MA Adult Literacy and Learning for Global Change


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Lifelong learning and adult literacy are key to achieving the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. This course offers an excellent ‘hands-on’ introduction to policy, theory and practice in this important and growing field, preparing you to take up new career opportunities.

Whether you are already working as an adult or community educator, engaged in developing policy and programmes, looking to move into a new career or want to conduct academic research in this field, this course has the flexibility to respond to your needs.

Closely linked to the UEA’s newly-established UEA UNESCO Chair for Adult Literacy and Lifelong Learning for Social Transformation, the course offers the opportunity to learn first-hand about the latest research and policy initiatives in this field . For 2017-18, a UNESCO Chair MA studentship will be awarded to the strongest applicant to this course.


The MA Adult Literacy and Learning for Global Change is designed for those working in adult education and basic literacy – whether in policy, planning and evaluation roles or as teachers, NGO activists and literacy facilitators. Whilst many of our students will be working in countries of the global South, in Asia, Africa and South America, the course is also appropriate for those in the UK, US or Europe who are interested in developing a new perspective on their work. If you have a real interest in the field of adult literacy and lifelong learning, even if you have not had much first-hand experience, we can consider your application.

Although approaches to adult literacy teaching and learning and curriculum development will be explored – including functional literacy, REFLECT and Freire – you should be aware that this is not a hands-on ‘teacher training’ course. This course will however provide you with critical insights and research skills for taking forward and developing innovative adult literacy and lifelong learning programmes, or for doing doctoral level research in this area.

This course provides:

  • an excellent base for a career in adult literacy and development, with non-governmental organisations, international development agencies or national Governments
  • a unique introduction to researching adult literacy and development, combining in-depth understanding of literacy theory and research methodology with practical experience of conducting research
  • individualised  support from internationally recognised researchers in this field, with access to a wide range of materials and adult learning, literacy and international development networks country

Alongside our regular seminars and workshops, the course includes visits to local adult learning classes. Last year, we visited an adult learning and vocational training course in a prison, English language sessions run by an NGO for refugee and asylum seekers and a adult literacy programme organised by the council. Students can also take up the opportunity to gain valuable work experience as a volunteer in an adult learning or community education programme.

If you have any queries about the suitability of this course for you, please contact the course director, Anna Robinson-Pant, who will be happy to answer your questions:

Programme Structure

You will follow a core programme introducing theoretical understanding and policy approaches in the areas of adult literacy, international development and lifelong learning. In parallel, you will choose specialist topics relevant to your own needs and interests through designing their own individual research project. You will receive one-to-one supervision for this element of the course. Those coming from professional roles in adult literacy, lifelong learning and community development programmes will have the opportunity to work on a dissertation which contributes to their organisation’s work and enhances their professional development.

There are three specialist modules on the topic of adult literacy, lifelong learning and international development, which aim to introduce the changing theoretical concepts and policy approaches within the fields of adult literacy and lifelong learning, provide an understanding of how adult education policy and programmes relate to international development policy objectives and explore the relationship between adult literacy, lifelong learning and social change (including gender relations). The specialist modules are led by Prof. Anna Robinson-Pant and Prof. Alan Rogers, both leading researchers in the field of adult literacy and development. Details of these modules can be found on the Course Profile tab.

The course also consists of a module on educational research methods and on approaches to critical reading. These provide an introduction to the tools and theoretical frameworks for conducting your own literacy research study, which forms the basis of your dissertation. All students should also choose an additional optional module from a range of subjects available on the other full-time Masters courses in the School of Education and Lifelong Learning (including MA Education: Learning, Pedagogy and Assessment or from the MA Mathematics Education or a specialist module on quantitative research methods) or a module from within Language and Communication Studies or the School of International Development. Specialist sessions and tailor-made support with academic writing are also offered to all students.

Course Teachers and Additional Resources

Professor Anna Robinson-Pant holds the prestigious UNESCO Chair in Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation. She worked as a literacy trainer, planner and researcher in Nepal over many years Awarded the UNESCO International Award for Literacy Research in 2001 for her book, Why eat green cucumber at the time of dying? Exploring the link between women’s literacy and development, she has since published widely in this area. She has conducted research and policy work for a range of organisations, including NGOs, DFID and UNESCO. 

