Special Educational Needs and Disabilities MA/ Postgraduate Diploma/ Postgraduate Certificate

The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) is a newly developed programme which will appeal to prospective students from a wide range of backgrounds such as teachers, lecturers, parents, SEN Coordinators, speech/language therapists, NHS staff, psychologists and other related professionals.

Course content reflects upon generic and current SEND issues and the needs of children with SEND such as cognitive impairment, behavioural needs, sensory and physical impairment, speech, language and communication needs.

You will also gain practical experience of special educational needs and disabilities in UK schools and settings through a practice-based research module.

Awards available on the SEND programme 
PG Cert – 3 modules
PGDip – 6 modules
MA – 6 modules plus a 15,000 word dissertation

This course is now full for 2014-15 entry but you can apply for 2015-16

Course fact file

Type of Course: Taught

Study Options: Full time

Duration: MA - 1 year; PGDiploma - 1 year; PGCert - 1 year

Start date: September


The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) programme which will enable you to deepen and extend your knowledge and understanding of educational and social theories which are related to working with children and young people with a range of special educational and individual learning needs. You will gain an understanding of the nature and influence of contextual factors and through critical analysis, interrogate evidence-based research in order to develop and appraise a range of approaches, interventions and pedagogies related to meeting the individual learning needs of children/young people with SEND. 

The programme utilises lectures, seminars, tutorials, school visits, practical tasks and discussions. Lectures are given by academics who are leaders in research in the Special Educational Needs field. Please view the Learning and Teaching Tab for more details. 

To help you decide which level of award you need to apply for, please view the Levels of Award table (PDF). This table provides an overview of the different awards, modules and credits needed to achieve the Postgraduate certificate (PGCert); Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) or Masters (MA) qualification.

If you are interested in a part-time, distance learning programme, please see our Inclusion and Special Educational Needs course.

The Department of Disability Inclusion and Special Needs (DISN) within the School of Education also has a number of other courses relating to special education which you may be interested in.


Special Educational Needs and Disabilities: Analysing Research

Semester 1

Compulsory for MA/PGDip/PGCert

20 credits

This compulsory module is primarily concerned with developing your understanding of the underlying concepts which relate to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. You will learn to identify, through examination of current research and literature, aspects of relevant developments in theory and practice. Specific topics of research, linked to practice, which reflect current educational / SEND issues will be identified. e.g: 

  • Theoretical, philosophical and historical perspectives related to research in SEND 
  • Special educational needs in the UK 
  • What works in Special Education?


Assessment is by a 4,000 word assignment.

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities: Evaluating Practice

Semester 1

Compulsory for MA/PGDip/PGCert

20 credits.

This compulsory module will develop your evaluative skills related to the quality of education and life for children with special educational needs and disabilities. Specific topics for reflection will be identified for analysis and discussion and these will relate to current educational / SEND issues. You will also develop your understanding and critical appraisal of current literature relating to evaluating concepts, practice and theories. You will also consider the principles and practicalities related to policies, research and provision that will improve standards for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities for example:

  • The practicalities of identifying and assessing SEND 
  • Families and inclusion in the community 
  • Different approaches to SEND in practice


Assessment is by submission of a 4,000 word assignment.

Practitioner inquiry in Education (PIE)

Semester 1

Compulsory for MA optional for PGDip.

20 credits

This module will focus upon research design and methods in order to prepare students to undertake research or investigation into aspects of practice in the field of education and related SEND. If you are a full time student who is either not currently practicing or is yet to practice you can still focus on research which can help practice, because after all, education is essentially a practical activity. The main criteria for selecting a topic is that it is broadly relevant to the field of education. The topic and the dissertation supervisor will be agreed in discussion with the programme leader. 


The assessed work for this module is a 4,000 word assignment which takes the form of a proposal for the research that is at the centre of your dissertation. You are required to demonstrate knowledge and understanding in carrying out a small scale study.

Practice based Research

Semester 2

Compulsory for MA/PGDip

(Dependent on successfully obtaining a DBS check, which will be arranged by Admissions and for which a small fee will be payable. Any student without an enhanced DBS will take a Special Studies module as an alternative).

20 credits

This compulsory module will provide a practice based opportunity for you to apply the learning and skills you have acquired. Students will be paired with a mainstream or special school in agreement with the programme leader and a practice based research question will be identified which will need to be investigated and undertaken within the allocated time. You will be allocated a practitioner within the setting who will act as your mentor and you will also be visited by the programme leader.

