Hi Emilija! Thank you for being such an important resource for prospective students, especially from outside of the UK. I am applying to postgraduate programs (Education and Social Justice) in England, and the University of Birmingham is one of my top choices. A big reason I want to study in the UK is to travel around Europe and really get a full international experience. I am from the United States, so this is a whole part of the world I do not know. I want to balance my education with exploration in the best way, so I would love to hear more about your experience and how you managed. I appreciate you taking the time to read and respond to this inquiry! I hope you are safe and healthy, and I wish you the best.

I’m so happy to hear that Birmingham is one of your top choices! It definitely merits being in that position. It’s the perfect hub for a truly international experience.

With the amount of work, and courses I had in the International Studies in Education MA Program, there was ample time to travel. I made my schedule so that I always had no less than a 3 day weekend, which was long enough to visit another city for a couple of days. The Birmingham airport is great for budget flights, and is easy and quick to get to – much more convenient than flying out of London, where getting to the airport not only will cost you more than the flight (if you go with Easyjet etc) but it also takes upwards of over an hour if you live in the city. (Would absolutely encourage you to purchase a RailCard student pass – the discount it gives you will pay itself off incredibly quickly if you’re keen on traveling around – go see the rest of the UK!).

In regards to balancing your schoolwork and travel – it’s incredibly important to keep on top of your readings and essays. I did my best to only do classwork (the days I had classes), and would reserve the weekends for additional readings, and prepping my thesis work (which was easier to do while traveling). I found this to be manageable for me, but it meant many late nights during the week, especially in and around term paper/exam dates. I did have a point in time where the coursework was overwhelming, and I had to postpone traveling for a few weeks. And other times I couldn’t keep up with the readings, so I found myself on a beach in Cyprus reading 45 pages about Professional Development in Education (not the worst thing to be doing in the world). For me, traveling was, and continues to be an incredibly important part of my life. It’s a type of learning that you can’t replicate in any other way – so, I would do whatever necessary to fit it in my schedule, and I always made a point of finding some sort of connection of what I was experiencing in a new place, with my program at school. Of course, that depends on the type of travel you’re interested in.

To maximize the opportunities at Birmingham, see if you can go there and already have a theme for your thesis in mind. Read – read as much as you can about it, take notes, and build that foundation for yourself before you get there. Once you have to start writing and narrowing it down, you’ll already have those first few chapters essentially done. Same with your courses – make them fit to match your thesis topic – all those readings will work in your favour. Remember that Grad School is about studying something you’re fascinated with – pushing beyond what we all know, to discover something new (whether it’s obvious, or not, or a very minor point or idea – that’s what you’re there exploring). I’m not sure how the course selection works for the Edu & SS, but if they can get you the reading lists before you get there – read, start reading and taking notes and get to Birmingham already two weeks ahead! You’ll thank yourself eventually for doing that.

One key element that was genuinely a deal breaker for me, was living less than a 15 minute walk to the Education building. There was no temptation to slack on going to classes, and the library was so close that it was easy to go work there for a few hours and then go home etc. No thinking about commuting etc. I also lived in a privately owned house, and rented a room. It was not a student house – I lived with an older couple, and they rented out the rest of their rooms on Airbnb. It costs a little more than the average student house in Selly Oak, but significantly less than student accommodations hosted by the Uni.

Also, you will have a Mentor – they’re fantastic resources. They’re great to check in with (more regularly than they require), bounce ideas off of, have discussions about anything and everything with, and they’re there to help hold you accountable. They will also, call you out if you’re slacking on your writing (they may be the secondary grader on your assignments), or if they can tell you rushed in your work. So, as much as wanting to do everything, do everything in moderation – travel, explore, read, join clubs, party – but never let all the fun stuff impede you from producing your best work.

I hope that outlines how I managed, and a bit more about how I personally did Birmingham. Feel free to reach out here again if you have any other questions!

Have a fab week,


Hello Emilija, I am coming from Hong Kong and I hold an unconditional offer for the MA in Education at the University of Birmingham for 2020 entry. Could you please advise me of the normal timetable, reading lists and general sort of living costs in Birmingham?

