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MA Translation Studies (Distance Learning)

Start date
February, April or October
18 or 30 months part-time
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.

Translation, as a trade and an art, plays an important part in bringing nations together, and facilitating dialogue, understanding and co-operation.

The global Language Services industry is growing at an impressive rate; two of the top five providers, SDL and RWS, are based in the United Kingdom, and there are many large- and medium-sized providers headquartered in the US, Europe and Asia. Wherever you are based, there is no better time to enter the industry and our innovative MA is ideal for those looking to embark on, or develop, careers as professional translators.

Our programme is designed to cover most of the list of competences required by professional translators published in 2022 by the European Master’s in Translation network. We work closely with translation agencies, freelancers and other stakeholders to ensure that our syllabus prepares you for professional employment in the growing translator industry. You will have the option to take Professional Development and Project Management modules which have been designed to enable you to develop the skills to stand out as you embark upon a career in translation. As part of our links with industry we also offer talks from professionals and mentoring, as well as advertising internship opportunities.

Translation practice is at the heart of the programme, and you will undertake extensive practical and specialised translation in your chosen language pair(s). We also offer training in state-of-the-art translation technology. The MA also provides excellent preparation for further study at PhD level.

The programme is available to students who are proficient in English and one of the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. The industry standard is for translators to work into their mother tongue. We also have an ‘open’ route through the programme for students who wish to work in a different language pairing. For the ‘open’ route, your assessments, while still often very practical in nature, will not involve translation, and we cannot guarantee that you will be allocated a tutor who is a specialist in your language pairing.

We are a member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and of the Association of Programmes in Translation and Interpreting Studies, UK and Ireland. We are also part of the SDL University Partner Program, which allows us to allocate SDL Studio Freelance licences to our students for the duration of their studies and to award a free license to the top two students studying translation technology each academic year for use after they graduate. Finally, we are also a member of the Association of Translation Companies, which enables us to work closely together with a number of translation companies to support the new generation of language services industry professionals.

The University of Birmingham offers flexible routes of study for this programme:

  • Accelerated Route* (programme code 011D): Complete your studies in 18 months (Complete a module every 2 months and your final project over 6 months). October start only.
  • Standard Route (programme code 8914): Complete your studies in 30 months (Complete a module every 4 months and your final project over 6 months). October, February or April starts available.

*Only students following the accelerated route are eligible for Government loans

All MA students will need to complete 6 modules, followed by a final project. Unsure if you want to commit a full MA? Complete 3 modules successfully for a Postgraduate Certificate, or 6 modules for a Postgraduate Diploma.

This MA is also available as a campus-based programme, full-time over one year or part-time over two years – for more information, see Translation Studies MA.

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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


The highlight has been being part of a vibrant multicultural environment with students from all over the world, enabling our lectures and seminars to become melting pots of opinions, approaches and ideas. The strong focus on practical skills and programme of career talks from relevant industry professionals means that I feel far more prepared to start my career in this area.


Why study this course?

  • Flexibility - this programme offers multiple start dates throughout the year so it gives you the option of choosing when to commence your studies with us – in this case February, April or October (only October if you want the accelerated route). You can study at home, in your own time and at your own pace, so you can combine achieving a qualification with work or family commitments.
  • Access to specialist software - a number of our modules incorporate training in a variety of tools and software such as translation memory tools, corpus and text analysis tools and post-editing tools, for example: SDL Trados: Memsource (We would like to thank Memsource for granting us free access to their platform through the Memsource Academic Edition); Wordfast (courtesy of Wordfast LLC and Yves Champollion); and the Sketch Engine corpus manager and text analysis.
  • Career changing - a qualification from the University of Birmingham can be the springboard to promotion with your current employer, the platform from which to launch a new career or simply a way to become more effective in your current role. Studying by distance learning has the benefit of allowing you to develop your career without having to leave employment. It also means that you can apply new knowledge and insights to your working life while you are still studying. 
  • Excellent reputation - the University of Birmingham is ranked as one of the world's top 100 institutions to study Modern Languages in the 2024 QS World University Rankings.
  • Employability - our graduates pursue careers as in-house translators or project managers, set up their own translation companies as freelancers, and specialise in a variety of domains, from legal to literary translation. Recent students have secured competitive internships at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the European Union Directorate-General for Translation in Brussels and at SDL Trados in the UK. 
  • Support - although self-study is central to doing a programme distance learning support is always available from experienced tutors. The virtual learning environment also provides a focal point and helps provide a structure for your learning.


