MA in Character Education

This is the first and only distance learning MA Character Education programme in the world – focusing on the theory and practice of human flourishing.  The programme adopts a broad understanding of character – encompassing aspects of wellbeing, ethics, citizenship and social and emotional education.

Students on the course come from a range of sectors; including education (formal and non-formal), voluntary and business.  The curriculum allows students to apply the topics most relevant to their personal or employers interests and goals.

The course will be run by The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues which is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost research and teaching centres in the world specialising in the examination of how character and virtues impact on individuals and society. You will be taught by some of the best known names, both in Britain and internationally, in character education. 

Watch this ‘can you teach character’ mini film for an example of the learning and teaching materials.

The MA in Character is a part-time distance learning programme which offers both flexibility and an opportunity to debate key questions about the purpose of education with fellow students around the world. 

There are 3 awards associated with the MA in Character Education

  • PGCert (3 modules, 60 credits over 12 months)
  • PGDip (6 modules, 120 credits over 24 months)
  • MA (6 modules and a dissertation, 180 credits over 3 years)

Download information on all the postgraduate study programmes in the School of Education (PDF)


Drawing on the wealth of research and experience of academics in the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues and internationally regarded academics attached to the Centre, this programme will enable you to develop your knowledge and expertise in the field of character education.

The main features of the course include:

  • It's multi-disciplinary – it will include learning from the fields of education, philosophy, (positive) psychology, sociology, social sciences and theology
  • It's flexible – the learning is guided but you will work through it at their own pace
  • It is suitable for professionals seeking to transform their organisation or career, or individuals looking for a foundation for further graduate study such as a PhD
  • It utilises the latest technology to ensure an engaging and participatory online learning experience
  • You will work within a supportive learning environment - all students have a dedicated personal tutor
  • The assignments and dissertations can be directed towards personal and professional interests in the field
  • There will be an opportunity to work alongside and learn from fellow students across the globe
  • It is practice focused – the learning contributes to making a transformative difference 

The programme will provide you with a broad multidisciplinary knowledge and understanding of how key theories in psychology, philosophy and education inform planning, administration, policy and professional practice.  Through modules including various forms of assessment, and dedicated personal tutorial support, you will learn to critically evaluate education research from theoretical and methodological perspectives in order to contribute to character education and will gain fundamental skills in data analysis and critical thinking, which can be applied to your own professional contexts.

The programme includes an optional on-campus residential for students. This is highly recommended for students in the Uk and Europe and the rest of the world. 


Year One

Compulsory modules

Research Methods in Character Education (20 credits)

This module will teach you how to evaluate educational research from theoretical and methodological perspectives in order to contribute to character education through the demonstration of original thinking in teaching and learning.  We will discuss the various research methods available to researchers and explain alongside about the ethical implications and challenges associated with researching character in education, with a strong focus on issues of reliability and validity in research.

Theories of Character, Virtue and Flourishing (20 credits)

The Theories of Character, Virtues and Flourishing module will explain how key theories from the fields of psychology, philosophy and education, inform, planning, administration, policy and professional practice – including a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights in the field.  

History and Politics of Character Education (20 credits)

This Module starts with a consideration of the historical development of character education and you will gain an understanding how character education has been delivered in and out of schools and what form this schooling has taken.  The politics of character education (both UK and international) will be examined during the second half of the Module and an in depth investigation of current character education policy in the UK will be used as a case study to consider how the subject is shaped by government priorities.  Comparisons will be made with other countries who have adopted character as a central plank of their educational policy.

Year Two

Character Education Interventions in Schools and Organisations (20 credits)

This module looks at the practical implications of character education, drawing and building on the theory learnt in previous Modules.  You will learn about how character education can be implemented in various educational settings, including schools and community organisations. It will give you the ability to analyse data, synthesise information and apply critical thinking to develop your own relevant interventions and tools to create a culture and ethos designed to enhance good character.

Character Education Leadership in Schools and Organisations (20 credits)

This module examines the role of leaders in developing character education in schools and other organisations.  It covers positive organisational theory, and both leadership theory and practice with a specific focus on making decisions that bring about change in schools. 

Units in the Module will focus on the following themes:

  • creating a values-led schools and / or organisation;
  • leading staff;
  • implementing taught and caught approaches to character education; and,
  • self-evaluation. 

Throughout the Module the challenges of implementing and leading character education programmes are examined and critically debated.

The Virtuous Practitioner (20 credits)

The responsibilities of teachers and other educators working with children and young people will be examined throughout this Module. 

