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Education-focused UK masters

Masters – a matter of focus

This year the EL Gazette has gone for a new approach in its listing of UK and Irish masters degrees – the focus of each course. Melanie Butler explains why it was time for a change.

For the first time in over twenty years the Gazette has redesigned its annual listing of ELT-related masters in the UK and Ireland, following an analysis of feedback from postgraduate students on such courses published in the ‘Good MA Guide’ in our June edition last year.

This year we arranged the masters degrees into four categories. This table lists the education-focused ones. For more information on how we organised the listings, please see below the chart.


* = programme open to new teachers (does not list teaching experience as an entry requirement)

Fees for the courses below are listed according to the most recent data on the universities’ websites. They are shown here as an indication only; for more current information, please contact the institutions themselves (by clicking on the course names below).

Centre name Course name Teaching practice Course length Course fees Start dates Entry requirements
Birmingham, University of MA Tefl (School of Education)* microteaching, materials design projects, observation of teaching and visits to schools FT: 1 year; PT: 2–6 years FT: £5,940 (EU), £13,665 (O); PT: £1,980 each year (EU) £4,250-4,555 each year (O) Sep Good first degree in a relevant subject, teaching experience is welcome but not essential, Interest in Tefl/language teaching, Ielts 6.5 (6.0 in every band)
Edinburgh, University of MSc Tesol (in the Moray House School of Education)* In-class microteaching (not assessed) FT: 1 year; PT: 2–6 years FT: £7,450 (EU); £15,100 (O) Sep UK 2:1 honours degree or equivalent in language or related subject areas. Ielts 7 (6.5 in writing and 6.0 in the other bands)
MSc Education: Language – Theory, Practice & Literacy No As above As above Sep As above
MSc Language Teaching No As above As above Sep As above
Exeter, University of MEd Tesol in Exeter* Placements FT: 1 year FT: £6,500 (EU), £14,500 (O); PT: £3,250 (EU) Sep First degree in language or in education equivalent to a UK second class honours. Ielts 6.5, with no less than 6.0 in any section
MEd Tesol Summer Intensive Placements PT: 3 years, two consecutive summers Per module: £1,083 (EU), £2,417 (O) July First degree in language or education, teaching qualification, and two years’ experience. Ielts 6.5, with minimum 6.0 in each section
Goldsmiths, University of London MA Multilingualism, Linguistics and Education No FT: 1 year, PT: 2 years FT: £4,750 (EU), £11,700 (O) Sep 2:1 degree in a related field, Ielts 6.5 (6.5 in the written element and no individual element lower than 6.0)
Institute of Education, University of London MA Bilingual Learners* No FT: 1 year, PT: 2 years FT: £5,940 (EU), £13,410 (O); PT: £2,970 (EU) £6,705 (O) Oct, Jan, Apr Good first degree. Most applicants have a teaching qualification, but this is not a formal requirement
MA English, Globalisation and Language Policy No FT: 1 year, PT: 2 years As above Oct Good first degree and appropriate teaching and/or management experience.
Oxford, University of MSc Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition* No FT: 1 year, PT: 2 years FT: £7,970 (EU), £15,345 (O) Oct 2:1 or equivalent qualification, preferably in the social sciences. Three highly positive academic references. Ielts 7.5 or equivalent
Queen’s University Belfast MSc Tesol FT: 1 year; PT: up to 5 years FT: £4,400 (EU), £11,625 (O); PT: £24.44 per credit (EU) Sep Second class honours degree, or a degree with at least five years’ professional experience, relevant teaching experience, Ielts 6.5 with minimum 5.5 in all elements
Reading, University of MA English Language Teaching (Dissertation and Taught modules) No FT: 12 months; PT: 2 years; DL: 2-5 years FT: £5,500 (EU), £12,600 (O); PT: £3,025 (EU), £6,930 (O) Oct 2:1 and two years’ full-time experience in teaching English as a second or a foreign language or professional qualifications (Delta or equivalent) and several years’ ELT experience.
MA English Language Teaching (Portfolio)* Yes As above As above Oct Good relevant university degree (2:1 or equivalent)
Ulster, University of MA Tesol with six weeks overseas teaching practice placement* Six-week teaching practice in Hungary FT: 1 year; PT: 2 years FT: £4,020 (EU), £10,430 (O) Sep Honours degree or equivalent qualification. Subjects other than language-based disciplines are acceptable. Ielts 6.0 or equivalent
York, University of MA Teaching English to Young Learners (distance) PT: 2 years (DL) £5,300 for the first year Oct, Dec, Mar, Aug 2.1 degree or a teacher training qualification, teaching experience of approximately three years

Three of our listings identify the research focus of the university department offering the course: education, the English language and linguistics. The fourth category (listed third) comprises those MAs that focus on teaching. To be clear, this is a matter of emphasis. For example, masters degrees focused on teaching also cover related research. Which category each masters has been allocated is largely the choice of the course director, though we asked them to take into account the main area of research of the academic staff. In some universities, such as Birmingham and Edinburgh, different masters courses appear under different categories, reflecting the difference in research focus and balance between teaching and theory.

The decision to categorise masters courses according to research focus arose following two of the main complaints about masters courses in our ‘Good MA Guide’: around half the complainants thought the course they had done contained too much theory, while the other half thought there was too little. These are not new complaints, nor is the demand for more practical input in terms of teaching practice, teaching observation or work placements.

Part of the problem lies in the difference between the British tradition of masters for teachers and the US one. In the US a masters is usually a pre-service qualification with a heavy practical bias and a practicum, as teaching practice is known, whereas traditionally in the UK teachers take masters after an initial qualification and several years’ experience. An increasing number of British universities are offering masters suitable for graduates new to teaching (marked with a * in our listings), and there has been a sharp rise in the number including practical input. A small number, including Reading and Swansea, are even offering a portfolio route, in which teaching practice, lesson planning and materials design are offered as an alternative to the traditional research-based dissertation and can lead to an initial teaching qualification. The vast majority, however, still require a research dissertation and thus inevitably an introduction to research methodology. Moreover most UK masters are still designed for experienced teachers, as you will see if you read the entry requirements carefully.

We hope that this categorisation will make it easier for prospective postgrads to make a more informed decision about the sort of course that will suit them. It is certainly clearer than going by the name of the degree – applied linguistics certainly does not always imply more linguistics than a masters in Tesol or Tefl. In Britain even the titles MEd, MA and MSc are not a reliable indicator. The same department may offer more than one degree in the same field with the same name but a different title: Aston’s MA Tesol, for example, is open to students new to teaching, while its MSc Tesol requires two years’ teaching. And while only departments of education offer MEds and the Institute of Education (part of the University of London) awards an MA, the departments of education at Oxford, Edinburgh and Glasgow all award MScs, because as ‘ancient universities’ they all award MAs as a first degree.

Finally we apologise that this listing is less comprehensive than usual. However, while we spent over two working weeks on the research, emailing every course coordinator at least twice, copying emails to at least one other member of staff listed on the website, and calling, or attempting to call, those who did not answer written requests, we received no information on several of the courses we have listed in previous issues. Since the categorisations we are using depend on the designation of the course director, not Gazette guesswork, only in rare instances where we knew the courses well did we use our own discretion. We are happy to hear from any academics whose courses do not appear in this listing and will retain their information until the next time we run the grid. We will, however, not be able to publish apologies or updates regarding courses for which we have requested information but not received any.