MA Comparative Literature and Critical Theories

Start date
1 year full-time; 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught

Annual tuition fees for 2024 entry:
UK: £10,530 full-time
International: £23,310 full-time
More detail.

Our MA in Comparative Literature and Critical Theories is an interdisciplinary, transnational programme. It invites students to engage with crucial debates about the different ways in which cultures across time and space have understood the relationship between literature and the world, the concept of representation and the role of the author in the cultural domain.

Successful graduates of the programme will be trained in comparative and critical theory and have a strong grounding in a range of world literatures and cultures across time and space.

Students will gain knowledge of a range of transnational critical theories and debates on world literature, as well as a familiarity with comparative approaches to world literary and cultural texts and traditions. They will develop critical reading and analytical skills, advanced research skills and the ability to develop and write a sustained scholarly project.

Since the course is deeply interdisciplinary, students will be encouraged to take modules in a range of humanities and social science disciplines. They will be engaged in comparing disciplines and ways of knowing across a global trajectory, alongside more formalised comparisons of texts and theoretical traditions across cultures.

With its transnational focus and emphasis on critical interrogations of existing canons of literature, the programme responds to the ‘Decolonizing the Curriculum’ movement underway at many UK universities.

Students may choose to work with materials in the Special Collections dealing with manuscript culture, the literatures of the Near and Middle East, and word/image relations.

The programme has been designed to prepare students for future PhD level study in interdisciplinary and transregional literary studies as well as to prepare students for a range of careers outside academia requiring transcultural expertise.

It is particularly relevant for: international students seeking an introduction to UK academia; students interested in careers with international NGOs, in International Relations or in politics that require language skills and cultural knowledge; those interested in Arts & Humanities charities; students seeking qualification in specific languages, regions, and literary and cultural methodologies.

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

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

Enrolling in this course changed completely my perspective. I could not believe it would be possible to acquire so much knowledge in only a year. The overall guidance has been incredible and I felt that the staff had been working really hard to try to help us. Being a student at the University of Birmingham, I really felt part of a diverse and global community.

Ilenia Durante, MA Comparative Literature and Critical Theories

Why study this course?

  • Intellectually challenging - with its global focus, interdisciplinary and decolonizing approach, the programme challenges you to engage with crucial, complex cultural and political questions.
  • Choice - there is a wide variety of options, and the possibility of studying texts in English as well as in a range of other languages.
  • Excellent teaching and support - you will receive expert teaching and research supervision across a wide range of time periods, genres, media and methods. The Department of Modern Languages has particular expertise in Postcolonial Studies, Sexuality and Gender Studies, Linguistics, Cultural and Literary Studies.
  • Foundation for future careers or further study - the programme is ideal for those students looking to develop specific research interests and/or prepare for study at PhD level, but it is also an excellent way of gaining a broader overview of the subject that will prepare you for a broad range of careers.
  • Dynamic postgraduate and research community - with interdisciplinary conferences, reading groups and events run by postgraduate students as well as academic staff, there are plenty of opportunities to discuss, develop and disseminate your work, as well as to gain experience of organising academic events.

The postgraduate experience

The College of Arts and Law offers excellent support to its postgraduates, from libraries and research spaces, to careers support and funding opportunities. Learn more about your postgraduate experience.


You will study three core modules and three optional modules before completing your MA with a 15,000 word dissertation.

Core Modules

Global Critical Theory

Global Critical Theory addresses a number of topics, such as theories of language, multimodality, the anticolonial and anti-racist imagination, postcolonial gender and intersectional perspectives. You will be encouraged to test the possibilities and limits of various theoretical approaches by drawing on your knowledge of world literatures, as well as on your expertise acquired through other modules.  Influential theoretical approaches will be considered in relation to lesser-studied texts, which may lead you to deploy theories creatively, or to critique and revise dominant theoretical paradigms.
Assessment: 4,000 word essay.

World Literatures Compared

World Literatures Compared introduces you to the range of ways in which literature has been created and experienced across time and space. The module deals with a number of topics, including: Literariness; Circulation and canon formation; Authorship and influence; Figurative Language and Rhetoric; Genre. The materials studied are selected from a range of cultural contexts from across the globe. You will be invited  to reflect on how normative understandings of world literature are derivative of their cultural contexts, and how examining different cultural contexts can generate new understandings of world literature.
Assessment: 4,000 word essay

Research Methods in Critical Cultural Studies 

This module will prepare you for your MA dissertation by equipping you with the key research skills necessary to produce strong postgraduate work. It also reaches beyond the Masters, preparing students for further postgraduate study or careers outside academia. Students will attend sessions run by module leaders on: writing a cultural studies or gender studies essay; writing a literature review on cultural studies and gender studies texts and writing a research proposal.
Assessment: 4,000 word literature review and a 500-word research proposal

Optional Modules

Alongside these core modules, students will choose from a range of optional modules, including (subject to availability):

  • Global Histories: Comparisons and Connections
  • Ethics and Global Ethics
  • Global Literatures in Britain
  • Muslim Women’s Popular Fiction
  • Nation and Identity
  • African-American Freedom
  • Theories of the Modern
  • Law and Literature
  • Postcolonial Poetry and Poetics
  • Mapping the Middle Ages: Cultural Encounters in the Medieval East and West
  • Understanding Medieval Literature and Meeting Medieval Manuscripts


In addition to your taught modules, you will conduct a piece of independent research with the support of a
supervisor, culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation.


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

  • UK: £10,530 full-time; £5,265 part-time
  • International: £23,310 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Fee status

Eligibility for UK or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

Paying your fees

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

Are you an international applicant?

All international applicants to this course will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of £2,000 on receipt of an offer, to secure their place.

Find out more about the deposit >>.

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.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

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

The programme allows for multi-disciplinary entry. You will need an upper second-class Honours degree (2:1) or equivalent if you were educated outside of the UK.

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

The MA Comparative Literature and Critical Theories fosters independent research skills, and requires students to demonstrate initiative through taking an analytical approach to language, texts, cultures and contexts.

Through a combination of taught modules and a supervised research project, students are encouraged to challenge deep-seated perspectives and to develop their own critically informed views.

Alongside three core modules - “Global Critical Theory”, “World Literatures Compared”, and a research methodologies module - students take a series of optional modules of their choice. Finally, they write a dissertation of 12,000 words which provides an opportunity for sustained independent work.

Students will have the opportunity to work with texts in range of languages, including all the major languages of Europe, and core literary traditions of the Middle East and East Asia. There are exciting opportunities for language learning, to enable students to engage closely with cultures they have not studied before. The programme also welcomes students who focus on English-language materials and who work with texts and theories in English translation.

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.