The emphasis in this module is primarily concerned with carrying out research in a specified area of SEND in a practical context. You will be expected to apply your knowledge of research and methodology as well as subject knowledge to investigate the research question. You will be expected to identify aspects upon which to reflect through examination of current, relevant developments in theory and practice related to the research methods and specific area of research.


Assessment will be by a portfolio of 4,000 words, compiled throughout placement. You will be encouraged and expected to reflect and analyse your academic, personal and professional development gained throughout this module. 

Cross-cultural issues in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Semester 2

Compulsory for MA/PGDip

20 credits

This compulsory module will enable you to gain an understanding of the trends and trajectories in the development of SEND and inclusive education. You will undertake a critical analysis of the cross-cultural dimensions of special educational needs and disabilities and inclusive education, paying particular attention to dimensions within your own context. You will also engage in critical reflection on the positive and negative impact of cross-cultural dimensions, in their own contexts and those of others, on professional identity and practice. The potential of ‘interventions’ that have a cross-cultural basis (eg in disability studies, philosophy and the arts) to stimulate inclusive policy and practice will also be examined.


A 4,000 word assignment based on an analysis of cross-cultural issues within your own context


Special studies

An independent investigation on a topic relating to the education of learners, allowing students to develop their investigative skills and reflect on their own practice


Between April and September, MA level students will complete a dissertation on a SEND related topic. The topic and the dissertation supervisor will be agreed in discussion with the programme leader. Examples of topics chosen in the past include:

  • A comparison of transition arrangements for pupils in Year 6 of two special and two mainstream schools
  • Introducing 30 Makaton signs and symbols to children with Down's syndrome in a preschool setting in Korea
  • What are the challenges facing special education teachers in resource rooms in Saudi Arabia mainstream primary schools?

Support will be provided through tutorials with your supervisor.

Assessment is by a  15,000 word dissertation

Fees and funding

Fees Home/EU 2014-2015

  • Code 297A PGCert  £1,980
  • Code 300A PG Dip  £3,960
  • Code 301A MA £5,940

For the PG Dip and MA an enhanced DBS/police check will be required and it will be necessary to pay a small additional fee. 

Fees overseas 2014-2015

  • Code 297A PGCert £4,555
  • Code 300A PGDip £9,110 
  • Code 301A MA £13,665 

For the PG Dip and MA an enhanced DBS/police check will be required and it will be necessary to pay a small additional fee.

Learn more about fees and funding

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

Entry requirements

Applicants must have:

  • a relevant or related 1st degree and some relevant experience with children or young people with SEN.
  • an enhanced DBS/police check if applying for the PG Dip and MA. A small additional fee will be necessary, in addition to the standard fees 
  • demonstrate that you have a good level of written and spoken English. (see 'English Language Requirements' below).

There is only one intake per year at the beginning of the Academic Year (September/ October).

For further information please refer to the School of Education entry requirements webpage   

English language requirements  

In order to undertake the SEND programme of study, you will need to demonstrate that you have a good level of listening skills, reading comprehension, written and spoken English. You can demonstrate your level of English with IELTS or alternative qualifications. The following link, to the English language qualifications page, will give you more detailed information about English tests excepted at the University of Birmingham and the required grades you will need to achieve.

Alternatively, or in addition, you may want to take and successfully complete one of our pre-sessional English courses for international students courses, based at the University of Birmingham. 

International students

We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you which qualifications we accept from your country.

How to apply

This course is now full for 2014-15 entry but you can apply for 2015-16

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

Learning and teaching

The programme commences annually in September. There is a compulsory period of induction at the start of Semester 1 to the School of Education which students must attend. 

The SEND programme will be delivered through face-to-face tuition and e-learning. Delivery of the programme will include enquiry based learning, lectures, visiting speakers, discussions, activities, case studies, presentations, video analysis, problem-based activities, reading texts, role play and online personal reflective journals.


The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) degree does not qualify you to become a teacher. However, it is ideal for graduates who wish to deepen their knowledge and understanding of special educational needs and disabilities in educational settings. Upon completion of this course, you will have experience of issues relating to special educational needs which could be applied to a wide range of professional roles such as: education advisors, special educational needs coordinators, head teachers in schools and managers of community and charitable organisations. There is the opportunity to work towards a further professional qualification in the field of Education, which includes progression to a PhD or EdD.