Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) PgCert (Distance Learning)

Start date
October, December, February, April, July
18 months
Course Type
Postgraduate, Continuing professional development, Distance learning

Fees for October 2023 to July 2024:
£1,220 per module

Fees for October 2024:
£1,260 per module
More detail.

Are you interested in a career in English language teaching? Are you already an early-career teacher of English and want to advance your professional standing?

Our popular Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is designed for practising teachers of English as a second or foreign language who wish to continue to develop their professional knowledge and skills, in particular their knowledge of classroom methodology and materials design.

We explore different approaches to the teaching and learning of English and study the close relationship between language teaching theory and practice. The programme encourages you to use the concepts and theories that you encounter during your course of study in your own classroom. 

Delivered part-time and by distance learning, the programme allows you to study alongside other commitments. You will be provided with a set of interactive course materials to complete in part-time, self-study mode over a period of 18 months.

On successful completion of the Postgraduate Certificate, you will be eligible to proceed to the MA TESOL by Distance Learning

Scholarships for 2024 entry

The University of Birmingham is proud to offer a range of scholarships for our postgraduate programmes. With a scholarship pot worth over £2 million, we are committed to alleviating financial barriers to support you in taking your next steps.

Each scholarship has its own specific deadlines and eligibility criteria. Please familiarise yourself with the information on individual scholarship webpages prior to submitting an application.

Explore our scholarships


Why study this course?

  • Flexibility – we have multiple start dates throughout the year so you have the option of choosing when to commence your studies with us. You can study at home, in your own time and at your own pace, so you can combine achieving a qualification with other commitments. You also have the benefit of developing your career without having to leave employment.
  • Upgrade to an MA - Once you have completed the programme, you also have the opportunity to continue your studies on our MA TESOL by Distance Learning if you wish.
  • Study from anywhere in the world - You can access the online course material from anywhere in the world, so if you change jobs or even move countries, it is possible to continue your studies.
  • Real life application – you can begin to apply new knowledge and insights to your working life whilst you are still studying. Many students choose to tackle work-related topics in their dissertations.
  • Opportunity to attend our summer school – you will be able to attend one of our summer schools in Birmingham and/or Japan to learn more about the discipline and meet with academics and other students on the programme. We also run on-line training events such as inductions and workshops for our students.
  • Access to excellent resources – you will also have free access to a range of online resources and corpora 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. We also have an extensive and growing range of books and journals available through the University’s online library.
  • Personal tutor – as a distance student you will have your own personal tutor whose job it is to guide and support you through the programme. He or she will be on hand to answer questions regarding the content of your programme and give advice on what to read and on writing your assignments.
  • Excellent reputation – The Department of English Language and Linguistics is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. The distance programmes have been running for more than twenty five years and have gained an excellent reputation. The online materials have been developed by experts in the field with a range of research interests and specialisms. The University of Birmingham is ranked equal 10th in the UK amongst Russell Group universities in the Research Excellence Framework exercise 2021 according to the Times Higher Education


You will study two core modules and one optional module.

Core modules

You will study two core modules:

Language Teaching Methodology

This module gives an overview of the development of, and current approaches to, English Language Teaching (ELT) methodology, including the teaching of grammar, reading, writing, speaking and listening. The module also includes a practical introduction to classroom-based research. The module will introduce you to a wide range of ideas and allow you to reflect on your own teaching experience. At the same time, in covering such a large area, the module also lays down the groundwork for a number of other modules which you may wish to go onto study.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Syllabus and Materials Design

The module considers the problem of reconciling syllabus and materials design with what is known about the process of language learning and examines the attempts that established approaches to syllabus design have made to solve this problem. The module goes on to propose a more radical solution involving the establishment of a pedagogic corpus, the use of task-based methodology, and the development of analytical exercises.

This is a very practical module designed for practising teachers. It demonstrates that a syllabus is a lot more than simply a list of items at the start of a handbook. The module demonstrates that a syllabus typically reflects: beliefs about language and how language works; beliefs about how we learn, or maybe acquire a language; and the way culture influences teaching and learning situations.

The module introduces you to a variety of different types of syllabus such as the traditional grammatical syllabus, the lexical syllabus, the functional-notional syllabus, and the task-based syllabus. You are encouraged to look at a range of teaching situations and consider how different types of syllabus can be used to meet the needs of different types of language learner. The later parts of the module look at materials development, evaluating material and how to adapt course books so the content is ‘lifted off the page’.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Optional modules

You will also choose one optional module from a range which typically includes:


The study of lexis is the study of vocabulary in all its different aspects. Vocabulary is typically seen as individual words, whereas lexis is a somewhat wider concept and consists of collocations, phraseology and formulaic expressions.