Compulsory modules

You will study four compulsory modules:

Translating for Business

This module aims to provide you with solid training in written translation. It will focus on translating texts for businesses and organisations, across a range of sectors (e.g. consumer goods, retail, charities and cultural institutions), with particular emphasis on general or technical texts for a general readership (consumers, the public, non-specialist readers). Typical genres covered will be brochures, product descriptions, press releases, instructions and webpages. You will learn key concepts and skills (client interaction, information mining, translating using appropriate strategies, use of corpora and parallel texts and revising/editing/quality assurance) and be introduced to the followed tools: general IT resources, online dictionaries, search engines, termbases, aligned texts and corpus tools.
Assessment: translation from or into English and a reflective commentary

Translation Technology

This module is designed to provide students with hands-on experience of a range of technologies applied to the study and practice of translation. Students will learn how to use the tools most commonly required by employers, such as translation memory and terminology management tools, and critically assess the technological requirements for different translation projects. They will also gain a sophisticated understanding of how translation tools work and how they have impacted translation, both as a discipline and as a practice.
Assessment: critical report

Theoretical and Analytical Skills

The module introduces the most significant translation theories and their application to translation practice. It focuses on the conceptual tools required for the analysis of the source text prior to translation and the key theoretical approaches and strategies to carrying out a translation. It also examines the importance of pragmatic, socio-cultural, and ethical considerations in informing translation decisions.
Assessment: paper analysing a source text and justifying the approach that you would take to translating it

Specialised Translation

This module builds on ‘Translating for Business’ by providing you with further training in your chosen language pair. The module focuses on the translation of texts for a specialised audience from areas such as business, law, and science, as well as on the translation of creative texts from areas such as literature, advertising, and tourism. You will examine key concepts and challenges associated with each text type and be introduced to the following tools: desktop publishing, corpora, editing and quality assurance tools, and HTML handling.
Assessment: two translations from or into English and a reflective commentary

Optional modules

You will also choose two optional modules from a range that may include: 

Multimodal Translation

This innovative module will highlight the roles translators play in promoting access to audio-visual content via services and activities such as audio description, captioning and fan subtitling. You will study monomodal and multimodal text types and authentic contexts in which they are routinely translated/meditated, such as in the arts and heritage sector and publishing. Via case studies, you will be encouraged to evaluate the current provision of descriptive and subtitling services and the policies underpinning them and to understand the constraints involved in responding to the needs of diverse audiences. You will discover the creative and educational potential of multimodal translation via a discussion of innovation within its fields.
Assessment: either a reflective or a practical portfolio

Project Management

The module will introduce you to the world of language services project managers, whose main job is to ensure that projects are effectively and efficiently managed. You will gain a deep insight into all aspects of project management, from communication to customer service, and technology to finance, develop the skills needed to become project managers in the language services industry, and critically reflect on the key characteristics that an efficient project manager needs. This module has been designed and is delivered in collaboration with the Association of Translation Companies (ATC). This means that materials have been designed by indystry experts from leading language services, providing you with the ideal preparation for a career in translation.

Assessment: reflective portfolio

Professional Development (Translation/Interpreting)

Our Translation Studies programme is designed around the revised list of competences in which professional translators should be trained, issued in 2017 by the European Master’s in Translation network. The aim of this module is to place emphasis on your professional development, in the spirit of EMT competence #26: Continuously self-evaluate, update and develop competences. Taught sessions will deepen your understanding of the translation industry, support you in understanding how to market yourself, set your rates and interact with clients and so on. It will also afford you space to ‘self-evaluate’ and ‘update and develop’ your competences in ways that you deem appropriate, depending on your future career plans. The portfolio-based assessment will allow you to showcase any activities undertaken in preparation for your working lives (e.g. undertaking freelance commissions, work experience placements or study visits, learning how to use a piece of software/technology, setting up your on-line presence, learning business skills such as profit-and-loss accounting, attending talks or ad hoc training on- or off-campus).
Assessment: professional portfolio

Contemporary Translation Theory 

This module considers the problems faced by translators from a theoretical point of view. It examines current theoretical thinking in the field of Translation Studies, including cultural theories, sociological theories and political approaches, among others. The module emphasises the role and position of translation (and translators) in processes of identity construction, language/cultural planning, and in the spread of political and religious ideologies.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Final Project

In addition to your taught modules, you will complete a 15,000-word project, which can take one of three forms:

  • Traditional written dissertation: a substantial piece of independent research totalling 15,000 words.
  • Extended translation project: you will translate a 7,500-word text of your choice, drawing on appropriate theories, methodologies and approaches to the translation of different text-type and genres, reflecting on issues such as target audience and function, and using a range of translation resources. You will also write a 7,500-word commentary on the text. You will have the opportunity to seek support from our partners in the Association of Translation Companies so you can design your translation project to be relevant to current professional challenges in the translation industry.


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

Please review our Entry Requirements before making your application.