Professor Alan Rogers has written widely on adult learning and teaching, especially in developing countries, including: Teaching Adults, Learning for Development and Non-formal Education: flexible schooling or participatory education? He has worked in many countries in Asia and Africa as a consultant and trainer, especially in adult literacy. His current projects include an ethnographic approach to literacy training called LETTER in India, Ethiopia and Uganda, and a project in Afghanistan on skills training and literacy.

Where possible, colleagues from the UEA UNESCO Chair team also contribute to the MA sessions. Students are encouraged to attend the public seminar series on Education and Development and other events organised by the UNESCO Chair team.

Experiences of Former Students

We welcome students from all over the world. We hope that you will learn from each other as well as from books and seminars. As our students comment:

“Personally not only have I learnt much from my professors but also from my classmates, some of whom had long-established working experience in the literacy field.”

“Adult literacy was unfamiliar for me before, so it is a new experience. The class is really good for us to improve self-confidence and academic learning skills. I hope everyone who is interested in adult literacy or lifelong learning can join us and be a member of our family.”

"I like the friendly atmosphere because it makes me feel easy to say my opinions.”

“After I came back to Japan, I often hear lifelong learning, especially in many local community centres. It seems like lifelong learning is finally become a ‘hot topic’ in Japan as well”.

Ioanna, from Greece, is now a youth worker with an NGO in Norwich: “I could never imagine that this degree would be so helpful in my future professional life. Classes for non-formal education, adult literacy as well as the passion and the guidance of our professors gave me the chance to see life from a different perspective. I developed a more critical insight and developed my own innovative lifelong learning programmes in the NGO where I am now working, trying to help vulnerable young people and adults.”

Our former students are now working as community educators, policy makers and adult literacy researchers in NGOs, private companies and Government organisations. Others have gone on to study at PhD level.

Course Modules 2018/9

Students must study the following modules for 160 credits:

Name Code Credits


We introduce international educational policy agendas that have influenced national policy and practice in countries in the South. We look particularly at policy designed to address language and gender inequalities and explore the research on the 'benefits' of literacy, which has influenced much international policy in this area.




We explore some of the main approaches to adult literacy and lifelong learning, including Freire, REFLECT, functional literacy, family literacy and language experience approaches. Through in-depth study of adult learning programmes in a range of countries, we examine questions around the selection, training and support of facilitators, monitoring and evaluation, learning-teaching approaches, materials and resources.




What does it mean to be a 'critical' reader? Why is critical reading important? How can you develop your criticality, both as a reader and a writer? What is the single question that reminds us to take a critical stance when reading a range of published 'texts'? This module will support you in finding answers to these questions and, importantly, help you to become a capable, critical reader of a broad range of academic publications. You will explore techniques of criticality and learn how to apply them in practice, both in your reading and academic writing at Master's level. You will be able to discuss approaches to critical reading and practise them by reading and discussing a number of different published texts. Building on your knowledge of UK and international educational issues, this module will deepen your understanding of different documents, such as education policy texts, research reports, literature reviews, as well as newspaper articles and website publications. The interactive activities have been designed in this module in ways that will enhance your critical analysis. The end-of-module assignment focuses on a critical analysis of two academic journal articles, giving you an opportunity to demonstrate the critical skills and capabilities which you have developed in the taught sessions.




Working with an individual supervisor, you are required to design, research and write up an inquiry-based project for a dissertation. With guidance from the course team, you choose a dissertation topic according to individual interests and/or professional needs.




This module provides you with a grounding in the methodology of educational inquiry as well as with some preparation before you apply your own research skills. The module offers an introduction to some key research methodologies and covers crucial aspects of qualitative inquiry. A range of methodological approaches are explored, such as ethnography and case study, and various methods of collecting qualitative data are discussed (e.g. interviewing, doing observations). You are equipped with some key skills that can help them design and conduct research in their own specialist areas of educational interest.




Starting with the concept of literacy as a social practice, we draw on ethnographic research to unpack the relationship between literacy and international development. We will discuss current theories in adult learning and their relevance for policy, planning and practice in lifelong learning, as well as including an introduction to key debates and approaches in development theory.