Hi, congratulations! In regards to your questions:

Timetable – you can essentially create your timetable based on the modules that you choose. My arrangement ended up being either 3 or 4 days/per week (depending on the semester and modules I had classes Monday – Thursday, or Tuesday – Friday), with a total of 9 hours of class. When your program starts, you get to hear about all your module choices, and then go from there. Pages 8-9 is where they have the listed modules required for each path.

Reading Lists – entirely dependent on the courses you take. I would highly recommend reading on the topic you hope to do your thesis on, in preparation for that. Come prepared with a foundation of knowledge, and those resources on hand either digitally or printed with your notes and reflections. By doing this you’ll save time researching/reading during the year, and you’ll be able to choose your courses to best support your personal interest, and success in your thesis.

Though you may only have 9-11 hours of class per week, you have to take into account the hours of reading you have for each module, the extra curricular activities that are enhancing your learning (other lectures, Department events, volunteering, class trips etc.)

Living Costs – This definitely varies in regards to personal choices and necessities. But to give you an idea of my personal budget breakdown, it was as follows:

Weekly expenses:
– 1 furnished room in a private house = 145GBP/week
– Weekly groceries = 25 GBP/week
– Socializing/Coffee/Eating out = 40 GBP/week
– Travel (I went to London Weekly) = 25GBP/week

– Phone Bill = 20GBP/month
– Bus pass = ±30GBP/month

And then of course you have miscellaneous expenses all the time that you may or may not expect ei: medical services, medication, clothing, unnecessary purchases, books, supplies, printing services, bedding etc.

I budgeted for 1000GBP per month, but there were definitely months I was properly over that, and others that I was just below.

Hope this helps! Let me know if there are any other questions I can answer, to expand on anything I’ve already said!



I have been working as an overseas education agent for 10 years. I expect to expand my scope on education in a different culture, so as to help students make more reasonable study plans. Do you think this degree will help me in my specific field?

I think that the ISE taught program has the ability to to expand your scope of/in education, for sure. Depending where you’re from, you’d have to consider that the education you’re primarily learning about in this program is the British system. It would be your responsibility to learn about other education systems independently, and apply what you’ve learned through comparing and contrasting in the various courses. I was able to manipulate the material from the courses offered when I was taking the program to cater to my particular interests, which was great! The professors were able to provide the tools necessary, and additional perspectives when analyzing the data!

If your role as an education agent is to consult students on their choices where to go for post secondary education, Im not entirely certain that the program will offer skills directly applicable to that. Indirectly, yes for sure, and what you will learn is really invaluable in many ways. I think you should also look into the Character Education MA, or the Management of Special Education MA to compare to this one! Hopefully that answered your question!

What, for you, are the best things about the course?

Personally, the best part about the International Studies in Education (taught) course is the balance between modules, and preparing to write an independent thesis. I think it’s very beneficial to take classes that are generally related to your specific field of interest, while exploring topics for a thesis because it helps expand your scope, presents new theories and schools of thought, and acts as an active environment where you can discuss ideas, ask questions, and express concerns! The people I have met in my courses have definitely helped form and establish a more solid foundation for my research, than if I would have done it entirely on my own!

What piece of advice would you give to anyone considering postgraduate study in your field?

A very simple piece of advice I would give anyone who wants to pursue postgraduate study, would be to make sure that they’re ready to jump into another year or two of school. It’s a huge commitment – financially, and psychologically, and it’s worth taking some time to think about it long and hard. Before jumping into more school, I really believe that taking some time to travel and explore the world is an invaluable experience – it has the ability to open up your mind and heart to new perspectives and experiences. And, it’s something you can do on any budget. Learning happens all the time, and if you allow yourself to learn in a place you’re not familiar with, you’ll realize how much more there is to know, about subjects you think you’re already familiar with.

Can you describe your journey from school to where you are now?

