Postgraduate Diploma Secondary Education (QTS) – Modern Languages (French/Spanish/German)

The Modern Languages teacher training course is held in very high esteem by all those who work with us: partnership schools, languages teachers, and our students who year after year say that they find the challenge exciting and our support outstanding. We aim to help student teachers develop into well informed, critical and adaptable teachers so that their own teaching personality can blossom. This course also attracts a training bursary of up to £25,000.

Like a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDipEd) is a teacher training programme leading to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) however it has the advantage of offering the equivalent of 120 credits which may be used towards our MA in Teaching Studies. Recently rated outstanding by Ofsted in 2013, the PGDipEd this is a unique course which offers high quality training and support as well as excellent employment prospects. The report states that “such is the confidence of schools that trainees from the University of Birmingham are of high quality, employment rates for both primary and secondary phases exceed national averages by some margin. Trainees display excellent professional qualities: they are clear that good teaching leads to pupils who are interested in their work, enjoy learning and behave well.” 

We welcome applications from excellent and committed linguists who wish to train to teach French, German or Spanish (with French). If you are serious about a career in Modern Languages teaching then the University of Birmingham is the place to train.  

Come along to one of our open evenings to find out more about teacher training opportunities at Birmingham.

The Initial Teacher Education course

The PGDipEd course lasts 36 weeks, of which 24 are spent on placement in partnership schools. There are five phases:

  1. Preparation (university, some school-based activities including some primary teaching) 
  2. School Placement 1 (seven week placement in school with tutor visit and one day at the university) 
  3. Development (university, some school-based activities such as teaching on an intensive post-16 day, one week in your second school) 
  4. School Placement 2 (twelve week block placement with tutor visits and some university days); 
  5. Completion (two further weeks in your second school and two weeks at the university).

Teaching practice will take several forms: school placements and also team teaching while at the university. You will also get involved in small scale research projects for your assignments so that you can evaluate the theory in practice and integrate this learning into your own practice.

The course is assessed through 6 modules in total (see details below).

Download a summary of the Postgraduate Diploma Secondary Education (QTS) – Modern Languages programme (PDF, 193KB)

If you are interested in our other secondary subject courses please view the general Secondary PGDipEd course page

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the difference between a University PGDipEd/PGCE and School Direct?

There are various routes into teaching. The classic route is to complete a PGCE or PGDipEd offered and managed by a university in partnership with local schools. There is also the School Direct route which is offered and managed by a School Direct Lead School – often a National Teaching School – and its alliance of schools in partnership with a university.

If you are unsure as to whether to choose the University PGDipEd or School Direct route, it might be useful for you to draw up a list of questions to help you explore the different programmes on offer.

What’s the difference between a PGCE and a PGDipEd?

Both the PGCE and the PGDipEd lead to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

The PGCE is a Post-graduate Certificate which offers 60 credits. We offer this route as a School Direct option. PGCE students have the opportunity to complete additional Masters study following qualification that can lead to a full Masters in Teaching Studies.

The PGDipEd is a Postgraduate Diploma, and so offers more master’s level credits than a PGCE, with 120 credits. You may complete the Masters in Teaching Studies with us once you have completed your induction year through carrying out your own educational research project (60-credit dissertation).  

Is a PGDipEd more work than a PGCE?

The PGDipEd offers more master’s level credits than a PGCE. This means a slightly greater proportion of your time will be spent researching and writing about teaching and learning, as well as benefitting from spending a substantial amount of time in school on teaching practice. While there are more credits with the PGDipEd the academic challenge of both the PGDipEd and the PGCE is at the same level – both are postgraduate ‘Level 7’.

Can I get a bursary for the PGDipEd?

You may receive a government training bursary for the PGDipEd, as you would for a PGCE, depending on your degree, subject and classification.

How can I find out if my degree content is appropriate?

We advise you to read the information under Entry Requirements on our subject webpage carefully. You can get in touch with the subject tutor directly to check whether your degree content is acceptable if you are unsure about it.

I don’t have a GCSE in Maths / English Language / Science (grade C or above) – can I still apply?

For Secondary you need to have a GCSE in Maths and English (grade C or above) or an equivalent qualification; for Primary you need to have a GCSE in Maths, English and science (grade C or above) or an equivalent qualification.

If you are unsure whether your qualification in English / Maths / Science is equivalent to GCSE you need to contact Admissions before you apply and check as some courses (e.g. primary) will not consider applications without these.

Alternatively you might be advised to take an Equivalency Test if you do not meet the GCSE requirements.

What are the Professional Skills Tests?

If you are applying for a teacher training course, you will need to take the numeracy and literacy skills tests and ensure you have passed them both before the start of the course. Please see the Professional Skills Tests section of the Department for Education web site for more information on the core skills required by trainee teachers. 

