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MA First World War Studies

Start date
2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught

Annual tuition fees for 2024 entry:
UK: £5,265 part-time
More details.

The First World War, or Great War, has been described as 'the defining event of the twentieth century'.

In Britain the war is often regarded as the worst event in our history. The dominant perception is still captured by A.J.P. Taylor’s famous phrase: 'brave, helpless soldiers; blundering, obstinate generals; nothing achieved'.

Taught on Saturdays at the National Army Museum in the heart of London, this programme is unique in its focus on the Great War. It provides an opportunity to study in depth this most compelling and controversial conflict in partnership with the National Army Museum - a leading authority on the British Army and its impact on society past and present.

It focuses on the challenges posed by the war to the states, militaries, and societies, and on the evolving ways in which these challenges were met – or not met.

The purpose, conduct and outcome of the First World War are inevitably compared to its disadvantage with those of the Second World War, what Studs Terkel called 'the good war', the inevitable and heroic struggle against evil and tyranny, a morality tale with a happy ending.

At the root of these perceptions are, of course, the unprecedented scale of the First World War's casualties. It is the casualties that make the war so fascinating and appalling. Even before the guns ceased firing, there were attempts to explain how such a human catastrophe came about and why the scale of loss was so great. Popular explanations have often seemed content with blaming the quality of military leadership. This MA programme rests on the belief that a tragedy as great as the First World War deserves less superficial analysis, and requires detailed study.  The main focus of the programme is on Britain, although there are ample opportunities to see the war from a truly transnational perspective, involving Europe and the wider world.


Free Webinar - Masters programmes in History and Cultures - 7 December 2023, 12pm-1pm (GMT)


We are hosting an online webinar specifically for prospective students interested in our Masters programmes in the School of History and Cultures. The event will be taking place via Zoom on Thursday 7 December, from 12pm – 1pm (GMT). It will cover our Masters programmes in African Studies and Anthropology; Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology; Heritage Studies; and History.

Book your place

At Birmingham, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research students also have the opportunity to learn graduate academic languages free of charge, to support your studies.

The MA First World War Studies course at Birmingham has allowed me to follow a passion that I have not been able to pursue until now. It is taught by very knowledgeable historical experts, in a very informal but masterly way, who are very helpful (and patient!) in guiding those who have not been in academia for many years or at all. We also have the benefit of meeting at the National Army Museum every month which provides a wonderful environment for those studying such an important part of the country's and the world's history. I learn something new every day.


Why study this course?

  • Our collaboration with the National Army Museum – as well as teaching taking place at the Museum in the heart of London, the collaboration offers students opportunities to explore the Museum’s collections and archives, literally getting 'hands-on' with the stuff of history.
  • Taught by experts – You will have the opportunity to explore compelling and controversial areas within a rich and diverse environment. Our academics are all experts in their fields, which include military history and social and cultural history, so you will benefit from their professional knowledge.
  • Excellent research reputation – You will study alongside some of the finest minds in History. Times Higher Education ranked the Department of History eighth in the country in the Research Excellence Framework exercise 2021 based on Grade Point Average.
  • Access to a wide range of services – As a postgraduate student you will have access to services such as the Academic Writing Advisory Service and the Bank of Assessed Work. You will be supported throughout your time at Birmingham – aiding your transition from undergraduate to postgraduate level, or back into academia after a time away, and making sure you develop the skills to research and write to professional academic standards.
  • Be a part of an exciting department – you will join a lively postgraduate community with opportunities to enhance your learning through events and research seminars.


Compulsory Modules    

  • Global Strategy in the First World War (20 Credits)
  • Good-bye to All That:  Experiences and Representations of the First World War (20 Credits)
  • Home Fires Burning: Life on the Home Fronts during the First World War (20 Credits)
  • Tactics, Technology and Operational Art of the First World War (20 Credits)
  • First World War Sources: Written Word (20 Credits)
  • First World War Sources: Other Voices (20 Credits)
  • History Dissertation (60 Credits)


We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2024 entry are as follows:

UK: £5,265 part-time.

As this is a part-time programme, the above fee is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in year two of your programme.

Paying your fees

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.

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

How to Apply for a Postgraduate Degree - Taught programmes

Application deadlines

The deadline for International students (requiring a VISA) to apply is 7 May 2024. The deadline for UK students is 30 August 2024.

Making your application

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate taught programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the taught programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

A good Honours degree in History or an equivalent discipline. Other professional experience or qualifications comparable to degree standard will also be considered. Examples might include law, accountancy, management, or published work in a relevant field. Every submission is considered on its own merits. 

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 6.0 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 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 67 with no less than 64 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements

This programme is delivered through our Centre for War Studies, so you’ll be taught by academics who are experts in their field.

Each of the taught modules will be delivered through three intense Saturday Schools, held at the National Army Museum in London, between 10am and 5.00pm. The Saturday Schools will involve lectures, student presentations, student-led discussion and small group workshops. Prior to the start of each module, students will receive a Module Handbook, detailing teaching arrangements and providing a full reading list.

Even though you are primarily taught in London, you will have access to the University of Birmingham’s campus in Edgbaston and all the facilities and resources that it has to offer.

Teaching year

We have three teaching terms per year, the autumn, spring and summer terms. Term dates can be found on our website.

As a full-time student, you will typically take three modules in each of the first two terms, followed by your dissertation. If you are a part-time student, you will typically take three modules across each year, followed by your dissertation.

Each module represents a total of 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, homework and assignment preparation.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for your future career, but this can also be enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University and the College of Arts and Law.

The University's Careers Network provides expert guidance and activities especially for postgraduates, which will help you achieve your career goals. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated  careers and employability team who offer tailored advice and a programme of College-specific careers events.

You will be encouraged to make the most of your postgraduate experience and will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive one-to-one careers advice, including guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique, whether you are looking for a career inside or outside of academia
  • Meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs and employer presentations
  • Attend an annual programme of careers fairs, skills workshops and conferences, including bespoke events for postgraduates in the College of Arts and Law
  • Take part in a range of activities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential employers and enhance your CV

What’s more, you will be able to access our full range of careers support for up to 2 years after graduation.

Historically, over 94% of our History students have been in employment or further study within six months of graduating.


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