MA Second Language Education

Full Time
Degree of Master of Arts


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Key facts

(Guardian University Guide 2019)

Key facts

(REF 2014)

Understanding the principles, practices and policies governing second language education internationally is key in our increasingly interconnected, multilingual societies.

Our Second Language Education Master’s course is ideal for anyone who wishes to develop a critical understanding of the issues at stake, both nationally and internationally. You’ll explore the major theoretical questions and debates related to second language education and gain insight into policymaking and planning, as well as teaching and learning second languages. It is provides the ideal platform from which to analyse innovation and change in second language education.

Our course is open to qualified teachers and practitioners, as well as to graduates new to the field. Whatever your background, if you have experience of learning a second language and an interest in second language education, our MA will help you further develop your knowledge of current issues and trends in policy development and practice.


In the MA in Second Language Education, you’ll study with students from around the world, bringing a wide range of perspectives to enrich learning. You’ll spend time investigating second language education case studies from a range of countries and exploring research related to second language, pedagogy, curriculum development and policy-making.

Through reading and analysing existing research, you'll develop skills to critically appraise current issues in second language education. This will inform the development of practice within your own national context and enable cross-country comparison. Understanding related international literature will support the development of skills relevant to becoming a policy maker, curriculum planner or teacher.

At the end of your MA in Second Language Education, you may also decide to pursue an additional qualification – the prestigious Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) – with a local partner of ours.  You’ll have the opportunity of starting it right after your Master’s course, and you’ll be offered a discounted fee rate (15%).


Course Structure

The programme consists of seven modules, worth a total of 180 credits. Your six taught modules will each be worth 20 credits: five will be compulsory, and the sixth will be an optional module of your choosing. Your seventh module will be your 60-credit dissertation.

The taught modules will run in the autumn and spring semesters. You’ll undertake your dissertation in the spring semester, and submit it by the end of August.

Your compulsory modules will include:

Principles And Practice In Second Language Education

Starting with theories of how children acquire their first language, in this module you’ll look at research on second language learning and how it contributes to the development of principles and practices in second language education. You’ll examine differences among learners and learning contexts, and their implications for second language teaching. You’ll also look at different approaches to teaching a second language in classrooms globally.

Language Learning In Context

Why do teachers teach the way they do? What influences their practice? What effect does this have on learners? What role does context play in determining how Second Language Education takes place? As well as local factors, wider global, cultural, and educational trends all have an impact in language classrooms. In this module, you will examine concepts related to teacher and learner identities, as well as intercultural understanding and competency.

Introducing Innovation And Change

Around the world, teachers and policy makers are looking for initiatives to improve the teaching and learning of second languages. However, the introduction of new policies can be costly, so careful consideration needs to be given to what is likely to work and what might not. Through consideration of case studies and research, this module will prepare you to analyse the factors that can improve attempts to innovate and bring about successful change.

Critical Reading

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.

Educational Research Methods

This module will provide you with a grounding in the methodology of educational inquiry, as well as equipping you with skills to design and conduct your own research. It will also offer an introduction to some key research techniques and cover crucial aspects of qualitative inquiry.


You will choose a Master’s dissertation topic based on your interests and professional background, with guidance from our team. You’ll then work with an individual supervisor to design, conduct research, and write up your project.

Optional module

In addition to the compulsory modules, you’ll select one optional module from the range on offer. The modules change every year, but typical examples include:

  • Educational Policy And Practice For Development
  • Intercultural Communication In Practice
  • Intercultural Education And Training
  • Introduction To Education For Development
  • Key Studies Into The Teaching And Learning Of Mathematics Across Educational Levels
  • Key Theories In Research Into The Teaching And Learning Of Mathematics
  • Literacy, Development And Adult Learning: An Introduction To The Concepts
  • The Use Of Technology In The Teaching And Learning Of Mathematics

Teaching and Learning

Teaching and learning

Teaching methods vary throughout our modules and will include a combination of lectures, seminars, workshops, group and pair work, and self-directed study. You will also take part in discussions and debates, as well as making oral, visual and written presentations.

You will be taught by specialists in the field of second language education policy, as well as experienced academic staff who have gained expertise through the research they’ve conducted on a range of educational topics.

We place an emphasis on interactive activities and problem solving to help you develop effective communication skills. You will be encouraged to use to use your initiative, creativity and originality to analyse case studies and solve problems and conundrums.

You can find further information about our teaching staff by visiting staff profiles available on the School of Education and Lifelong Learning website pages.    

Enrichment activities

Guest lectures, opportunities to observe teaching and talking to current practitioners form an integral part of the course, providing you with valuable insights and networking opportunities.

Academic support

All Master’s students in the School of Education and Lifelong Learning have access to enhanced English language tutoring to support the development of their academic writing. In addition, our ‘Critical reading’ modules will offer you focused activities and workshops designed to support your critical reading and advanced academic writing skills. You will also be encouraged to actively engage with your academic advisers and module leaders.

Independent learning

To master your independent learning you’ll spend time conducting your own research. You’ll have access to UEA’s excellent library and online journals and resources, as well as the specialist study spaces designated to postgraduate students at UEA


You will experience a range of assessment methods throughout the course. Some modules will include examinations, while others will be 100% coursework.

After the course

Successful completion of our course will put you in an advantageous position to seek employment in a wide range of education-related roles within schools, the post-compulsory sector, and not-for-profit organisations.

The skills and knowledge you’ll develop during the course will enable you to work within the areas of teaching, planning and innovation, and policymaking.

