School Improvement and Educational Leadership MA/Postgraduate Diploma/ Postgraduate Certificate

This programme is designed for those who are aiming to make a difference in schools through leadership that is focused on learning and school improvement. 

Leadership in schools takes many forms: through school and departmental leadership teams, but also through collaboration between teachers and schools on specific problems in teaching and learning. On the School Improvement and Educational Leadership course, you will be part of a research-led community, which uses and develops research- and evidence-informed practice to identify and share approaches that can be shown to make a difference in particular contexts. 

The knowledge and experience you will gain from this programme will place you in an ideal position to inform the future improvement and make a difference to the overall performance of your school. It will enhance your ability to lead school improvement by using research and evidence to develop and in some cases challenge current practices. 

Please note that the part-time route will not be offered as an option for 2019. However, you may be interesting in our new part-time Educational Leadership MEd Level 7 Degree Apprenticeship programme.

The School Improvement and Educational Leadership programme:

  • will enhance your ability to lead school improvement and make a difference to learners in an educational leadership, teaching or school support role
  • improves the career prospects for practitioners looking to move into leadership positions in education or develop within their current role
  • pave the way to progression to EdD or PhD study for those who wish to pursue higher study

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

Quick links: Modules | Fees and Funding | Entry Requirements | How to apply

Herbert Dlamini

Herbert Dlamini


“It’s a beautiful university with first class facilities. I enjoyed the lectures more than anything, they really changed my understanding and perspective. The approach and care by the lecturers was outstanding.”

The School Improvement and Educational Leadership programme recruits students from around the world as well as from the UK. It is designed for you to make a difference in schools through leadership that is focused on learning and school improvement. The knowledge and experience you will gain from this programme will place you in an ideal position to make a real difference to the overall performance of your school. It will enhance your ability to lead school improvement using research- and evidence-informed analysis and developing and in some cases challenging current practices.

The programme aims to:

  • promote critical engagement and fulfilling learning environments by developing teacher effectiveness and professional identity;
  • develop communities of scholarship through which educational partnerships work to improve schooling and schooling policy;
  • and develop capacity for rigorous and critical analysis of evidence in improving schools.

There are a range of optional modules which you can take to develop their skills and understanding, broaden your studies and pursue topics of personal and professional interest. If you are part-time, you are also able to take a ‘special studies’ practitioner enquiry module in which you will be able to develop a research question relevant to your department or school and use evidence from research alongside evidence from practice to develop understanding and evidence-informed recommendations in your chosen area.

There are three 'M'-level awards associated with the programme in School Improvement and Educational Leadership 

Masters - 180 credits which are achieved by passing all four core (compulsory) modules, two optional modules and a dissertation (which is worth 60 credits).
Postgraduate Diploma - 120 credits which are achieved by passing all four core (compulsory) modules and two optional modules.   
Postgraduate Certificate - 60 credits which are achieved by passing at least two of the core modules and one further optional modules.

Applicants with postgraduate credits (e.g. from a PGCE) in the last five years or a qualification in NPQH are eligible for accredited prior learning (APL) credits.


Core Module Details

Understanding School Improvement 

Leadership for School Improvement 

Using evidence in school improvement 


The Master’s dissertation provides you will an opportunity to develop in-depth understanding of an educational topic of personal and/or professional interest. The dissertation research culminates in a formal, written report of an original investigation.

Optional Modules (subject to availability) 20 credits module option

Education Policy and Improving Schools

Special Studies (Practitioner Enquiry)

Curriculum Design in Global Contexts

Education as an International Issue 

Citizenship, Human Rights and the Environment

Personal and Professional Skills in Educational Management 

Second Language Learning

The optional modules listed above for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.