How can I find out more about subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) courses?

There are subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) courses available in Chemistry, Maths, Languages, and Physics: see the Department for Education website for more detail. We offer Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses for both Mathematics and Physics. 

Do I need some school experience before I apply?

Some programmes/subjects require that you have some school experience before you start. For example you are expected to have completed at least one week of observation in a primary school before you apply for a place on the Primary programme. In any case it is strongly advised that you gain some experience. Having some school experience will:

  • help you with some of the interview questions as you will be able to relate your answers to real experience
  • help you at the beginning of the course as you will be able to start making links between your learning and practice in school to some extent
  • help you check that you are making the right decision to apply for teacher training

How do I apply? 

You need to apply online through the UCAS website. Applications start in the autumn for a start the following September and there is one intake per year. You can apply throughout the year although courses can get full very quickly. We therefore recommend you apply as early as possible.

Before completing your application form you are advised to have a look at the video guidance available on the UCAS website as it will help you to fill in your application correctly and, for example, write a good personal statement.

What is the time commitment needed?

Both routes are one-year full-time courses, with substantial time spent in placement schools. When on placement you can expect to be at school from before the school day starts until after it ends for meetings. You will also need to prepare lessons and carry out marking outside school hours. There are also a number of assignments and tasks to complete during the year.

What can I do in preparation for my studies and training?

You may be contacted before the start of the course and be provided with a list of suitable activities to carry out before the start of the course.

How much will it cost to train to become a teacher? Am I eligible for a government bursary?

Fees for 2015-16 are: £9,000 (UK/EU full-time), £14,414 (overseas full-time). Home/EU students will be eligible to apply for statutory support from their relevant funding agency.

Government training bursaries may be available depending on your subject and degree classification. See Equivalency Table available if you have an overseas degree for example and need to check whether you qualify for a government training bursary. For further information contact the School of Education directly or the Student Funding Office via online enquiries.

I already have a DBS/police check, do I need to apply for a new one?

Unfortunately we cannot accept a DBS check provided for another purpose, so you will need to complete a criminal check via the University. 

What type of schools will my placements be at and where are they located?

On the University-led teacher training route (PGDipEd), we work with a range of schools (e.g. 5-7, 7-11, 5-11, First, Middle, 11-16, 11-18, faith, single sex and mixed schools) in and around Birmingham (e.g. Dudley, Walsall, Solihull). We support students wishing to enter either the Primary or Secondary sectors.

Schools enter a partnership with us, which ensures that you receive appropriate support and guidance with your training. You will be allocated a mentor while at school, who has been trained within our Partnership, in addition to your university tutor. A large number of schools have been working with us for many years ensuring continuity in our partnership and practices.

For School Direct this depends on the School Direct Lead Schools and their alliance of schools.

Why should I choose to train to teach with the University of Birmingham?

The University of Birmingham has repeatedly secured ‘Outstanding’ grades with Ofsted (national school and initial teacher training inspectorate) in all of its provision.  Ofsted, our External Examiners, Headteachers who employ out students and students themselves all consistently emphasise the quality of our initial teacher training.  Our employability statistics are amongst the very best in the country and a significant proportion of those who train with us complete their Master’s degree (Teaching Studies) and move on to middle or senior leadership in schools across the Midlands and further afield.  The quality of our ITE Partnership is praised repeatedly by schools themselves, by our External Examiners and by Ofsted.

Equal Opportunities

The School of Education is committed to equal opportunities in the access to and provision of education. For more information please see the following documents:

School Mission Statement (PDF opens new window)

Disability and Disability Equality Scheme

Race Equality

Why study this course

Alumni profile

Farhat Mustaq, Teacher Training in Secondary Modern Languages

Farhat Mustaq was born in Pakistan and lived for 10 years in France before moving to the UK where she completed her degree studies. She successfully completed her teacher training in Modern Languages with us and was awarded the The Elaine Hurman Prize for her excellent work on developing her pupils’ use of the target language in class. Two years into her teaching career she has been promoted to head of department in her school and is studying for an MA in Teaching Studies 

What students say about the course

‘The PGDipEd in MFL was a challenging and rewarding course which laid the foundations for excellent teaching practice. I was given continual support both at university and at my school placements. The Masters level assignments allowed us to gain an academic understanding of teaching and I am keen to return to gain a Masters in Education in a few years.’ Stephanie Seal

"I chose to study at the University of Birmingham for my PGDipEd, because of the quality of the course. I felt it would offer me the training and support I would need to grow into a good teacher. It did meet my expectations, and beyond them." Kevin Perrault

‘Being French, I thought it could have been very challenging to pass this course but it is absolutely possible for a non-English speaking person. The MFL sessions were very useful and helped me in my teaching development.This was a tough year, but I am very glad I did it at the University of Birmingham.’ Marine Masson

Living and Studying in Birmingham

Vibrant and diverse, Birmingham is a European centre for retail, commerce and culture. Appropriately, its civic motto is ‘Forward’, and it is its driving ambition and attitude which makes Birmingham a great place to study, work and live.