The high-quality, interdisciplinary nature of our course will also provide you with a solid foundation for progressing to doctoral research.

Career destinations

  • Second Language Teaching positions in compulsory and post-compulsory public education sectors
  • Second Language Education policymaking in the public and private sectors
  • Local government planning, advising, and policy making in Second Language Education spheres
  • NGOs, not-for-profit and private educational development organisations – teaching, planning and policy making
  • Think tanks, research organisations and charities

Course related costs

Please see Additional Course Fees for details of additional course-related costs.

Course Modules 2020/1

Students must study the following modules for 160 credits:

Name Code Credits


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'?




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




This module provides students with a grounding in the methodology of educational inquiry as well as with some preparation before they apply their 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). Students are equipped with some key skills that can help them design and conduct research in their own specialist areas of educational interest.




Initiatives to improve the teaching of a second language are a feature of many government policies across the world, especially English Language Teaching, but not exclusively. Given that the formulation and introduction of new policy usually aims to improve student outcomes but can be costly, careful consideration needs to be given to what is likely to work and what not. This is exactly what this module will focus upon, aiming to prepare you to analyse those factors which can help to improve attempts to innovate and bring about successful change in second language teaching and learning. In this module, you will consider the principles of innovation and change at both system and the local levels through case study. You will have the opportunity to consider innovation and change through taking a critical look at teacher education, curriculum design, second language assessment, and the use of digital technologies within specific contexts in order to understand how these influence student outcomes. Your knowledge and understanding will be enhanced through a mixture of lecture input, seminars, group work, pair work, and self- directed study. Through studying the principles of innovation and change in second language education, you will be enabled to make judgements and arguments about how planning for second language education could proceed, in addition to evaluating the factors which are likely to influence successful change.




What role does context play in determining how Second Language Education (SLE) takes place? Wider global, cultural, and educational trends affect what occurs in language classrooms as well as local factors - and these are the important issues that you will learn about in this module. This module covers a range of themes. You will examine concepts related to teacher and learner identities, the influence of critical theory, and intercultural understanding, competence and learning. Why do teachers teach the way they do? What influences their practice? What are the factors that they believe are important for effective second language teaching and learning? What effect does this have on learners? You will answers to these questions and develop your knowledge and understanding through a mixture of lecture input, seminars, group work, pair work, and self- directed study, so that you learn about SLE in action. All of this will support your evaluation skills and enable you to ask and answer critical questions about how SLE is influenced in different learning environments, from pre-school to university settings. You will have the opportunity to present your ideas and beliefs on the themes covered through discussion, debate, and oral, visual and written presentations throughout the module. Assessment is through 100% coursework.




Starting with theories of how children learn (or acquire) their first language, we look at research on second language learning and how this contributes to the development of principles and practices in second language education. We examine differences among learners and learning contexts and the implications for second language teaching. We then examine different approaches to teaching a second language in classrooms globally, including the communicative approach, immersion, the bilingual classroom and the post-methods approach, with its focus on teacher and learner strategies and goals.



Students will select 20 credits from the following modules:

Name Code Credits


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 critique policy-related writing, examine models of educational quality and curricula, and explore issues of school-related gender based violence.




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.




It is often claimed that intercultural communication is essential in today's globalised world, but how can it be taught, learned and assessed? This question is essential for practitioners in a wide range of educational contexts and it is the central theme you will explore. You don't need to have a teaching qualification to take this module. Whether you are a current or an aspiring teacher, trainer, mentor or coach, you will examine the pedagogical tools of intercultural learning that can be applied in your subject specialism. You will have the chance to gain a firm grounding in key notions from theoretical and empirical perspectives, delving deeply into critical pedagogy and uncovering core concepts, such as curriculum internationalisation, global citizenship and intercultural education. You will benefit from the flexibility of this module and gain experience in adapting new knowledge to suit your individual interests, needs and career aspirations, and will learn through a mixture of seminars and self-directed study carefully structured around central themes, analysing current research in highly interactive and critically reflective teaching sessions. As you study, you will put your new knowledge into practice through the application of theories to specific teaching and training contexts. On successful completion of this module, you will have the knowledge and skills to put yourself in a better position to gain employment where intercultural training and education is required, for example in multinational companies, non-governmental organisations, government departments, the education sector and health care industry. This module is suited to practising or future teachers, trainers, trainees, educators, coaches, consultants, mentors, curriculum developers and any other professionals in a broad range of fields (e.g. language teaching, content and language integrated learning, media, business, politics, international relations, translation and healthcare). The teaching sessions will be delivered in the English language.




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.




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. We cover developmental / cognitive, sociocultural, discursive and anthropological approaches.




This module 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 Social Science/Humanities. English, Modern Languages and other second languages desirable.
  • Degree Classification UK 2:1 or equivalent.
  • Special Entry Requirements Second language teaching experience desirable but not essential.

Entry Requirement

Applicants should normally have a good Bachelor 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): 58 (minimum 50 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.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be offering Pre-sessional courses online from June to September 2020. Further details can be found on the INTO UEA Online Pre-Sessional English webpage.


Fees and Funding

Tuition fees for the academic year 2020/21 are:

  • UK/EU Students: £7,850 (full time)
  • International Students: £16,400 (full time)

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


We offer a variety of School-specific and University-wide scholarships each year to support UK, EU and international 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.

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.

To apply please use our online application form.

Further Information

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.

For academic queries about MA Second Language Education, please contact the Course Director Prof Nalini Boodhoo

    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.

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    telephone +44 (0)1603 591515