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MA Education: Early Years

Course Description

This course will enable you to develop expertise in this growing area of education and become a specialist in promoting high quality practice in early years settings. Early Years Education is now recognised globally as crucial for laying the foundation for lifelong learning and development. Critical aspects of social, emotional and cognitive development are established in the first five years of life emphasising the importance of this phase of education.

You will develop your knowledge and understanding of how children develop and learn, along with the most effective ways to create an enabling learning environment. You will be introduced to different pedagogical approaches, including international perspectives, which will include a critical analysis of the role of the adult in supporting young childrens’ learning. The course incorporates various elective modules which will enhance your skills and insights into developing quality educational provision for young children.


The course is structured over three trimesters (thirds) and totals 180 credits (90 ECTS). It is available in campus-based mode, low-residency mode or online-only. You can start in September or February and will study for 60 credits per trimester. In your first trimester you will study the MA Education core module Education: Economics, Politics and Society (30 credits) plus your award core module (30 credits). In the second trimester you will study the core module Social Science Research (30 credits), plus two 15-credit elective modules, one of which may be a shared elective from another MA award. In your third trimester you will research and write your Dissertation (60 credits) on a topic relevant to your award. If you take the low residency option, the face-to-face teaching of all modules will take place during two 2-week intensive blocks (typically in September and February).


Trimester 1

In your first trimester you will study two compulsory core modules totalling 60 credits.

Core Module:
Education: Economics, Politics and Society (30 credits) explores how education can be understood in a complex and globalised world where it is seen by many governments as a significant factor in economic growth and competition. You will learn how to question the policies and organisations involved in defining the purposes, content and outcomes of education.

Award Core Module:
Early Childhood Care and Education (30 credits) updates and extends your critical knowledge and understanding of how young children develop and create a foundation for all future learning and will develop your skills and expertise in creating high quality learning environments.

Trimester 2

In your second trimester you will study one compulsory core module, and two 15 credit elective modules, one of which may be a shared elective from another MA award. This will total 60 credits.

Compulsory Core Module:
Social Science Research (30 credits) sets educational research within the broader context of the social sciences and introduces a range of qualitative and quantitative methodologies and methods from which you can select the most appropriate for your dissertation.

Elective Modules:
Outdoor Play and Learning (option 15 credits) supports you in leading and researching young children's learning and development in the context of outdoor play and the Forest School experience.
Including Vulnerable Learners (option 15 credits) explores the wider issues of vulnerability and the concept of ‘inclusion’, particularly noting the socio-cultural influences that might impact on children and young people’s engagement with education systems.
Leadership and Team Work (shared option 15 credits) extends your critical knowledge and understanding of the principles and theories of leadership in early childhood settings and will develop your skills and expertise in a range of leadership practices and effective ways of leading a pedagogical team.

Trimester 3

In your third trimester you will research and write your Dissertation (60 credits) on a topic relevant to your award.

Dissertation (60 credits) enables you to study and research an aspect of education theory, policy or practice in depth, guided by an expert to arrive at your own synthesis of a topic to take forward into your career.


All modules are taught through lectures, small-group seminars and individual tutorials. For the campus-based mode of study, some lectures and seminars will take place during the day, whilst others may be in the evening or at weekends. For low-residency students the teaching will be concentrated into two 2-week blocks (typically around 6 hours per day). The course also makes extensive use of online teaching, particularly for the low-residency and online only modes. This will include a combination of individual and shared learning using the Bath Spa University virtual learning environment.


Dr Janet Rose: Senior Lecturer and the Early Years Award Leader.
Janet has over 20 years’ experience of working in this specialist area of education both in the UK and internationally. Her publications include The Role of the Adult in Early Years Settings (2012) and her research interests currently focus on supporting children’s well-being and resilience.

Several colleagues co-teach on various modules and are all early years specialists with particular expertise in a range of aspects of early years provision such as symbolic representation (Lone Hattingh), social and emotional development (Hilary Smith) and leadership (Sara Layan).


Governments worldwide are now making early years education a priority and increasing their investment in early years provision. Therefore, you will acquire specialist expertise in an area of education that is rapidly expanding and opening up new career opportunities. You will be equipped to take on a leadership position or an advisory role in supporting the development of early years provision in your own country.


There are no written exams on this course; each module is assessed through coursework. This typically involves an essay of 2,500 words for a 15 credit module or 5,000 words for a 30 credit module. For some modules assessment may be by verbal presentation or online activity. The dissertation is 15,000 – 20,000 words and focuses on an area agreed with a specialist tutor, who will offer guidance on structure and academic writing.

Visit the MA Education: Early Years page on the Bath Spa University website for more details!

Entry Requirements

You will need to have a bachelor’s degree from a recognised higher education institution. The content and subject matter of your degree is open. For overseas, non-native speakers of English, a minimum language level of IELTS 6.5, or equivalent, is required.

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