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English Linguistics (Distance Learning) - MA

  • Level: Postgraduate Taught
  • Starting: July 2021
  • Study mode: Distance Learning
  • Location: This course is offered via online learning.
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In order to get you to the correct application form, we need to ask you a couple of questions:

Studying with us in 2020/21

While the majority of our teaching will be carried out face-to-face this year, you will be taught as part of a blended learning approach. This means that you will have a mix of on-campus and online learning. Find out more about learning and teaching in 2020/21.

The MA in English Linguistics is a flexible distance-learning programme. You can work at your own pace fitting your study around work and other commitments.

The programme is well established, having been introduced in 1992, but it continues to evolve. It’s now delivered via the Moodle virtual learning environment with interactive content being developed exclusively for MA students.

What's covered in the course?

This programme will enable you to develop advanced analytical skills and in-depth linguistic knowledge, and to gain experience as an independent researcher.

It begins with the Language Description module, designed to give you confidence in working with the essential building blocks of linguistic analysis: grammar, morphology, and phonology. You’ll then study Data, Theory & Method, covering topics such as hypothesis testing, the role of linguistic theory, data collection, academic referencing and research ethics. There are optional modules too, covering topics such as sociolinguistics, second language acquisition, spoken discourse analysis, and the history of the English language. In choosing three of these modules you can tailor your studies to your individual interests and career aspirations. The final dissertation is a piece of original research on a topic of your choice.

One of our key strengths is that the programme is taught by leading authorities on the subjects covered. Our teaching staff are active researchers who, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, publish world-leading journal articles, chapters and books. This research feeds directly into the MA learning materials.

You’ll be fully supported by a tutor assigned to you when you begin each module who can be contacted by email or telephone. There’s no requirement for you ever to attend the University, but there are ample opportunities for you to do so if you wish.

This is a staged qualification, meaning you can choose to exit with either a Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma or you can continue to the MA stage.

“The modules are diverse and very interesting yet challenging as well. The teaching staff are brilliant and easy to communicate with via email, phone and even face to face if you make an appointment. I love that the staff are not only approachable but they offer superb feedback on formal and informal assignments. They challenge you in order to draw out your creative side and produce high level of work. The course is well structured and the modules are broad so you're covering a lot of different aspects of linguistics.” MA Linguistics graduate, 2016

Why Choose Us?

  • The course is taught by leading authorities in the field. The 2014 Research Excellence Framework judged that 76.3 per cent of the books and articles written by School of English lecturers were either world-leading or internationally excellent, putting us in the top 20 English departments in the country.
  • You'll be given support and guidance from our dedicated team of staff throughout.
  • The MA is delivered entirely through distance-learning with no requirement for you ever to attend the University.
  • The course is designed for maximum flexibility, with a generous time limit of 6 months for each module (16 months for the dissertation) and a 5 year maximum enrolment period overall.
  • Fees are charged on a modular basis as you progress through the course, with no up-front costs.
  • This is a chance for you to study a subject you love at your own pace, anywhere in the world.

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This course is open to International students

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Our students have progressed into jobs such as:

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New £11,222 postgraduate loans

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Entry Requirements

Essential Requirements

You would normally have a UK or internationally recognised honours degree, or its equivalent, in any relevant subject.

An alternative would be an ordinary degree/teaching certificate and two to three years' teaching experience.

Extra information for EU/International students

For anyone who has studied at undergraduate level in a non-English-speaking country, we also require an English Language qualification equivalent to a British Council IELTS score of 7.0.

International Students

Entry requirements here

International Students

Don't meet our entry requirements? You could apply for courses at our International College.

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  • UK/EU students
  • International students

Award: MA

Starting: Jul 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Distance Learning
  • 2-5 years
  • Temporarily unavailable

Award: MA

Starting: Jul 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Distance Learning
  • 2-5 years
  • Temporarily unavailable

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form and equal opportunities PDF form instead. The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.


Fees are displayed per 20-credit module.

The cost of each 40-credit module = 2 X 20-credit modules.

The cost of each 60-credit module = 3 X 20-credit modules.

Personal statement

Students are required to submit a personal statement as part of their application for this course.

Your postgraduate personal statement is going to shine a light on your personal experience, academic success, personal skills and any other factors that will support your application for further study.

Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:

Your passion and motivations

Studying a postgraduate course usually means you want to specialise in something. So what’s driving you?

Why this course?

Show that you’ve researched the course offering. What is it about this particular course that appeals to you? Is it the lecturers? The modules? Etc.

What makes you a good postgraduate candidate?

Tutors want to know that you can handle postgraduate study, so show them how your undergraduate experiences or work life has equipped you for a more advanced level of study. Key areas to address are research and group work but this can vary depending on your chosen course.

Relevant academic or work experience

Add anything relevant that relates back to your chosen course and shows how your skills will contribute towards your learning. What extra-curricular activities have you taken part in? What awards have you won? What employment or voluntary experience do you have that has helped you develop transferable skills? How do these specifically relate to the course you are applying for?