When I started my undergraduate degree, I thought that I had a passion for International Development – I was quickly proved wrong when I began attending classes, and promptly switched into Gender Studies after a fluke Genders course as an elective. Through my BA I realized that the role of education, and acquiring knowledge is incredibly important and diverse – at primary, secondary and postsecondary levels. Gender studies opened up an array of doors in fields relating to social justice, acceptance, community, and inclusivity and thus encouraged me to pursue my Montessori training. My goal has always been to help others – and I believe teaching is one of those fields that makes it possible. Working on my Masters here, has been an incredible source of inspiration for my future projects in education, and has led me to explore education from, and in an international perspective.

Why did you choose the University of Birmingham?

Before applying to Universities for post-grad study in Education, I did a lot of research about the programs, and made a point of reaching out to student mentors to talk about the opportunities and courses available. The University of Birmingham stood out in a number of ways – not only is the University itself absolutely beautiful, and in a wonderful part of the country, but it also had an incredibly diverse array of professors, and students. I had the chance to visit the campus before accepting my offer, and immediately knew that this is where I was going to call home for the next year.

Was there a big transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study?

Coming from Canada where I completed my undergraduate degree, I was expecting significant differences between the teaching, expectations, and evaluation styles. I would have to say that the differences haven’t been as I imagined, though coming from a program that used a combination of multiple choice, short and long answer exams, and essays, to a single assignment – an essay – as evaluation, was intense. I definitely like the way the assignments are structured, and the fact that they’re provided to us in the first week of classes, this way we have all the opportunity to begin working on them early on.

What benefit would the Masters in International Studies in Education be to someone in Zimbabwe and/or Africa?

Hello! Thanks for your question!

I think this particular Masters program would be beneficial for a student of any country – as it’s catered to directly support you specific interests in education, of a particular region.

I cannot speak to the direct benefits to a student in regards to Zimbabwe/Africa, as I have no personal experiences, or any familiarity with education in Africa to any extent other than some limited exposure in some classes. My research and main focus was based on Indigenous education in Canada, and as such any further reading I did in addition to the coursework, would be directly related to my thesis on this topic.

I would recommend reaching out to a student from Zimbabwe, or another country in Africa – as they probably have a better understanding than myself!

Hello Emilija! Did you study full-time and if so, how many days did you have to attend? The reason I am asking this is because I am also working full-time and I am trying to see if I can fit everything in.

Hi there! Great question. I did study full-time; I managed to make my schedule only require me to be in class for two, or three days per week, and traveled the other days of the week (bringing school work with me of course). There is a part-time option as well – though takes three years to complete.

If you are able to do the full-time option, I think that with excellent time management, and early starts/completion on all assignments (they’re given out within the first week or two of classes), you could pull it off quite successfully. There are days where you are required to go on field trips, and observations as well, which ends up being longer than just your usual lecture time. If you take initiative and come to the program with a solid outline/research knowledge base for your dissertation, it will make the writing of the actual thesis much easier, and less stressful when those final months arrive – which in turn also allows you to have the courses fit your research interest benefitting your final paper.

In short – yes, you could probably do it while working full-time as long as you attend all your lectures, plan ahead for your workload, and do as much reading/research as you can for the courses before they actually start. It’ll be a cvery busy year, but you’ll feel great at the end. 🙂 Hope this helps! Feel free to ask if you have any more questions!

Hi, I'm also from Canada and I am very much interested in this program as my degree is in Political Science and I've been working as a foreign language teacher for the past 13 years or so. My question is in regards to how closely related is this program to International Development studies?

Hi there – great question! This is something I wondered about quite a bit, as my undergraduate degree started off in Global Development Studies, and I was hoping for some overlap back to the field I started my post-secondary education in.

I would have to say that the program has the opportunity to be focused towards a more International Development direction if that’s where your interests lie. I came into this program with an outline for my dissertation which focused on First Nations communities in southern Ontario – a very intersectional field – examining culture, politics, economics, and the changes they’ve gone through both as an individual community, and how that is a part of a greater Canadian community, through education, or lack thereof.

That being said, I made sure that all the classes I chose (there are many to choose from) covered topics that I would be discussing, or at least relating to in my dissertation. In many cases, they stemmed from an international development perspective, rooted in education, and the development of education.

Hope this answers your question!