Frequently Asked Questions | Enquiries

Before you submit a question and register your interest in a postgraduate degree at the University of Birmingham, please view our Frequently Asked Questions and Answers below. 

If you have a question not answered below, please complete the form and we will get in touch. 

When can I start the programme?

There are currently five entry points during the academic year.

  • 1 October
  • 1 December
  • 1 February
  • 1 April
  • 1 July

How long does the MA programme take to complete by distance learning?

The MA programme consists of 180 credits. This is made up of six modules each worth 20 credits (6 x 20 credits = 120) and a dissertation, which is worth 60 credits.

A module is designed to take four months and there are six of these and so the 'taught' component of the MA lasts for two years. The dissertation is the research component and this is designed to take six months. The total MA is designed to take 30 months, 2.5 years. 

How long does Postgraduate Certificate take to complete by distance learning?

The Postgraduate Certificate programme consists of three modules (3 x 20 credits = 60 credits).

We allow six months for each of the modules and so you will need 18 months to complete the Postgraduate Certificate.

Can I finish sooner?

The programme is designed for people who are in full-time employment. We try to discourage people from what we call 'fast-tracking' i.e. trying to finish a module in a shorter time. In our experience, those students who try to finish the programme faster do not do as well as those who follow the programme as designed.

What happens if I need more time?

If you need more time you can apply for a short or long extension.

As long as you have a good reason, this will normally be granted without any major problems. 

How much does the programme cost and how do I pay?

The current fee for each module can be found on each course page.

You pay for the programme by module. Normally you pay for each module before you start that module.

You pay for the dissertation in the same way. The dissertation counts for 60 credits and so the cost is three times the cost of a 20 credit module.

There is no need to pay the full amount at the beginning of your programme.

Does the cost of the module and dissertation increase each year.

No, the fee you pay is fixed for the duration of your programme.

Does the Distance Learning Master’s degree have the same value as a normal Master’s degree?

Yes, absolutely. The transcript and the certificate are exactly the same for the campus based MA and the distance MA.  The assessment procedures are identical. The validation processes are identical. 

As the assessment and validation procedures are identical to those used on the residential campus based MA programmes, we can offer the possibility of a 'mixed mode' programme - see below for more details. 

Can I take part of my degree on campus?

Yes, this is the 'mixed mode' format.

This is where you do part of the MA on campus and part by distance.

What is the difference between the Applied Linguistics and the TESOL MA?

The MA in Applied Linguistics is designed for anyone interested in the application of language research to language pedagogy, and for teachers of English who wish to upgrade their professional standing.

The MA in TESOL is designed for practicing teachers of English as a second or foreign language and is more practical in nature i.e. there is a larger classroom-based element. 

However, both programmes have a range of options which means that to some extent you can tailor your programme in order to suit your own interests and needs.

What is the success rate?

Our retention rate is currently around 85%, which is high for a distance learning degree.

This means that 85% of those students who start the programme successfully complete.

The majority of our students complete the programme with either a merit of a distinction.

What does my personal tutor do?

You are assigned a personal tutor at the beginning of the programme and they work with you throughout the taught element i.e. modules 1-6. You will have a supervisor (a specialist in the area of your research) for the dissertation.

Your tutor will be an experienced language teacher/lecturer, and in many cases will be a very successful alumnus/alumna of our MA programmes. Most of our tutors know the programme inside out and have been working with us for many years.

The tutor is your first port of call. They will guide you through the materials and our systems - this is especially helpful when you start.

Your tutor will read part of the draft of your assignment and advise you about the style and content. He or she is also there to motivate you and to make sure you stay with us and complete the programme.  We owe a lot to our tutors, they are one of the main reasons our programmes have been successful over the years.

Is all the material supplied or do I have to buy more books?

Most of the teaching material is supplied and is available online. 

The University of Birmingham has a very extensive electronic library, which contains many of the books and articles that you will need.

Each module has an electronic resource list that lists most of the resources you will need with links to the online version of the paper or book available through the library.

However, we do expect you to buy some books, because not all of the leading books and articles are licensed for online use - i.e. the University cannot hold all the leading books and articles online.

What contact do I have with members of the University and other students?

Each of the modules has an online discussion forum that you are encouraged to contribute to. It is here that you are able to interact with other students and members of the faculty. 

The material contains tasks and activities, and many of these are linked to discussion forums so that you can discuss your thoughts and results with other students who have completed the same task.

You are also able to email members of the faculty if you have specific questions about the content of the material. Zoom conversations with Birmingham faculty can also be arranged.

Each year we run week-long summer seminars in Birmingham, Japan and Korea for our distance students. This gives you an excellent opportunity to learn and intact with fellow students and staff.

We also run online inductions twice a year and this is another excellent opportunity to meet others who are studying the same or similar modules to yourself. 

How does the assessment work?

At the end of each module you are required to submit an assignment (maximum 4,000 words). This may be an academic essay largely based on your studies or it may be a piece or research or a more practical piece that relates to your teaching situation.

You are also required to produce a dissertation (maximum 15,000 words). This will involve a piece of original research. 

Each piece of work is assessed by our regular team of markers. You will receive detailed feedback and a mark for each piece of work.

Our marking and feedback systems are thorough and robust and are validated by external examiners from other top UK universities.

How much time do I need to invest?

Generally, we say that you need to devote, on average, around 8-10 hours a week to the programme. We estimate that each module involves around a total of 160 hours of study.

This includes working through the online material, doing all the additional reading, preparing and writing your 4,000 word assignment.

How many credits do I need in order to pass?

In order to be awarded the MA you will need to have gained 180 credits. 

 6 modules at 20 credits each = 120 credits

                           1 dissertation = 60 credits

 If you are studying for our Postgraduate Certificate in TESOL or in Applied Linguistics, you will need 60 credits. 

 If you need to leave the MA programme early, you can always leave with a PG Cert. or PG Dip.

 As long as you return within 6 years, you can 'trade-in' the PG Cert. or PG Dip. and continue with the MA where you left off.

What grades can I get?

You can complete the programme with a pass (a final mark of 50-59), a merit (60-69) or a distinction (70 and above).

We are very proud to say that the majority of our distance students pass with either a merit or distinction.

I have the Cambridge DELTA. Can I gain credit for this?

Yes we will credit you with one module. We normally credit you with the Classroom Teaching Methodology module because the content of this module is similar to what you covered in your DELTA. 

How long have the distance MA programmes been running?

Both the MA in Applied Linguistics and the MA in TESOL (formerly the MA in TEFL/TESL) have been running for more than 25 years. Both programmes are well known and have an excellent reputation.

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