You should also mention your future plans and how a postgraduate qualification fits in. Try to look beyond your postgraduate study – do you plan to jump straight into a specific career or follow your studies with a research degree? Lastly, use plain, professional English and, where possible, utilise the language of your chosen industry.

Get more information on writing personal statements.

If you have any questions about applying, please contact us.

Financial Support

We offer further information on possible postgraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.


In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 120 credits):

40 credits

This introductory module is designed to provide you with theoretical knowledge and practical experience in linguistic analysis which will serve as the foundations for your study throughout the programme. The module assumes no prior knowledge of linguistic analysis and is designed to guide you through the process step by step. During the module, you will examine the main features of the pronunciation of English and of the grammar and vocabulary of the language. You will gain experience in phonetic transcription, and in the analysis of words (morphology) and of sentences (syntax). The module provides you with a framework and a terminology for talking about and describing key features of English phonology and lexicogrammar.

20 credits

This module is designed to help you develop core skills in linguistic research which are vital for your work on the subsequent optional modules and dissertation, and which are also transferable to the workplace or further study. During the course of the module, you will be guided through the whole research process, from conducting a literature review and developing a hypothesis, to collecting and analysing data and writing it up in an appropriate way. The module also covers important practical topics such as academic referencing, fieldwork techniques and research ethics.

60 credits

The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and theoretically informed research project exploring an area that is of personal interest to you. It is important that we can support you appropriately, so you will be guided towards choosing a research topic which is relevant to your discipline and in which your lecturers have expertise. The outcome may take the form of a written dissertation or a practical outcome with accompanying reflective, critical and contextual material. The main consideration when choosing your topic is that it must be relevant to your programme and you should consider the relevance of this topic to your future academic or professional development.

In order to complete this course you must also successfully complete at least 60 credits from the following indicative list of OPTIONAL modules.

20 credits

In this module you will examine the patterns, organisation and functions of spoken discourse. You will discover what linguistic structures operate in conversation and other types of spoken discourse and how personal and social factors influence the strategies speakers employ in interaction. You will acquire an understanding of some of the theoretical and methodological approaches that have been taken in Linguistics and associated disciplines to the analysis of spoken discourse, including discourse analysis, conversational analysis, speech acts, and the ethnography of speaking. The analyses of various features of spoken interaction are included, such as turn-taking, topic control, intonation, discourse markers and repetition. Throughout, you are encouraged to relate the theoretical concepts to data you have collected yourself.

20 credits

This module introduces you to the study of the history of English Language and the major periods of English from pre-1000 through to the present day. You will examine a range of texts from different authors and genres and learn to identify and discuss the primary characteristics of English at different points in time. The module will develop your understanding of how to analyse language data in a robust and methodologically sound way and how to use your linguistic knowledge to critically evaluate literary and non-literary data, alongside equipping you with the skills, insights and appropriate theoretical approaches necessary to analyse and describe changes in the structure of the English Language. You will also focus on the ways in which major historical developments have influenced linguistic variation and change.

20 credits

The module provides an introduction to the study of Second Language Acquisition, with particular focus on the main theoretical constructs used in current research and pedagogical approaches. You will study a range of approaches to second language acquisition and develop the knowledge and skills to critically evaluate research methods and potential pedagogical applications. You will be able to use terminology appropriately, synthesize the most relevant ideas, and evaluate the advantages and weaknesses of various research studies. You will develop the understanding and knowledge necessary for interdisciplinary research at the intersection of linguistics, cognitive studies and pedagogy.

20 credits

This module will introduce you to the field of sociolinguistics and the wider study of language in society, drawing on a range of foundational and contemporary literature. You will learn about the different approaches within sociolinguistics, including qualitative and quantitative methods, alongside an understanding of how language varies according to social factors such as class, gender, and age. You will design and deliver a research project investigating a sociolinguistic topic of your own choosing and will develop a thorough grounding on how to collect sociolinguistic data in an ethically responsible way and how to analyse and present your research findings. This module will ultimately allow you to critically evaluate different approaches to the study of linguistic variation and apply your knowledge in designing a research project to investigate language in society.

Corpus Linguistics
20 credits
Please note list of optional modules is indicative only. Students’ choice will not be guaranteed for optional modules but a fair and transparent process will be adopted and shared with students.

Programme structure

The maximum registration period on the programme is 60 months (five years). Application may be made to suspend registration if you are unable to continue for a period. This is called a temporary withdrawal. If you do take a temporary withdrawal, you should be aware that the time you take out is counted as part of the maximum registration period. There is no minimum registration period.

If you leave the course without completing successfully 180 credits, you may be entitled to be awarded an exit award of either Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits) or a Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits) providing you have passed the relevant modules for these stages.

