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Our MA European History offers you the chance to study at a department with world-renowned expertise in European history, including British, German, French, Italian, Balkan, Russian and Eastern European history, as well as international, transnational, global and comparative historical perspectives.
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.
'I had worked happily in publishing for 40 years and retired at 60, so I wanted to spend some time focusing on various things in my life that I had never had time to examine properly and I knew I would get more out of that by doing it in a structured university environment. Birkbeck was top of my list and the MA in European Cultures appealed to me enormously as something that would marry the interests I had in various countries with things that I had never looked at, for example the Spanish film industry and literature.
'For me it was a pure pleasure to do this degree. One of the most interesting parts of my course was the makeup of my MA group. I was the only English person, which I really enjoyed. Seminars and group work was incredibly varied and vocal, especially because it was an international group with mixed ages. It made me more confident about floating ideas that might seem slightly off the wall. I liked and admired all my fellow students and the staff, which was a large part of the pleasure of doing the course. Staff were very involved, very engaged, very helpful - it was great.
'I wrote my final dissertation on the art of self portraiture in two contrasting French authors, Simone de Beavouir and Annie Ernaux, and I enjoyed it a lot. The course allowed me to pick up on interests that I hadn’t explored fully. It also introduced me to a lot of new cultural areas and those are now things I will seek out, share and enjoy. Studying an MA gives you a skills base and a structure in which you can move forward with all sorts of things. I can’t imagine that I will ever be bored going forwards.
'I’m certainly more confident now, it’s also made me question more, and look at things in more depth. If I don’t know something I now know how to research and find out. Research skills were new for me, to an extent, and definitely something that will continue to be useful.
'I would and I do recommend Birkbeck to others.
'Seminars and group work was incredibly varied and vocal, especially because it was an international group with mixed ages.'
David Sutherland already had three degrees – two from Dundee and one from Queen Mary - when he started studying at Birkbeck. He has since added another two, both from Birkbeck, and is now studying for an MA European History. Aged 66, he has also recently translated a book, The Kaiser’s Reluctant Conscript, from German into English.
'I failed the Scottish 11+ - and that was a great motivator! Although I was let through on appeal I think I set out to prove everyone wrong – I certainly didn’t go straight through the system.
'I studied Physics at my local university, Dundee, and stayed to do a PhD. I saw myself becoming a physicist, but became very interested in IT, then in its very early stages. I decided that was what I wanted to do and went to work for ICL [International Computers Ltd, now Fujitsu].
'I might have stayed in that job for life but I wanted to go to Germany. In the post-war years my school had actively encouraged pupils to think about reconciliation with Germany – we were taught German, rather than French, and I went on a German school exchange. My grandfather fought in the trenches in the First World War and my father was in the army in the Second World War. Given the changed circumstances it seemed worthwhile to live in Germany and help bury past differences.'
David went to work for ICL in Germany at the European Space Agency, and continued to work for them in Stuttgart and Nuremberg, before being headhunted to work for a well-known retailer in Switzerland. He became head of IT for his company but, after a bypass operation, was given early retirement in 2001.
'I came back to Britain and discovered my IT qualifications were not considered up to date. So I did a Masters in Internet Technology at Queen Mary in 2002 and worked as a designer/developer until 2009. I might not have pursued my interest in German but for my brother in law, who suggested doing a BA in German at Birkbeck. After finishing a day’s work, I would head down to Birkbeck for the evening. I enjoyed the social environment and the opportunity to develop my reading. It was fascinating and great fun. Now I’m doing a Master’s in European History!
Although Oana says that studying for her BA had been quite exhausting, moving straight into an MA was made manageable because the tutors at Birkbeck were so helpful and approachable. She says: “The tutors were really amazing. If we needed material or information, in addition to the standard course materials, they would always help us to locate what we needed and offer advice on where to look. The library services are really great too.”
Oana found the other students on her course supportive too: “If there was something that I didn’t understand then I would discuss it with them and we could raise it in class.”
The possibility of studying modules from different areas was another important factor for Oana. “I wanted to gain a broad understanding of social issues across Europe. For example I was able to study race and racism in francophone cultures, film studies, museum studies and the holocaust.” The flexibility of the course meant that Oana was able to discover a new area of study, museum studies, which was not available in her own country. She combined her long-standing interest in the holocaust with her newly discovered interest in museum studies and focused her dissertation on the Jewish Museum, where she is now working.
Studying for the MA was definitely a career move for Oana, but she has found that completing the MA has also brought her other benefits, such as increased confidence and new skills in essay writing and organising her research.
Oana finishes: “I have got so much out of my time at Birkbeck: I have met some brilliant friends, developed my skills, and discovered new areas for work and study and experienced what it is like to study at the University of London. My life would definitely be more dull if I had not come to Birkbeck.”