MA Translation Studies (Distance Learning)

Start date
February, April or October
30 months part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Continuing professional development, Distance learning

Fees for 2020:
£1,140 per module
More detail.

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

Our innovative MA is ideal for those looking to embark on, or develop, careers as professional translators. Translation practice is at the heart of the programme, and you will undertake extensive practical and specialised translation in Arabic, Catalan, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or Russian

The programme offers training in state-of-the-art translation technology and the opportunity to study another foreign language at beginners, intermediate or advanced level. It features a balance of theory and practice which provides an ideal foundation both for careers in the translation industry or for further study in translation

There is a range of optional modules focusing on theory and methodology, meaning that this 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, Catalan, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or Russian. We can accommodate all language pairs in both directions except Mandarin, where we offer English to Mandarin but not Mandarin to English.

In addition to being accreditied by the EMT Network, 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.

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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Virtual Open Day: Postgraduate opportunities in Modern Languages - 4 March 2020, 10:00-11:00


Join us online to watch a range of staff and student videos, and take part in our online chat where Emma Tyler and Lorraine Ryan will be answering your questions about postgraduate study.

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College of Arts and Law postgraduate scholarships available

The College of Arts and Law is offering a range of scholarships for our postgraduate taught and research programmes to ensure that the very best talent is nurtured and supported.

Learn more about 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 program 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. 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 - our curriculum includes a practice of the Wordfast translation memory tool, courtesy of Wordfast LLC and Yves Champollion.
  • 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 has been ranked as one of the world's top 100 institutions to study Modern Languages in the 2019 QS World University Rankings.
  • Employability - our graduates go onto pursue a range of interesting careers such as setting up their own translation companies, translating literary anthologies and working as project managers for international companies. 
  • 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.


(Please note: For September 2020 entry, course modules will be changing to match that of the campus based MA Translation Studies programme. For February and April 2020 intakes, the modules will be as below. Please contact Emma Tyler for more details)

Compulsory modules

You will study five compulsory modules:

Introduction to Translation Studies

This introduces key concepts in the theory and practice of translation. It concentrates on general issues that arise when a text is rendered from and into your particular language combination. The process and product of translation are considered in relation to social and cultural contexts. 
Assessment: Written assignment

Introduction to Translation Technology

This will familiarise you with the technology available to enhance the day-to-day work of translators. You will learn both theoretical and practical aspects of translation memories and machine translation, as well as discovering the possibilities for online terminological and text resources exploitation. This, combined with a clear view of the role of translation in the localisation industry, will equip you with the tools to work in the world of language services.
Assessment: One 4,000-word essay

Contemporary Theories of Translation

This course looks at current issues in translation theory. The study of translation as a social practice takes into consideration the role of the translator in the transmission of identities, in shaping images of communities and in the spread of political and religious ideologies. Activities in this unit are designed to encourage participants to explore the possibilities open to the translator as an intercultural mediator.
Assessment: One 4,000-word essay

Research Methods in Translation Studies

This module offers research training for professional translations and academic researchers. The main aim of this module is to show you the different types of research projects that can be undertaken within the field of translation either to improve your own practice or to fill in a gap in existing knowledge. 
Assessment: One 4,000-word essay

Professional Contexts of Translation

This module explores the different aspects of the translation profession. The aim is to gain an understanding of how translation and translators work in the ‘real world’. The module provides an insight into the role and status of translators in society and the different aspects that are pertinent to the professional environment addressing all phases of a translation project, from setting up a translation company to the production of documents to industry specifications. Particular emphasis is given to conceptual and terminological research and to translation (and localisation) of a wide range of texts, such as media (subtitling in TV and film industry) and official and institutional documents.
Assessment: One 4,000-word (or equivalent) translation project

Optional modules

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

Translation and Language Pedagogy 

This module first introduces you to the approaches and methods adopted in language teaching as part of the curricular design of translator training programmes. It then examines the approaches and methods used in translation teaching as part of the curricular design of modern language degrees. The main objective of the course is to make you appreciate the importance of language-enhancement activities in the development of translator competences as well as the relevance of translating for achieving language proficiency. We will therefore consider language and translation pedagogy as being closely related in the formation of multilingual language professionals.
Assessment: One 4,000-word essay

Multimodal Communication

The aim of this module is to provide an overview of the major issues in the area of Multimodal Communication. Particular reference will be made to current social semiotic theories that take into consideration a diversity of communicative modes – language, image, music, sound and gesture – and to how these theories relate to the concerns of teachers and researchers in Applied Linguistics. Gesture and body language, for example, are discussed in relation to spoken discourse, and photography, visual design, colour, typography and layout are considered in relation to written discourse.
Assessment: Written assignment

Research project

In addition to your taught modules, you will complete a 15,000-word research project. You can choose to complete this in one of two ways:

  • 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 provide a 7,500-word commentary on the text in a separate analytical essay in English.

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 from October 2019-July 2020: £1,100 per module
  • Fees for 20-credit modules from October 2020-July 2021: £1,140 per 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 £3,420 in 2020/21.

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

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. 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
  • 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 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:

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 course takes 30 months to complete. You will study your taught modules in the first two years of the programme - one per term, totalling three in each year. Each module represents a total of 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, homework and assignment preparation.

You can start this programme in February, April or September.

In the final six months of the programme you will be focused on your final project where you will be assigned an appropriate supervisor according to your chosen topic and language pair.

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.

Academic community

As a Translation Studies student, you will become part of the Birmingham Centre for Translation (BCT), which brings together staff and students from across the College of Arts and Law with research and teaching interests in Translation Studies.

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.