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Full time & Part time October MA 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time

About the course

Our MA Contemporary History and Politics lays a strong emphasis on the critical analysis of the recent past, giving you specialist knowledge of particular regions and themes. You will study the complex interplay between national, international and global political, social and historical forces that have produced the contemporary world, and develop the approaches, techniques and skills of the professional historian.

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Entry Requirements

Our standard postgraduate entry requirement is a second-class honours degree from a UK university, or an equivalent international qualification.

Our Graduate Certificate in History can be used as a conversion course if you want to study history but have a degree in a significantly different discipline.

If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, the requirement for this course is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 7.0, with not less than 6.5 in each sub-test and at least 7.0 in writing.

 Course Content

Where is Birkbeck, University of London


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Student Profile(s)

Neil Johnson

Neil said: 'I am vaguely surprised at the age of 75 to find myself being awarded an MA, but I am a great believer in lifelong learning.'

The return to study was motivated by Neil’s need to gain a better understanding of employment law. He was working part-time as a regional official for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and an understanding of employment law was beneficial. When he retired from that role, aged 70, he began to wonder what to do next. His previous studies in Law and related topics had led him onto further study in areas including comparative history, political philosophy, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. He comments: 'My developing interest in these areas sparked the idea of studying for a further degree, and after careful examination of the prospectus and discussions with staff at Open Evenings, I discovered that Birkbeck offered plenty of enticing options that appealed to me.'

As one of the oldest students in his classes, Neil found that the variety of student backgrounds in each group created a great atmosphere during discussions. “We were a very mixed group of people, teachers, people starting out in their careers and some who had retired and that really enhanced the learning experience. One of the fascinations of Birkbeck is that the elderly looking man who had just walked into the room is not the lecturer - that's the young chap in jeans who has just followed him in!” he comments.

Before deciding to study at Birkbeck, Neil was aware of the strong research profile of the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy, and found that this became evident in lectures. He said: 'I came out of two hour seminars thinking "I want more", having got a real buzz from it all.'

Neil took full advantage of the libraries at Birkbeck, and in the Bloomsbury area and arranged his modules so that he would have time to do enough reading and research on each topic; however he still needed a lot of self-discipline and is even now catching up on the reading that he wanted to do. In fact, he is considering developing his final dissertation, which was about Hitler’s speeches, and applying for a Master’s in Philosophy at Birkbeck.

When friends ask whether he would recommend Birkbeck he says: 'Of course! I don’t think there’s anywhere else in London like it.'

Chris Deal

'Unlike my BA in Modern History and Politics, I was probably the youngest in my class but that didn't make any difference. It was interesting to be studying with such a mixed group of people as they had lots of relevant and varied knowledge to share.

'While studying, I worked in the shop on HMS Belfast which nicely complemented my history studies. I am now much more confident in my knowledge and it is great to know the history surrounding the ship and to be able to answer people's questions. I had a very flexible work rota which meant that I could easily balance working and studying; they have realistic expectations of you at Birkbeck.

'It was great to be taught by well known, published historians and I liked the proximity to such a great range of libraries. At Birkbeck you are really in the centre of everything. The year went very quickly and I really enjoyed it. It was over too soon!

'I enjoyed the subject much more then at undergraduate level and it has made me want to carry on my research. Although I am still working in the shop, I hope to get more involved in the curatorial side of the Imperial War Museum.'

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