MA Social Research (African Studies)

This is a research programme that focuses on contemporary Africa.

It provides you with an understanding of major social, cultural, political and economic developments and provides you with the research training necessary to undertake a social-science based study of contemporary Africa which will enhance your ability to prepare and present to an audience on material you have researched.

African Studies and Anthropology has been ranked second among all Area Studies departments in the country in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.

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You will study these modules (full descriptions available below):

  • Advanced Perspectives on Africa
  • Research Skills and Methods in African Studies
  • Introduction to Social Research
  • Social Research Methods 
  • Research Design 

You will choose 20 credits of optional modules. You will also complete a 15,000-word dissertation on a subject of your choice, with one-to-one expert supervision. 

The MA Social Research (African Studies) fulfils the requirements for the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and successful completion of the course is likely to increase your chances of obtaining ESRC funding for PhD research.

Why study this course

  • Taught by experts - the course is taught by world-leading specialists, all of who have lived, worked and research in Africa for long periods; all modules are informed by in-depth, first hand original research in Africa
  • Links within industry -The department has strong links with African universities and attracts frequent African visiting researchers
  • Friendly and relaxed atmosphere - You will be part of a department that has a friendly community in which all staff are accessible to students to provide additional help on their work.
  • Structure of programme - African Studies at Birmingham is wide-ranging, covering the whole continent and spanning humanities and social sciences disciplines.
  • Lots of opportunities to get involved - staff and postgraduate students within the Department work together closely and discuss their research interests at regular meetings.There is also a regular programme of formal DASA seminars at which staff, postgraduate students and visiting scholars present papers and discuss their work-in-progress. In addition, DASA hosts occasional round-table inter-disciplinary research conferences, to which our postgraduate students are invited. There is a highly regarded series of in-house publications linked to these conferences, which often include work by DASA postgraduate students.

Modules

You will study the following modules:

Advanced Perspectives on Africa

This module deals with cutting-edge debates of relevance to advanced students of Africa, irrespective of the regions of the continent or the disciplines that interest them most. Part reading group, part forum for students to present case studies that particularly interest them, the module is a lively setting drawing students and faculty together into discussion and criticism of current research on Africa. 

Research Skills and Methods in African Studies

This module is a practical hands-on introduction to research methods which takes you through the process of: defining a research topic; identifying and accessing sources, including archival and electronic sources; compiling a bibliography; producing an overview of existing work on the topic; designing a project; establishing a timetable; gaining research permission; the ethics of research; planning and executing fieldwork; using interviews and surveys; using photography, sound and video recording; keeping field notes; archival research; assessing and analysing findings; and writing up. You will have the opportunity to present work in progress at different stages of your project, gaining feedback and advice from staff and fellow students. Through the talks by invited speakers on research in progress, the module also offers a broader perspective on research and raises questions about interdisciplinary approaches to it.   

Introduction to Social Research

This module provides a general introduction to studying research and methods, and to preparing for a dissertation. It emphasises key skills such as searching literature, finding existing datasets, referencing, taking notes, reading and presenting a table of numbers, presenting an argument, and criticising an argument. It continues with consideration of generic issues for research, such as the main principles of ethics for applied empirical research, negotiating access to research sites, the role of theory, the philosophical bases for understanding the social world, and synthesising existing research through focus on the findings rather than the conclusions.  

Research Design 

This module introduces students to the concepts and varieties of social science research designs. A key aim is to explain that design is independent of, and so does not entail, methods of data collection and analysis. Our intention is to link the introductory module to the modules on data collection and analysis through consideration of research questions and warranting practices. It is important that students consider from the outset the kinds of research claims and conclusions that they wish to draw from their evidence. The logic of this claim leads back to entail a design. Another key element of the warrant is the sample. The module introduces students to types and methods of sampling, and a range of research designs including experiments, quasi-experiments, design studies, action research, case studies and ethnography. These elements are all linked into an over-arching theme of the full cycle (or spiral) of research activity from knowledge synthesis through development and testing to engineering results into policy or practice.

Social Research Methods 

The module will focus on the different stages of data collection, indicating how various methods of obtaining data can be used to gather both textual and numerical data. The importance of team solutions to larger scale data collection will also be covered. This module introduces students to the principles and practice of data collection, collation and analysis, with a focus on deepening understanding of the rationale for choosing appropriate methods throughout the conduct of a study. Teaching and learning exercises demonstrate the value of research skills in relation to both textual and numeric data. The module develops understanding and experience of different stages of the research process, indicating how various methods of obtaining, managing and analysing data can be used with textual and numerical data (with reference to different methodologies). 

You will also choose 20 credits of optional modules. Options available within African Studies may include:

  • African Fiction and its Critics
  • History and Politics of Southern Africa
  • Independent Study
  • Livelihoods and Development in Africa
  • Media and Popular Culture in Africa
  • Slavery and Freedom in Twentieth Century Africa

For further information on these options, please see our African Studies module descriptions.


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.

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Fees and funding

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

  • Home / EU: £7,650 full-time
  • Overseas: £16,380 full-time

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

MA programmes normally require an upper second-class Honours degree or equivalent with some background in the disciplines to be studied. Applicants with a background in other disciplines, or with less traditional qualifications, may be accepted for the Diploma in African Studies.

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

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The Department of African Studies and Anthropology (incorporating the Centre for West African Studies) is a friendly, well integrated community.

Staff and postgraduate students work together closely and discuss their research interests at regular meetings. There is also a regular programme of formal DASA seminars at which staff, postgraduate students and visiting scholars present papers and discuss their work-in-progress.

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant 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

Our African Studies graduates develop a range of skills including oral and written communication, analysis and evaluation, problem solving, independent working and research skills, which can be used in a variety of occupations. A snapshot of graduate destinations over a five-year period has identified a variety of career paths, including lecturing and paid research. Over the past three years, 100% African Studies students have been in employment or further study within six months of graduating.

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.

Accommodation

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.