award to be made in Autism (Adults).
The modules are sequential; information in Module 2 building on the prior unit. In the second year, you may stay within the autism field by taking a double project (which is all that is needed at Level H for a BPhil, followed by the dissertation of 10,000 words). Masters students may also do a double project module, but in addition they need to do one or two other subject modules, which may be the second module from the Autism (Children) programme of study or a module on Challenging Behaviour and Autism, for example. MEd students then take the research module (PIE) followed by a 15,000 word dissertation.
Students who successfully complete three modules at Level H are awarded the Advanced Certificate in Autism (Adults) or are permitted to proceed to BPhil. Students who successfully complete three modules at Level M are awarded the Postgraduate Certificate in Autism (Adults) or are permitted to proceed to a Postgraduate Diploma or MEd.
All of our Autism (Adults) courses fall under the umbrella of Continuing Professional Development. They are regarded as evidence of professional specialism for practitioners working in the field, in whatever sector. Anecdotally we know from feedback that many of our students gain promoted posts or other means of formal recognition as a direct result of their Autism (Adults) qualification.
Testimonies from Former Students
“As a result of taking the course I am to be manager of a new 6 bed home for people with learning disabilities and autism and my recommendations are being used in design and interior of the house.”
“My job role is to train staff to work with people on the autism spectrum. My studies have increased my own knowledge and understanding and impacted on the training I deliver.”
“The course has introduced me to a vast range of important information and opportunities to develop my professional role. I feel I have a greater knowledge of autism and an awareness of how much I don’t know! It’s been inspiring.”