MA Colonial and Postcolonial Studies

Today's world has been shaped largely by the colonial experience: states, borders, languages, cultures and the imprint which empires, European and non-European, have left over centuries.

Colonial and postcolonial studies engage with the cultural and political history and legacy of colonialism, highlighting a variety of power relations, cultural dynamics and historical processes which had been previously ignored or under-played.

This programme will take an original, interdisciplinary approach, where you will be studying material from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and beyond. Working with World Literature, film and historical sources, you will explore major currents in cultural production and identity politics. You will be introduced to a range of authors, and have the opportunity to study works and critical texts which originated in languages other than English. Works will be taught in English translation, with the possibility to read them in the original modern languages.

EU referendum

Answering your questions and concerns about the outcome of the EU referendum.

Dr Louise Hardwick

Dr Louise Hardwick

“How can we make sense of today’s world, its power structures and cultural exchanges? This programme takes an original, interdisciplinary approach, offering you the chance to study material from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and beyond.”

This programme is ideal for those with a background in French Studies, Hispanic Studies, Modern Languages, History, Translation Studies, Gender Studies, European Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, English Literature, Cultural Studies, Film Studies and World Literature.

It will give you the opportunity to undertake further study to develop your understanding of key principles underpinning the study of colonial and postcolonial cultures in a comparative, global and inter-disciplinary context.

The programme includes the following core modules [full descriptions available below]:

  • World Literatures and Film I
  • World Literatures and Film II
  • Before Postcolonialism: Europe and its Empires
  • Postcolonial Theory
  • Research Methods

You will also choose an optional module chosen from a range of relevant disciplines such as History, African studies, Development or literature related to colonialism and postcolonialism.

You will complete the course with a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic which you will choose, refine and analyse with the help of your supervisor (who will be allocated to you depending upon your own research interests)

Why study this course

  • Structure of the programme - this programme brings together literature, history and cultural studies, applied to a broad geographic range and a variety of colonial and postcolonial situations, so you will be able to make sense of today’s world dynamics, such as globalisation, North-South relations, or international development.

  • Transferable skills - You will benefit from being able to access a variety of non-Anglophone perspectives on key issues, through the use of translated works and critical texts which originated in major world languages other than English (primarily French, Spanish and Arabic, with the opportunity to be guided through them by specialists). With the study of these works come transferable skills which are highly valued by employers, such as interpersonal skills (e.g. the ability to deal with and do business with non-Western customers) and a high level of inter-cultural awareness.

  • Excellent research reputation - Birmingham is home to a uniquely vibrant research community interested in colonial and postcolonial studies, showcased among others by the Department’s FRANCOPOCO (Francophone Colonial and Postcolonial) Network and the University’s Postcolonial Birmingham Research Network: this research environment, and the wide range of expertise that goes with it, provides an ideal environment to study this programme.

  • Cultural awareness - This inter-disciplinary programme provides not only solid theoretical, historical, literary and filmic background about world cultures, strengthening the intellectual standing of its graduates, but it also prepares culturally aware professionals who are able to engage creatively with the challenges of today’s world.

  • Unique place to study - Birmingham is the only UK university to offer a programme looking at both colonial and postcolonial studies, with such a vast inter-disciplinary scope and geographical breadth. It is an ideal preparation for a variety of jobs which involve dealing with the legacies of European colonialism, be it bilateral relations, development, journalism, the heritage industry or business deals with non-European partners.


You will study five core modules:  

World Literatures and Film I and II

These modules set out to examine World Literature and Cinema, through a range of critical investigations. How might these concepts be theoretically defined? How might they have the potential to alter established approaches to power relations, identity, socio-political order and literary canons? The modules offer a fascinating insight into major literary phenomena of the modern era, through critical examination and dynamic discussion of a range of texts coming from areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and beyond.

Postcolonial Theory

This module involves the study and analysis of key thinkers of postcolonial theory, examining figures such as Edward Said, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Homi Bhabha and Frantz Fanon, in addition to the more recent theorists of World Literature. The approach will be both theoretical and applied, enabling you to encounter and examine these intellectual figures and their work, and to assess critically possible applications and relevance to your own fields of interest.

Before Postcolonialism: Europe and its Empires

Postcolonialism is primarily an intellectual (and often political) attempt to challenge the politico-economic and symbolic world domination of European powers – i.e. colonialism. But how did European empires develop in the first place? What were the value systems which drove a tiny peninsula of the Eurasiatic continent to expand and conquer the rest of the world? And how did modern European colonial systems compare with empires of other times and places? Through a comparative approach of imperial systems since the early modern period, this module examines the conditions and modus operandi of a political phenomenon which came to rule the world in the late nineteenth century, when the majority of the planet became subjected to half a dozen European countries. It offers a thought-provoking introduction to a condition which triggered multiple emancipatory reaction, and still influences much of today's world.

Research Methods

This module will prepare you for the 15,000-word dissertation. It will allow you to hone your research, critical and writing skills under the supervision of a subject specialist.

You will also choose one optional module:

Module outside of the Main Department

You will also choose an optional module chosen from a range within History, African Studies, Development or Literature related to colonialism and postcolonialism.

Dissertation in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies

You will complete the programme with a 15,000-word dissertation in colonial and postcolonial studies, which will give you the opportunity to research a topic of your choice related to colonial and postcolonial studies. You will be invited to reflect upon topics which you would like to explore academically, and you will then be given the opportunity to discuss with your supervisor the sources, methodology and argument which you can use to produce an original piece of research which will make a contribution to scholarship. The variety of languages and disciplines represented in the Department of Modern Languages ensure that we are able to offer highly qualified supervision in a large variety of fields and intellectual approaches.

Please note that the optional modules listed on the website for this programme are intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2017/18 are as follows:

  • Home / EU: £7,020 full-time; £3,510 part-time
  • Overseas: £15,660 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Entry requirements

The  programme allows for multi-disciplinary entry. You need an upper second-class Honours degree, or equivalent, in a relevant humanities subject such as English, Film Studies, History or Modern Languages.

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Making your application

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

Apply now

Teaching on the core modules will allow you to engage in an active learning process.

Interactive lectures will see you to taking the lead in the exploration of key texts, and you will also deliver presentations and integrate the University’s virtual learning environment into your work.

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the lively international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

The University has been recognised for its impressive graduate employment, being named ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. The University also offers a wide range of activities and services to give our students the edge in the job market, including: career planning designed to meet the needs of postgraduates; opportunities to meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs, employer presentations and skills workshops; individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

University of the Year for employability

Birmingham's Modern Languages postgraduates develop excellent communication skills, whilst cultural awareness and foreign language skills are highly sought after by employers. Postgraduates in Modern Languages also have a range of transferable skills including the ability to gather and interpret information, organisational skills and the ability to work well with others. Such skills can be used in a variety of occupations.

In 2014/15, 100% of Modern Languages postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Some of our language graduates train to become professional linguists such as translators and interpreters. Other graduates enter employment where their language skills may be advantageous but not central to their role - for example, within international organisations or in the travel and hospitality industry - and some go on to teaching or lecturing positions. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: Berlitz Language Centre; TransPerfect Global Business Solutions; KPMG; University of Birmingham; University of Cambridge; and University of Oxford.

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.


Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.