Find out more about studying and living in the City of Birmingham


Related staff

Fees and funding

This course attracts Government bursaries  of up to £25,000 (depending on qualifications) in line with the government’s priorities to increase the number of Modern Language teachers.

Fees for 2016-2017 are: £9,000 (UK/EU full-time), £14,140 (overseas full-time). 

Scholarships and studentships

Home/EU students will be eligible to apply for statutory support from their relevant funding agency. Government training bursaries may be available depending on your subject and degree classification.

For further information contact the School directly or the Student Funding Office via online enquiries.

Learn more about fees and funding

Entry requirements

Ideally we expect candidates to: 

  • hold a degree (preferably 2:2 or above) in the language they wish to teach (French/German/Spanish). We prefer at least half of the candidate’s degree to be in that language, unless they are a native speaker in which case we accept alternative degree subjects. 
  • be able to offer a second foreign language (at a lower level than their main language is acceptable) as being able to offer two mainstream languages greatly increases employability. 
  • have spent a substantial period of time in a country where their main foreign language (French/German/ Spanish) is spoken and be familiar with the English educational system.

Note: We will consider applications on their own merits. If your profile is not quite in line with the above requirements this should not put you off applying, however your application should demonstrate how you will make a good candidate.

All candidates also have to:

  • have a GCSE in Maths and English (grade C or above) or an equivalent qualification; alternatively you might be advised to take an Equivalency Test. The DfE require us to check the original certificates; you therefore cannot start a PGDipEd(QTS) course unless you already hold these qualifications. 
  • pass Professional Skills Tests in numeracy and literacy; please see the the Professional Skills Tests section of the Department for Education web site for more information on the core skills required by trainee teachers.
  • provide a satisfactory medical form
  • complete an enhanced DBS/police check
  • complete a Declaration of Suitability to Teach
  • adhere to a Code of Professional Conduct and Fitness to Practise

How to apply

Apply online through the UCAS Teacher Training portal. The course is often full by spring so we recommend you apply as early as possible.

The UCAS website has a number of useful videos to assist you with your application such as this one on writing a personal statement 

UCAS codes

French (alone or with Spanish or German): R1X1
German (alone or with French or Spanish): R2X1
Spanish with French: RX41

The course aims to lay the foundations necessary for students to develop their expertise not only as a teacher, but also as a Modern Languages specialist, and as a postgraduate student.

Success is dependent upon the combination of practical performance in terms of the Teachers’ Standards and academic performance in terms of knowledge, understanding, reflection and evaluation.

A variety of topic areas are explored, from lesson planning and classroom management to differentiation and developing pupils’ independence. Themes also include teaching in the target language, grammar teaching, integrating literature and cultural awareness in Modern Languages lessons for example. Current developments in teaching and learning are discussed as well as the National Curriculum and exam specifications.

The knowledge, understanding and practice of student teachers are developed through extensive teaching practice, research assignments team work and discussions, seminars and workshops.

Tutoring and support

Each student teacher will personally be allocated a Modern Languages university tutor as well as a school mentor whilst on placement, who will guide and support them throughout their training.

Meet the course team: Martine Delbauve and Angela Bowes.  


Spending at least a few days in an English secondary school before the start of the PGDipEd course is advisable and candidates can either organise their own placement for this or contact the Department for Education about its school experience programmes. We also encourage candidates to develop a second foreign language in order to increase their employability. We will also provide you with a list of optional activities to undertake during the summer.


We support and advise student teachers with job applications and interviews. Our course is very well regarded and our employment rate is very high.

Once students have completed the PGDipEd and their induction year they may return to study with us on a part-time basis to complete a 60 credit dissertation and obtain an MA in Teaching Studies

The Elaine Hurman Prize

Established by John Hurman in memory of his wife, a former student and teacher of Modern Languages, a prize of £200 is awarded annually to a student teacher in Modern Languages for demonstrating particular expertise in eliciting oral responses in the target language in class. Eligible students are nominated by mentors and the successful candidate will be recommended for the prize as a result of their classroom proficiency in the above areas.

Assessment methods

All students have to complete six modules, five of which require a written assignment, and pass the Professional Skills in Numeracy and Literacy. In addition all students complete two teaching placements and have to meet the Teachers' Standards for the Award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

Our PGDipEd in Modern Languages is highly regarded locally and nationally. We have an excellent record of student teachers gaining jobs at the end of the course and many of them chose to stay in the region.

Our employment rate is very high, and a number of our student teachers go on to become heads of department, lead practitioners or mentors working in partnership with us.