Please clearly state in your application (at the top of your ‘Personal Statement’):

  • Which language pair you will be using
  • The direction in which you intend to work. For example: “English to French”, “Spanish to English”, “English to Chinese”, etc.

This information must be provided in order for us to make a decision on your application. 

Application deadlines

The University of Birmingham offers flexible routes of study for this programme:

  • Accelerated Route* (programme code 011D): Complete your studies in 18 months (Complete a module every 2 months and your final project over 6 months). October start only.
  • Standard Route (programme code 8914): Complete your studies in 30 months (Complete a module every 4 months and your final project over 6 months). October, February or April starts available.

*Only students following the accelerated route are eligible for Government loans

Entry point: 1 February – application deadline 1 January
Entry point: 1 April – application deadline 1 March
Entry point: 1 October – application deadline 1 September

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

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

The language into which you intend to translate should be the language in which you have mother tongue competence, or alternatively your language of habitual use. In the latter case, you may be asked to provide evidence of proficiency.

It will normally be necessary to have training to degree level in the language(s) from which you intend to translate. If you do not hold a degree in your ‘second’ language, you may be asked to provide other evidence of proficiency (equivalent to at least level C1 on the Common European Framework for Languages). If you do not hold a languages or humanities-related degree, you may be asked to provide evidence of relevant work experience.

International applicants will normally be required to provide evidence of English language competency (see below).

Language pairings we can accommodate are:

  • Arabic to English and English to Arabic
  • French to English and English to French
  • German to English and English to German
  • Greek to English and English to Greek
  • Italian to English and English to Italian
  • Mandarin to English and English to Mandarin
  • Polish to English and English to Polish
  • Portuguese to English and English to Portuguese
  • Russian to English and English To Russian
  • Spanish to English and English to Spanish

We are also able to offer a pathway through the programme for those working in other languages.

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

We make extensive use of Canvas, the University’s virtual learning environment, and this is where you can find all material related to your studies and also contribute to online discussions.  

Although much of the course is delivered through our virtual learning environment, support is always available. You will have a personal tutor and dissertation supervisor to guide you and answer any questions, and you have access to a wide range of online resources too.

You also have the opportunity to meet other students and academic staff through online chats and discussion forums.

Course delivery

The University of Birmingham offers flexible routes of study for this programme:

  • Accelerated Route* (programme code 011D): Complete your studies in 18 months (Complete a module every 2 months and your final project over 6 months). October start only.
  • Standard Route (programme code 8914): Complete your studies in 30 months (Complete a module every 4 months and your final project over 6 months). October, February or April starts available.

*Only students following the accelerated route are eligible for Government loans

All MA students will need to complete 6 modules, followed by a final project. Unsure if you want to commit a full MA? Complete 3 modules successfully for a Postgraduate Certificate, or 6 modules for a Postgraduate Diploma.

Learning and teaching methods

The course will:

  • Encourage reflective practice in translation
  • Familiarise you with state-of-the-art technological tools currently used in the translation industry and with the professional environment in which translators operate
  • Provide you with the opportunity to carry out extensive practical translation work with the guidance of experienced tutors so as to develop skills in line with current professional practice
  • Enable you to develop a sophisticated understanding of the most up-to-date concepts and theories of the discipline of translation studies
  • Develop a critical understanding of the social constraints on and consequences of translation, and the differing contexts of translation throughout the world
  • Encourage an understanding of how English and other languages work and how they may usefully be analysed, in particular with reference to its grammar, lexis and discourse, and how such an analysis may benefit you as a translator
  • Provide a practical understanding of established techniques of research and enquiry used to created and interpret knowledge in the discipline, so as to enable you to undertake further research, either as part of your future professional career or by enrolling for a research degree.

Distance learning

For more information on distance learning including answers to frequently asked questions, student experiences and funding opportunities, please see our distance learning website

Graduates of the MA in Translation Studies go on to a variety of interesting careers, from working as translators and project managers for major language service providers, to running their own translation companies, or staying on in Birmingham to do doctoral research. 

The programme will enable you to develop a wide range of skills and attributes which will be vital in your future career. In particular, it will give you the ability to:

  • Analyse and translate samples of English and other languages, using appropriate methods
  • Retrieve information, terminology and specialised-knowledge from a range of sources, and use them in their translation practice
  • Communicate effectively in written academic English 
  • Plan work effectively, with appropriate time-management skills
  • Carry out research in a selected area, both individually and in terms, and report that research appropriately.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University.

The University's Careers Network provides advice and information specifically for postgraduates that will help you to develop an effective career and skills development strategy, and to make the most of your time with us at the University. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team to deliver local support.

In addition to a range of campus-based events and workshops, Careers Network provides extensive online resources, and comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

You will also be able to access our full range of careers support for up to two years after graduation.