The central question that this Module will be framed around is: what does it mean to be a virtuous professional?  Drawing on research (both theoretical and empirical) into the character virtues of teachers (as well as other professionals) this Module will consider the moral responsibilities of teachers. Throughout the Module, you will consider both initial and continuing professional development (CPD) teacher education. 

Important themes explored include:

  • the professional versus personal virtues of teachers;
  • ethical dilemmas;
  • emotional labour and the danger of burn-out;
  • practical wisdom; role-modelling; and self-reflection.

Year Three

A 15,000 word dissertation on a topic related to character education and likely to have been covered in one of the taught modules.

Related staff

Fees and funding

Fees 2019-2020


  • Code 630B MA £3,083


  • Code 630B MA £5,665

Fees for distance learning programmes are based on students studying 60 credits per year. 

The fees shown above are the first year fees for students starting their courses September in 2019 and may change in subsequent years.

For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in September 2020, and will continue to have access to eligible financial support via the Postgraduate Masters or Doctoral loan for the duration of their course. For more information visit the website.

You can also visit our EU Referendum information page for more information and updates.

Scholarships, Studentships and Loans

Postgraduate Loans for Masters students

A postgraduate loans system for Masters degrees in the UK provides up to £10,609 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas including part-time and distance learning. For more detailed information view our Postgraduate funding page

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships may be available, please view the Scholarships webpage in the School of Education. 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 visit the Funding, Graduation & Awards Office via online enquiries. 

Entry requirements

Applicants must have a first degree at 2.1 level or equivalent and should have some relevant and related experience in the field of education. Account will be given to equivalent professional qualifications and experience.

International students

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

English language support

Birmingham International Academy (BIA) provides free English language services to international students who are currently studying on undergraduate or postgraduate courses at the University of Birmingham.  Services include Open-access English classes, online self-assessment, online materials through CANVAS, email answers to quick questions and individual one to one tutorials. 

Learning takes place on the Canvas virtual learning platform.  Each module is broken up into 5 units of learning  - which you work through at your own pace over the duration of two weeks.  Modules last 11 weeks (5 units plus a reading week) and 3 are completed consecutively throughout each of the first two years. The final year consists of a dissertation on a topic of your choice.

Each unit consist of a number of steps – including mini teaching films explaining key concepts, associated reading (mainly free and available through the online library), and interactive elements including discussion boards and quizzes.  Assignments are normally due 4 to 5 weeks after completion of the fifth unit.  Time to complete assignments generally coincides with the Christmas, Easter or summer holidays.

You will have a designated Programme Tutor who will be in regular contact with you through the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), via email, telephone or Skype.  In addition you will also have regular contact with the Module Leaders / Tutors through VLE, email, Skype and telephone.

Lecturers running modules on the course will include:  Professor James Arthur, Professor Kristjan Kristjansson, Dr Tom Harrison as well as other internationally recognised names in the field. 

Assessment will be through essays, online presentations (written or verbal), a fieldwork report and a dissertation.

The MA in Character Education has been developed in response to the overwhelming interest in character education (and associated concerns such as wellbeing, social mobility, ethics) from policy makers and parents as well as teachers themselves. Completion of the programme will ensure that you will further your understanding of this area and will gain the knowledge and experience to implement informed change in your own organisation. 

Profiles of students on the programme vary.  Current students include head teachers who want to transform their school through character education, teachers who have taken character lead positions in their schools, recent graduates looking for further studies in education, individuals looking for foundational learning for a PhD, individuals running and working for charities and not for profit businesses and parents looking to further their theoretical and / or practical enhanced knowledge about character. Paralympian swimmer Elizabeth Wright, shares her views on the programme in this article in 'the Guardian'

Making the decision to begin a Masters was a big one. Working full-time as a Headteacher of a large primary school keeps me busy enough, but it's been so relevant . I have learnt so much about the theory of Character Education so far, and although there have been times when I have had problems with balancing my work and my studies, it has been worth persevering. The staff are all so approachable - by phone and email - and are always so supportive. I would totally recommend Birmingham University as somewhere that values Post Graduate distance learning. 

Mrs Megan Robinson, Headteacher 

I have found the first year of the Character Education Masters to be invaluable to my practice and continued learning as a teacher. The course has forced me to stop, reflect, and apply leading research and theory in philosophy, psychology and education to the school context, both at a classroom level as well as at leadership level. While I have found it challenging to manage the MA alongside a full time job, the design of the course offers enough flexibility to allow students to move through the content at a pace suitable to their work. Where I have struggled, there has been one-to-one support and guidance offered by tutors. Each module is taught through a mix of readings, online tutorials and videos, as well as discussion boards which have helped give a sense of community despite the distance learning. I could not recommend this MA more to anyone interested in the future of education. 

Elizabeth Style, Secondary School Teacher