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Course content

The Autism (Adults) programme is a distance learning programme which is studied part-time. It is appropriate for practitioners working with adults across the autism spectrum in a range of services and in both specialist and mainstream environments. The course draws upon your own experience as a practitioner, and through the set assessments, you will consider how your learning informs your practice.

The University of Birmingham is a leading provider of degree-level education in autistic spectrum disorders in the UK - offering Professional Development courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Our courses develop real insight and encourage reflective practice. You will be tutored by senior practitioners and researchers in the field who work within the Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER). You will have access to an extensive library, research materials and a large online community of students in the field of autism. Academic credits and qualifications can be used as a springboard to further study and we accept both vocational and academic qualifications as entry criteria.

Download information on all the postgraduate study programmes in the School of Education (PDF)

Course details

The Autism (Adults) distance learning programme aims to provide you with knowledge of the autism spectrum, including Asperger syndrome, based on theory, research and practice. You will be taught to consider how autism theory applies to the individuals that you support in their adult lives, and what this should mean for your own practice. Autistic authors and researchers contribute to our study materials, so that you will gain insights into the diversity of the autistic experience, and learn about the range of individual and social barriers that can be experienced. The course will also encourage you think for yourself and use your professional skills to select and research topics of relevance to your own situation. 

You will have a personal tutor in a small online or regional tutor group, with study supported through study packs, tutorial groups, telephone, email and the online virtual learning environment network, encouraging you to develop through shared experience (Internet access is required for the programme). There are two compulsory university-based study weekends in the first year - find out more about this in the Learning and Teaching section.

The following awards are offered for this programme.

  • AdCert (Level H) Three core modules
  • PGCert (Level M) Three core modules
  • BPhil (Level H) Three core modules plus one optional module and a 10,000 word dissertation
  • PGDip (Level M) Three core modules plus three optional modules
  • MEd (Level M) Three core modules plus two optional modules, PIE and a 15,000 word dissertation

The entry level will depend on your academic qualifications as well as professional experience. Learn more about admission requirements in the School of Education. If you don't already hold a recognised degree, the appropriate level for entry will be the undergraduate level. However, you will have the opportunity to progress through to postgraduate level. 

We also run two more autism programmes which may interest you:

There are also other programmes which incorporate modules on autism such as: 

Learning and teaching

You can study this distance learning programme on a part-time basis from anywhere in the UK or internationally (if you have access to the Internet). By studying at a distance, you remain in your work setting and can therefore tailor the programme to meet your professional needs or your particular interests and experiences.Learning and teaching take place through:

Self-study materials

Self-study materials in the form of booklets are sent to you and other online resources are available within the virtual learning environment (VLE) and the e-library which has an extensive collection of online journals and ebooks. The VLE is designed to enhance your studies, giving you immediate access to resources and documents including interview footage with prominent autistic authors and researchers. It is designed to be viewed alongside your reading to help you translate theoretical ideas into actual practice. The VLE also offers you an important opportunity to make contact with other students, not only in your own tutor group but across the Autism programmes, through bulletin boards and online chats.

The programme is structured as Modules and divided into Units. Each Module has overall aims and outcomes and the specific aims and outcomes of the Units contribute to achieving these. By keeping the aims and outcomes in mind as you study, you will be able to check your own development and make sure that you are 'on target'. The core reading materials are designed to provide a comprehensive overview of theory and practice in relation to adults on the autism spectrum. Depending on your work setting, previous experience, and your personal goals in pursuing this study, you may choose to either work methodically through all of the materials, or to select parts that are relevant to your particular area of interest. Some students wish to develop a broad spectrum of knowledge and have never studied autism before; others join the course with an existing knowledge base and wish to use the course to develop one particular area of interest through their study. You will know best how best to utilise the study materials to suit your own personal study needs. In addition to the programme booklets, you are expected to read a range of other books and journal articles, especially at Masters level.

Online or regional tutorials

Online tutorials or regional tutorials (with a tutor and small group of other students) will support you in your learning. At the tutorials you will discuss course materials, plan assignments and share your experiences of practice in the field of autism. The tutorials are a compulsory part of the course and must be attended.


Visit the Autism (Adults) - MEd/PGDip/PGCert page on the University of Birmingham website for more details!

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