You will start by considering questions such as; what is a word, what isn’t a word, where does a word stop and a phrase begin? The module also looks at the mental lexicon, how words are stored in the brain and how the mental lexicon works.

The module also covers topics such as: how words are used to label and order things; how culturally specific this area of study can be; the relationship between words and their meaning; the process of word formation; the importance and ubiquity of multiword units, lexicalised sequences and lexical bundles; and the implications that findings of recent corpus based research have for the teaching of lexis.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Pedagogic Grammar

This module covers the main theoretical concepts and research findings underlying the description of the grammar of the English Language and the implication these have for the teaching of grammar in the classroom.

In this module you will consider:

  • Prescriptive and descriptive grammars
  • Research into the benefits of teaching grammar explicitly
  • How the methodologies we employ influence the way we teach grammar
  • How grammar is represented in the language syllabus
  • The debate relating to the use of authentic texts in language teaching
  • The nature of spoken English and how its grammar differs of that of written English

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Second Language Acquisition

This module introduces the main theoretical concepts and research findings underlying second language acquisition and the implication these have for classroom practice. It covers some of the key theories regarding how people think languages are learnt and by extension how they are best taught. It explores the ways and the extent to which these theories will apply to your own and other teaching situations. The later parts of the module consider issues associated with the complex nature of the classroom environment and how that influences learning and also learner characteristics, learning styles and strategies, etc., all of which influence the way in which languages are learnt.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Teaching Languages to Young Learners

This module is designed to introduce you to the various considerations that need to be taken into account when teaching languages to young learners. As well as considering ‘what is a young learner?’ the module content deals with a range of theoretical and practical aspects, including: language in the young learner classroom; teaching grammar and lexis; materials and resources; classroom management; young learner assessment; course-books and syllabus; and teaching young learners with special needs.

The module refers specifically to teaching English to young language learners, but much of the content is also applicable to other contexts where you might be teaching other languages to children.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is 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.


This programme is charged per module.

  • Fees for 20-credit modules for students starting from October 2023 - July 2024: £1,220 per module
  • Fees for 20-credit modules for students starting from October 2024 - July 2025: £1,260 per module
  • Students who start between October 2023 and July 2024 will continue to pay module fees at the rates shown here throughout the duration of this course. An invoice will be issued for each module, at the time that you register onto that module.
  • A fee is also payable for the dissertation (worth 60 credits) and this is charged at the applicable rate for the academic year in which it is submitted. As a guide, dissertation fees are £3,780 for October 2024 entry.

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.

How To Apply

Application deadlines for this programme are as follows – 

Entry point: 1 October – application deadline 1 September 
Entry point: 1 December – application deadline 1 November 
Entry point: 1 February – application deadline 1 January 
Entry point: 1 April – application deadline 1 March 
Entry point: 1 July – application deadline 1 June 

Please note: Deferral requests for this programme will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will not normally be permitted for more than one calendar year from the start date originally applied for. 

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

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

We usually ask for a good Honours degree, or overseas equivalent, or equivalent professional experience. Consideration will be given to a Certificate in Education from a Teacher Training College (three-year course). Please provide details of any current and/or previous employment in your application; it is always helpful to include a current CV but please complete the relevant sections of the application form as well.

International/EU students

Academic requirements: We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.5 in any band. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.5 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 22 in any band
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 67 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 176 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements

Our study materials are produced by academic staff in our department and are available online through the University's 'virtual learning environment', Canvas.

They contain aims and objectives, text, audio and video teaching material, reading lists, summaries of readings, activities and commentaries, discussion and reflection tasks, indexes and details of assignments required. On joining you are provided with an online induction pack which includes a course handbook that introduces you to the team, provides details of their roles and expertise and gives all the contact information you will need including email addresses so that if you have any difficulties or questions you will know who to contact for help and guidance.

Although much of the course is delivered through the virtual learning environment, support is always available. You will have a personal tutor to guide you and answer any questions, and you will be able to consult academic staff in Birmingham via video calling software such as Zoom or Teams.

We also run week-long face-to-face seminars in the summer. These are free, and open to all distance learning TESOL students.

Each module represents up to 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, assignment preparation and independent study.

This programme is designed to contribute to your professional development and enhance your career prospects.

Our 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.

Many of our graduates enter roles, or progress to more senior roles, in fields for which their programme has prepared them, such as teaching, teacher training and lecturing.