Which programme should you choose?

With more than 600 taught programmes and a range of research opportunities to choose from, Birmingham is one of the most popular UK universities for postgraduate study.

Postgraduate taught programmes are usually one year in length (and a minimum of two years if taken part-time). Comprising a number of modules, they are assessed by a combination of coursework, examination and dissertation and lead to the award of a Masters qualification. 

Postgraduate research programmes involve the completion of original academic research. They also include research skills training that will equip you to become an independent researcher, capable of advancing knowledge in your field.

Taught Masters programmes

If you wish to further your knowledge of a subject, to prepare for a research degree, to gain a vocational qualification or to make a fresh start in a subject that is new to you; then you may like to consider one of our taught Masters courses.

We offer a wide range of taught Masters programmes, usually in the form of Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MSc). However, there are a number of other programme types available, including the Master of Education (MEd), Master of Engineering (MEng), and Master of Business Administration (MBA). In addition, we offer Postgraduate Diplomas, Certificates and other qualifications that can be taken on a full-time, part-time or modular basis.

For most Masters programmes you need to have a good degree (usually at least a 2:1) or an equivalent qualification in a relevant subject. Some Masters degrees have additional requirements such as relevant work experience.

  • MA and MSc programmes are normally one year in duration, while Postgraduate Diploma and Certificate courses are usually nine months.
  • MEd Programmes - the MEd qualification is restricted to qualified and experienced teachers but otherwise it is similar in structure to MA programmes. Students first complete all modules for the PG Diploma and then transfer to an MEd. Therefore a part time MEd can last three years.
  • MBA Programmes - the Birmingham MBA is a suite of high quality programmes in a variety of flexible formats. It can be studied as a 12-month intensive full time programme; alternatively you can choose to study preliminary courses that can extend the programme to 21 or 24 months. It can also be studied part-time over to four years, delivered in intensive blocks.

Please check specific course finder entries for typical course duration.

Research programmes

These programmes involve the completion of original academic research. They also include research skills training that will equip you to become an independent researcher capable of advancing knowledge in your field.


A combined research-and-taught Masters, such as the MRes, will provide you with both taught modules to increase your knowledge of a subject, and the opportunity to complete a research thesis with the appropriate training and supervision. MRes programmes combine research and taught elements, and are normally one year in duration if studied on a full-time basis or two years if taken part time. An MRes requires the production of a thesis of between 15,000 and 20,000 words on a specific research topic. Providing a structured study programme and a broad range of training, it is an ideal stepping stone to a PhD programme.

MA/MSc by Research

A research Masters, such as the MSc by Research, is a good way to investigate a topic from your undergraduate study in greater depth, to prove your capacity for undertaking research and/or to demonstrate your suitability to progress to a doctoral degree. These research-only Masters programmes are normally one-year full time, or two years if taken part time. A Masters by Research involves the investigation and evaluation of an approved research project and the presentation of a research thesis of around 40,000 words, depending on your subject area. You will receive supervision by one or more members of academic staff. For entry to most of these programmes you will need a good undergraduate degree (usually a 2:1), or an equivalent qualification, in a relevant subject.

Our Masters-level research programmes are:

  • Master of Arts by Research (MA by Research)
  • Master of Science by Research (MSc by Research)
  • Magister Juris (MJur) n Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
  • Master of Research (MRes)

Doctor of Philosophy

Doctoral degrees, such as the PhD, are the highest level of academic qualification. They allow you to prove yourself to be capable of conducting original research and making a contribution to a field of knowledge. As a postgraduate researcher you will usually contribute to the research life of your department by presenting papers at seminars and conferences. Doctoral researchers often teach undergraduate classes during their degree programme.

Our doctoral research programmes are:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The below include taught components:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) with Integrated Study
  • Doctor of Engineering (EngD)
  • Doctor of Medicine (MD)
  • Doctor of Education (EdD)
  • Doctor of Pharmacy (DPharm)
  • Doctor of Clinical Psychology (ClinPsyD)
  • Forensic Psychology Practice Doctorate (ForenPsyD)
  • Doctor of Applied Educational and Child Psychology (AppEd and ChildPsyD)
  • Doctor of Practical Theology (DPT)

Conversion courses

Conversion courses provide opportunities for those with existing higher education qualifications to gain advanced knowledge and skills in a new subject area or enable a change in career.

Routes available include qualifications in business, computer science, economics, education, human resources, law, marketing, as well as medical and health sciences. Successful completion of these programmes leads to the award of Postgraduate/Graduate Diploma, Certificate or Masters degree.

Entry requirements vary but a good first degree in any subject will be sufficient; some science courses require a science-related qualification.

Distance learning/education

If you are unable to study on campus we offer a range of programmes through distance learning (also referred to as distance education in some subject areas), which you can study anywhere in the world providing you have regular access to a computer with internet connection.

With most learning materials online, you will have web access to our libraries along with a vast collection of e-resources.

A MOOC is a free, open, online courses designed to offer a taste of higher education to learners from across the UK and the world. The University of Birmingham is delivering new MOOCs in partnership with FutureLearn, the UK’s first MOOCs provider established by The Open University. The courses are developed by senior academic staff and their content is reviewed regularly, taking into account student feedback. The courses do not offer credits towards admission to the University of Birmingham.

Pre-Masters programmes 

For international students who need additional support prior to undertaking their Masters degree, or who want to pursue a two-year programme leading to a Masters qualification, we offer the option of pre-Masters programmes in certain areas within Social Sciences. This can be taken as a one-year stand-alone programme which leads to the award of a Graduate Diploma or as a two-year programme, leading to the award of a Masters degree. 

These are ideal for those who need to develop their academic English and study skills to help prepare for Masters-level study.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Many of our programmes enable you to further enhance your CV or support your career development, whether this is to fulfil professional requirements within your job, or to specialise in a particular area.

Depending on the type and subject area of the programme, courses may be short study options as well as the normal duration for taught or research options.

View the CPD options currently available.

The credit system

All Birmingham degrees are set within a credit framework designed to measure your academic achievements. We expect all students to accumulate 180 credits in each full year of study on a postgraduate course which is equivalent to 40 hours learning a week. Learning is considered to include contact learning (lectures and seminars), private study, revision and assessment. Credits are acquired by taking compulsory and optional modules, which are part of each degree programme. These are distinct units of learning and may be based around a single subject or a small part of a much broader area.