Related staff

Fees and funding

Fees 2019 - 2020


  • Code 9166 PGCert full-time £2,625
  • Code 9165 PGDip full-time £5,245
  • Code 9162 MA full-time £9,250


  • Code 9166 PGCert full-time £5,665
  • Code 9165 PGDip full-time £11,330
  • Code 9162 MA full-time £16,995

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

Learn more about fees and funding

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

The postgraduate loans system for Masters degrees in the UK provides up to £10,609 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. 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 are required to have a first degree or diplomas or five years of relevant professional experience, training or other relevant qualifications.

International students

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

English language support - before your course starts

The University offers Presessional English courses for students who wish to improve their knowledge of spoken and written English in preparation for academic study at the University of Birmingham. Students with conditional offers have the option of attending one of these courses instead of retaking IELTS 

English language support - during your studies

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.  For a small fee, BIA also offers classes for partners of international postgraduate students and staff, social events including day trips and HOST visits.   

How to apply

Monday 1 July 2019 is the application deadline for international students (Tier 4) who wish to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2019 made after this date. The deadline for Home/EU (non-Tier 4) students is Monday 12 September 2019. Applications will reopen for 2020 entry in early October 2019.

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

The programme has a strong emphasis on relating theory and evidence to practice. The teaching includes workshops, seminars and tutorials which employ a variety of reflective, analytical and enquiry-based activities. A wide range of qualitative and quantitative evidence from both research and practice is examined to develop critical and evidence-informed understanding of individual schools and school systems. Choice over optional modules and the focus of assignments (see below) enable students to tailor the programme to pursue their interests and aspirations.

The programme provides a collaborative and supportive learning environment where international and UK students from range backgrounds and with a range of educational experiences learn alongside one another, from students looking to move into the educational sector to serving school teachers and leaders. 

Students have access to the rich range of resources and learning support services the university has to offer. This includes the CANVAS web-learning environment which includes research discussions, reading material, instructional videos and case studies. These materials are used for preparation tasks, during discussion seminars and to inform and sustain independent study.

Assessment methods

Written assignments are submitted in January, April and September. All modules include opportunities for formative assessment and feedback to support you as you develop your ideas and assignments. Assignment and dissertation topics will reflect your individual interests and contexts.

Ask one of our students a question

John is an experienced postgraduate who is currently studying at the University of Birmingham and will offer help and advice from a student perspective.

This programme is designed to provide a firm basis in theory and evidence for new and aspiring leaders in education. This leadership may be exercised in schools, colleges or administrating authorities. Leadership may be in the form of direct responsibility for organisational strategy and practice or it may come in the form of leading professional development. With a strong focus on connecting research to practice and using and analysing evidence, this course also provides a firm basis for students wishing to pursue further study on EdD and PhD programmes.


The programme has enhanced my career prospects greatly – I went from a head of department before the course, to being seconded to SLT during the final year and then securing an assistant headship in the final year.

Rebecca Rogers, Assistant Head. Read her full profile 

I feel a lot more confident in my role as a governor and leading the governing body as chair.  It has also improved my abilities as a teacher, understanding how research can be beneficial to my practise and how I can implement it on a day to day basis.

The course helped me to return to teaching after taking a career break to raise my children and improved my chances of moving forward into leadership roles.  It has also broadened my career options by giving me the opportunity to pursue a PhD. 

Sarah Chung, Year 1 teacher and Chair of Governors. Read her full profile

The best thing I experienced here was that I was able to meet highly-qualified researchers and teachers, and well-motivated students from all over the world. Studying with them was really inspiring. Another benefit of this university is its facilities and environment. The new library was open 24 hours most days, which was really helpful when I had a lot of tasks. 

Masatsugu Daigo, school teacher in Tokyo. Read his full profile

It was humbling for me to meet such caring and humble lecturers yet they were highly qualified and well experienced with an international reputation.  I thought I was not good at statistics but the support I got from my lecturers made me realise my potential and I ended up doing a mixed method research project.  The significance of research-led and evidence-based school improvement made me think outside the box. 

Herbert Dlamini, Senior Inspector of Schools in Swaziland. Read his full profile