Students will select 20 credits from the following modules:

Name Code Credits


You may wonder why this module encourages you to explore some 'obvious' concepts and ideas such as 'learning'. Isn't it obvious what 'learning' is? Not if we take into account the fact that a google search yields millions of different answers to the question: 'What is learning?' Or that it is rather difficult to answer the question: 'How do we know that someone has learned something?' The meaning of 'learning' may not be as 'obvious' as we think. This module provides an introduction to key concepts and ideas about learning and teaching in compulsory, post-compulsory and lifelong learning that are often taken for granted as 'obvious'. You will explore how different theoretical perspectives on learning illuminate different aspects of learning and teaching interactions. You will examine these within the broader context of educational organisations and systems. The key concepts and ideas studied in this module include: 'learning'; 'cognition' and 'emotion'; learning and teaching as 'social interaction'; 'agency', 'structure' and 'culture'; 'education leadership' and 'education policy'. You will also explore how diverse approaches to learning and teaching offered by psychologists, sociologists, educational researchers and policy-makers influence everyday educational practice. The core approach to our module discussions will be based on challenging concepts and ideas that appear 'obvious' but, on closer examination, turn out to be problematic. In writing an assignment on a topic of your own choice, you will have an opportunity to challenge some of the 'obvious' ideas about your topic.




This module aims to introduce students to key ideas and concepts that underpin assessment philosophies, purposes and design in schools and universities. We will look at the history and functions of assessment and explore the different roles and types of assessment and problems and challenges. Against this backdrop we will then consider assessment design in relation to curricula and/or pedagogy.




The aim of this module is to help you understand and critically examine, policy-making processes and specific policies for educational development. You will discover the relationships between policy and practice in a range of international, national and local development contexts. Through this module you will explore different approaches to policy development and familiarise yourself with dominant global policy agendas in education - asking who makes or influences policy, and considering policies as socially situated documents, practices and processes. The module introduces you to educational policy-making to address a range of development challenges and how related strategies are enacted in practice; drawing on policy theory and ethnographic and school-based research, as well as practical sessions to unpack the approaches and skills needed for successful advocacy and campaigning.




Do you wish to pursue a career in international management and relations, multilingual business, or international development? Are you interested in becoming a more effective communicator in other professions such as translation, interpreting, education, and cultural mediation? In this module we will explore the issues fundamental to intercultural communication (IC) in practical contexts. You will examine the different ways of thinking about effective communication in a variety of work/organisation-based environments. During the seminars/lecture series, invited practitioners will introduce you to how IC operates in specific organisations, including government agencies or in multilingual business management. On completion of this module, you will have developed the linguistic skills, cultural competence, and critical thinking required for the production of an extended research project in intercultural communication. You will also have acquired a sense of how cultural assumptions may influence communication with others from different backgrounds, and developed a greater willingness to enter into dialogue with the values prevalent in cultures other than your own.




The aim of the module is for you to gain an understanding of current debates on the principles and theories linking education to development in a range of social contexts. The module will introduce you to theories of education and development including international and comparative education. These are examined in relation to the broader challenges of development. Topics in the module may include: theories of human development and capabilities, human capital and rights based approaches, theories of equity, social justice and inclusive education. You will examine schooling in contexts of chronic poverty, models of schooling and de-schooling, formal and non-formal education, the challenges of linguistic and cultural diversity, inclusive education and disability, gender inequalities, and the education of nomads and other migratory groups.




The content of this module complements and elaborates the 20-credit Research Methods in Education compulsory module of the full-time MA programme in Education. It aims to introduce students to elementary concepts and methods in statistical analysis and to help them make well-informed choices in their uses of appropriate methodological techniques and tools in their own research. The module is of relevance to all students who want to understand the way quantitative evidence is generated, analysed and interpreted and to those who might choose to collect quantitative data (e.g. through questionnaires) or use mixed methods (i.e. both qualitative and quantitative).




This module demonstrates the use of the theories introduced in the module Key theories in research into the teaching and learning of mathematics through a series of seminal studies into the teaching and learning of mathematics at primary, secondary and university levels.




Following a brief exploration of the foundations of mathematics education as a research discipline, this module covers key theories deployed in research into the teaching and learning of mathematics. Starting out from theorists with a huge influence on mathematics education research such as Piaget and Vygotsky, we introduce key theoretical constructs employed in research into the learning and teaching of mathematics. These include: # developmental theory constructs such as: Relational and Instrumental Understanding; Concept Image - Concept Definition; APOS Theory; and, Procepts # the key tenets of sociocultural and discursive approaches including concepts such as Social Norms and Sociomathematical Norms; and the theory of Commognition. # theories of embodied cognition as well as influences of neuroscience (such as MIA, Mathematical Idea Analysis) # anthropological approaches involving concepts such as Didactical Contract, Didactical Transposition and, more broadly the Anthropological Theory of Didactics. Also the theory of Communities of Practice.