For the PGCert award, you need to complete 60 credits for two core modules: Language Description (40 credit programme module); Data, Theory & Method in Linguistics (20 credit programme module).

For the PGDip award, you need to complete a further 60 credits by choosing 3 optional modules from the following list (20 credits each): Analysis of Spoken Discourse, History of the English Language, Second Language Acquisition, Sociolinguistics.

For MA award, you also need to complete the 60 credit Major Project (Dissertation).

Successful completion of the five 'taught' modules, including Language Description and Data, Theory & Method and three of the optional modules, enables you to progress to the dissertation stage. The additional successful completion of a dissertation qualifies you for the award of Master of Arts in English Linguistics (total of 180 credits).

Further Study

There are a number of opportunities to consider upon completing your MA course. Popular options include MPhil or PhD studies.

For further information on courses contact Birmingham City University Choices. Tel: 0121 331 5595. Email:, or go direct to the courses section of the website.

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Enhancing your employability skills

Although the programme is not designed to train students for a specific career, you will develop knowledge and practical skills that will enhance your employability and help you to progress in a wide range of careers. The key transferable skills you will gain on the MA programme are as follows:

  • communicating in writing in a fluent, concise and precise manner; constructing substantial pieces of prose using appropriate register and style.
  • abstracting and synthesising information; collecting, analysing and manipulating data of diverse kinds.
  • recognising problems and developing problem-solving strategies, and evaluating their effectiveness.
  • working independently; demonstrating initiative and self-motivation; having effective organisational skills and time management.


OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

Graduate jobs

Many of our students are English teachers who find the skills and knowledge they develop invaluable in their career development. Unlike some other programmes, however, this MA is not tied specifically to the teaching profession and opens up a wide range of opportunities for work or further study.

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Out international students

More than 50% of the students on this programme are from outside the UK. All students, wherever they are in the world, have the same access to materials, the same support from tutors and pay the same fees.

£1500 Scholarship

Start in January and receive a £1500 scholarship on eligible courses.

Find out more

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.


BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC

Our English Linguistics course is delivered through the Moodle online learning resource, with online study materials to guide you through the appropriate topics, as well as providing links to other resources. You will also need textbooks, and a full reading list is provided with each module syllabus.

Although it is taught by distance learning, you will still have regular contact with your module tutor by email or telephone. We also offer optional periodic seminar talks where you can meet the course team, along with your fellow students.

Meet our staff

One of the key strengths of the MA in English Linguistics is that it is taught by leading researchers in each of the sub-fields of Linguistics covered.

The Programme Director, Dr Andrew Kehoe, is an Associate Professor and Director of the Research & Development Unit for English Studies.

Dr Robert Lawson is a Senior Lecturer specialising in Sociolinguistics, while Dr Tatiana Tkacukova is an expert in Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

Professor Howard Jackson, author of several textbooks on English grammar, vocabulary and lexicography, established the MA in English Linguistics in 1992 and, though he has now retired from face-to-face teaching, continues to teach the MA Language Description module.

Andrew Kehoe

Dr Andrew Kehoe

Associate Professor / Director of Research

Andrew Kehoe is Director of Research in English and Director of the Research and Development Unit for English Studies (RDUES). He studied at the University of Liverpool, gaining qualifications in both English and Computer Science. He researches in the field of Corpus Linguistics: the creation and study of a collection of texts (or corpus) in order to extract new knowledge about language in use. Andrew’s particular emphasis is on the use of the web as a source of natural language data and on the development of software tools to facilitate this.

Dr Robert Lawson

Associate Professor

Dr Robert Lawson completed his ESRC-funded PhD thesis at the University of Glasgow in 2009, focusing on urban adolescent language use in a high school in Glasgow. Since joining Birmingham City University, Dr Lawson has expanded his focus to encompass research on language in the media, language and masculinities, and the application of sociolinguistic research beyond academia, drawing on a range of methodologies and approaches. 

Read Robert's full profile

Dr Tatiana Tkacukova

Senior Lecturer and MA English Linguistics Course Director

Read Tatiana's full profile

Dr Mark McGlashan

Lecturer in English Language

Dr Mark McGlashan is Lecturer in English Language, Associate Director of Research, and Research Degrees Coordinator in BCU’s School of English. Alongside these roles, he holds the position of Institute Lead for Enterprise and Employability within the Birmingham Institute of Media and English (BIME). Previous positions include periods as Research Fellow at the WMG Cyber Security Centre, University of Warwick and Senior Research Associate at the ESRC-Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS), Lancaster University.

Mark studied at Lancaster University where he earned his doctorate in Applied Linguistics. His PhD thesis examined representations of same-sex parent families in children’s picturebooks, a rare collection of publications he has widely written and presented on. His interests predominantly centre on Corpus-based (Critical) Discourse Studies and the application of corpus methods to the analysis of a wide range of social issues including nationalism, racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Read Mark's full profile