MA Language, Culture and Communication

Do you have an interest in learning about critical analysis of discourse, cross-culture communication and the media? 

The course is intended for those who wish to upgrade their professional and academic standing in critical discourse studies, media studies, and/or intercultural communication. It is particularly suitable for students/researchers who want to move into higher education, journalism, and research into the role of communication in media and society.

The programme combines a range of core modules and optional modules to ensure that you develop a solid foundation in the discipline area whilst also having the flexibility to pursue your own specific research interests. 

You will study five core modules [full descriptions available below]:

  • Describing Language
  • Discourse, Culture and Communication
  • Intercultural Communication
  • Research Methods in Applied Linguistics
  • Social and Multimodal Aspects of Communication

You will also choose one optional module and complete a 15,000-word dissertation.

In addition, there are two non-assessed components in the programme:

  • All students will take a short course – Introduction to the Bank of English – which introduces you to the 400 million-word Cobuild Bank of English corpus, an invaluable collection of authentic language data against which theory, intuition and pedagogic materials can be measured
  • You may also take a course in Academic Writing. Those whose first language is not English are particularly encouraged to follow this course.

You will do a total of six assessed pieces of coursework over the year. For assessment purposes, one of the modules you take during the spring term will be ‘linked’ with the Research Methods module – that is, you will produce a piece of work in the field covered by that module, but with a particular focus on research methods.

Why study this course

  1. Flexibility – the variety of modules on offer will allow you to specialise and study areas of the discipline which interest you the most.
  2. Excellent reputation – The Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. You will be taught by experts in the field, with a range of interests and specialists.
  3. Access to fantastic resources - Students at Birmingham have free access to the 400 million word Bank of English corpus, and to the hardware, software and data resources held at the Centre for Corpus Research. You will also have access to the resources such as the Academic Writing Advisory Service and the Bank of Assessed Work to help with transitioning to postgraduate studies or if you are returning to the world of academia.
  4. Taught by experts - Staff in the department research, publish and teach across a wide range of English Language and Applied Linguistics research areas, including corpus linguistics, discourse analysis and English Language Teaching. They have particularly strong teaching and research interests in corpus research, discourse analysis, stylistics, English language teaching, applied linguistics, everyday creativity, metaphor, multimodality, new media, historical linguistics, and the politics of English Language
  5. Join a vibrant and active postgraduate community – with conferences, seminars and social events there will never be a dull moment within the Department.


You will study five core modules:

Describing Language

This module provides a grounding in the analysis of the lexis and grammar of English. You will be introduced to essential concepts and terminology in the field, and gain practice in analysing naturally-occurring language using the models (e.g. Systemic-Functional Grammar) discussed. There is some emphasis on the application of such analysis to the study of language in social context.

Discourse, Culture and Communication

This module explores the interaction between discourse and ‘culture’. Various definitions of ‘culture’ are outlined in relation to other theoretical concepts (e.g. ideology), and you will be introduced to models of analysis for spoken and written discourse. These models are applied to sample texts, with a view to examining issues and problems of communication within and across cultural boundaries. You will be encouraged to explore the relevance of approaches to discourse and ‘culture’ to professional contexts.  

Intercultural Communication

In today’s ‘global world’, it is increasingly necessary to communicate successfully across cultural boundaries of language, style and value. The aim of this course is to provide an overview of the major issues in the area of Intercultural Communication, with particular reference to developments in the last 25 years. In attempting to address such questions, we will hope to draw upon the variety of students’ own cultural backgrounds as a basis for discussion and contrastive analysis. There will be some scope for negotiating content in response to students’ interests, but some of the topics we might explore include: definitions and dimensions of 'culture'; stereotyping the other (and the self?); culture and communication; identity and ‘cultures within cultures’; intercultural mediation; and language(s), discourse(s) and globalisation(s).

Research Methods in Applied Linguistics

This module aims to provide you with a grounding in methods and approaches to research in Applied Linguistics. 

Social and Multimodal Aspects of Communication

The aim of this module is to provide an overview of major issues in the areas of Sociolinguistics and Multimodal Communication, with reference to new theories that take into consideration a diversity of communicative modes – language, image, music, sound texture and gesture. One half of the course will introduce and discuss concepts and issues in the field of Sociolinguistics; the other will explore new ways of understanding and analysing multimodal communication.

You will also choose two optional modules from a range which may include the following:

In the spring term -

Please note that [a] one of your two spring term options will be linked to the Research Methods module for assessment purposes and will appear on your transcript as ‘Research Methods in Applied Linguistics’; [b]availability of optional modules may vary from year to year.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17:

  • Home/EU: £7,200 full-time
  • Overseas: £14,850 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

We usually require an upper second-class Honours degree, or equivalent, in English Language, Media Studies, Journalism, Communication Studies or another relevant subject (e.g. Linguistics, Translation Studies, TEFL/TESL, English Literature). Appropriate work experience will also be taken into consideration.

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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As an English language student, you will be able to benefit from having free access to the 450 million word Bank of English corpus.

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 through the English for International Students Unit (EISU).

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.

In addition, the global edition of The New York Times has ranked the University 60th in the world and 9th in UK for post-qualification employability. The rankings illustrate the top 150 universities most frequently selected by global employers and are the result of a survey by French consulting firm Emerging and German consulting firm Trendence.

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.

Birmingham?s English Language and Applied Linguistics postgraduates develop a broad range of transferable skills that are highly valued by employers, particularly in relation to verbal and written communication. They also develop crucial skills in organisation, time management, analysis and interpretation of information.

Over the past five years, over 92% of English Language and Applied Linguistics postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Some of our graduates enter roles for which their programme has prepared them, such as translation, interpreting or teaching; others use their transferable skills in a wide range of occupations including journalism, marketing, publishing and media.

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.