This module aims to give students the opportunity to explore and critically consider key issues about pedagogy. It discusses a wide array of ideas and theories that have influenced pedagogic thinking and practice, in various settings, formats and contexts. In particular, it engages with classical and contemporary accounts that have been put forward by as a diverse body thinkers as Plato, Confucius, Freire, Illich and contemporary social movements. Some of the topics we explore include the effect of information technology on leaning and thinking, the meaning and significance of critical pedagogy, the idea of deschooling society, the pedagogy of social movements as well as alternative ways of learning and teaching and enhancing pedagogic relations and interactions.




This introduces seminal studies in the use of technology in the teaching and learning of a range of mathematical topics such as: # Number and Arithmetic, mainly at primary level; # Algebra and Geometry, mainly at secondary level; # Calculus and Linear Algebra, mainly at university level; # Mathematical Reasoning and Proof across educational levels; and, # Mathematical Notation, Language and Representations across educational levels. Issues of teacher knowledge, beliefs and teacher education in relation to the use of technology are addressed across levels.




Whilst the University will make every effort to offer the modules listed, changes may sometimes be made arising from the annual monitoring, review and update of modules and regular (five-yearly) review of course programmes. Where this activity leads to significant (but not minor) changes to programmes and their constituent modules, there will normally be prior consultation of students and others. It is also possible that the University may not be able to offer a module for reasons outside of its control, such as the illness of a member of staff or sabbatical leave. In some cases optional modules can have limited places available and so you may be asked to make additional module choices in the event you do not gain a place on your first choice. Where this is the case, the University will endeavour to inform students.

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Entry Requirements

  • Degree Subject Education or a Social Science subject
  • Degree Classification UK 2.1 or equivalent

Entry Requirement

Please note that this course will not run in September 2017.  Applicants should apply for September 2018 entry only.

Applicants should normally have a good degree from a recognised higher education institution. The University will also take into account the employment experience of applicants where relevant and applications are actively encouraged from those who want to return to academic study.

It is normal for undergraduate students to apply for entry to postgraduate programmes in their final year of study. Applicants who have not yet been awarded a degree may be offered a place conditional on their attaining a particular class of degree.

Students for whom English is a Foreign language

We welcome applications from students whose first language is not English. To ensure such students benefit from postgraduate study, we require evidence of proficiency in English. Our usual entry requirements are as follows:

  • IELTS: 6.5 (minimum 6.0 in all components)
  • PTE (Pearson): 62 (minimum 55 in all components)

Test dates should be within two years of the course start date.

Other tests, including Cambridge English exams and the Trinity Integrated Skills in English are also accepted by the university. The full list of accepted tests can be found here: Accepted English Language Tests

INTO UEA also run pre-sessional courses which can be taken prior to the start of your course. For further information and to see if you qualify please contact

Fees and Funding

Fees for the academic year 2018/19 will be: 

  • UK/EU Students: £7,550
  • International Students: £15,800

International applicants from outside the EU may need to pay a deposit.

​Living Expenses

We estimate living expenses at £1,015 per month.

Scholarships and Funding

The University offers a variety of Scholarships each year to support students in their studies. Scholarships are normally awarded to students on the basis of academic merit and are usually for the duration of the period of study.

For 2017-18, A UNESCO Chair Scholarship worth £3000 will be awarded for the MA in Adult Literacy and Learning for Global Change.

Find out more about the Postgraduate Student Loan.

How to Apply

Applications for Postgraduate Taught programmes at the University of East Anglia should be made directly to the University.

You can apply online.

Further Information

To request further information & to be kept up to date with news & events please use our online enquiry form.

If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances prior to applying please do contact us:

Postgraduate Admissions Office
Tel: +44 (0)1603 591515

International candidates are also encouraged to access the International Students section of our website.

    Next Steps

    We can’t wait to hear from you. Just pop any questions about this course into the form below and our enquiries team will answer as soon as they can.

    Admissions enquiries: or
    telephone +44 (0)1603 591515