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Why study Spanish or Portuguese at Birkbeck?

We offer courses in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Our teaching is underpinned by a strong research culture, with our staff being experts in the area they teach. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), Modern Languages and Linguistics achieved 100% for a research environment conducive to producing research of the highest quality, while 73% of our research was recognised as world-leading or internationally excellent.

A distinctive feature of our provision is our interdisciplinary approach to Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, covering different periods (from the 15th Century to the present day), with a wide variety of disciplinary orientations and interdisciplinary practices. We offer literature, film, history, cultural history, critical theory, art history, geography, cartography, photography, film, urban studies and linguistics. Our staff and postgraduate students carry out research in these different areas. Our Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Cultures (CILAVS) provides a unique environment for collaborative and interdisciplinary work in visual culture. As a student in the Department of Cultures and Languages you will be able to take advantage of the wide range of activities and events that CILAVS organizes such as film screenings, lectures, etc.

We have a dynamic and diverse student community and a lively, student-run Spanish and Portuguese Speaking Society which organises social events as well as visits to concerts, theatre performances, etc throughout the year.

Our programmes


    At undergraduate level you can opt for our single honours programme BA Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, specializing in either Spanish or Portuguese, or for a range of joint/combined programmes. If you are interested in a joint languages degree (BA Modern Languages), you can combine the study of Spanish or Portuguese with another language such as French, German, and Japanese. You can also study Spanish and Portuguese jointly. Alternatively, you may choose to study Spanish or Portuguese alongside one of these subject areas: English, Film and Media, Global Politics/Politics, History, Law, Linguistics, or Management (see prospectus). You can start as a beginner in Spanish. To join the Portuguese route you must normally have A-level/B2 (CEFR) competence. Our programmes are also suitable for students with prior knowledge of one or both languages

    On the Spanish/Portuguese side of our provision, our BA programmes will allow you to:

    • develop your language skills in Spanish or Portuguese to a high level
    • deepen your knowledge and understanding of the cultures and societies of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking worlds and
    • acquire a range of transferrable skills, including analytical and critical skills

    Graduate and undergraduate certificates in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies are also available.


    At postgraduate level, our MA in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Cultural Studies offers you the possibility of undertaking advanced study in the histories of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American cultures in the light of contemporary theoretical developments in the fields of literature, cultural studies, cultural geography, film and the history of art and media. You can choose to specialise in either Spain and Portugal or Latin America, as well as in different historical periods and media, or combine interests. Students take this course for a variety of reasons. For example, for some it is a stepping stone for a research degree. College and secondary school teachers who have done this course have highlighted the following benefits:
    • Expanded knowledge of the cultures where  Spanish and/or Portuguese  are spoken – allowing them to teach a wider range of topics in more depth
    • Improved foreign language skills
    • Enhanced critical and analytical skills
    • Sharpened writing skills - helping them to teach essay writing at A-level
    • Chance of promotion in a sector that is increasingly competitive.

    If you are interested in a research degree, we offer an exciting and innovative programme and expert supervision across a range of areas in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies. Check our staff pages to see their different areas of specialization.

    What students think of our different programmes

2016 Santander Scholarships for Latin American students

Birkbeck is pleased to offer various £5000 scholarships to students from Latin America who will be studying at either undergraduate or postgraduate level at Birkbeck during the 2016-2017 academic year.


Useful Information

Some facts about Spanish and Portuguese

    • Spanish is a global language spoken by over 450 million people, with 180 million learners across the world. By 2030, it is calculated that some 535 million people will have Spanish as their native tongue. It is language in expansion making it vital for business, tourism and intercultural communication.
    • Spanish is the vehicle of phenomenally rich and prestigious cultures. Whether you are interested in Golden Age literature or painting, colonial architecture, contemporary film and literature, or popular music, Spain or Latin America, knowledge of Spanish will allow you to first-hand access to and enjoyment of the wealth of cultural manifestations from the Spanish-speaking world.


    • With over 200 million native speakers spread across five continents, Portuguese ranks sixth among the global languages of the 21st century and stands out for its fast-growing economic and cultural potential: it is today the fastest-growing European language after English and Spanish. As Brazil booms and Portugal serves as a link between Europe, South America and a group of dynamic nations in Africa, Portuguese is set to become an important language for many businesses in the future. It also serves a vast market for publishing and tourism, stretching from Rio de Janeiro to Macao. Portuguese is regularly cited as a language for which there will be an increased demand ' . . .  it is set to grow as businesses turn to the Brazilian market' - Report on demand for foreign language and intercultural skills in the UK (University Council of Modern Languages, 2011)
    • Through Portuguese you can expand your cultural horizons: The literatures of the Portuguese-speaking world are as varied as the cultures of Brazil, Portugal, Angola or Mozambique, not to forget vast Lusophone diasporas scattered across the globe from the USA to Australia. From Nobel-prize winning José Saramago to Brazilian classics Clarice Lispector or Jorge Amado and to exciting African authors such as Mia Couto or José Agualusa, you will be sure to find inspiration and new insights. The new cinema of Brazil and Portugal is among the most successful of the last two decades. Fado, Bossa Nova and the Creole music of Cape Verde have conquered large audiences of World music lovers. The colonial past of Europe’s first overseas Empire and the post-colonial dynamics resulting from it keep shaping the world we live in. Knowing Portuguese allows you to access all these fascinating facets of a truly global culture in its original language and to have a more robust understanding of the challenges faced by our world today.

Reasons to study at Birkbeck

    • Evening teaching: all of our teaching is in the evening, between 6pm and 9pm: This means that you can work during the day and study in the evening.
    • Teaching quality consistently top-ranked in UK National Student Surveys.
    • Recognised as a ‘global elite’ university, a centre for excellence in teaching and research.
    • Unique teaching model that integrates full-time students with working professionals.
    • The Department of Cultures and Languages is part of the School of Arts, situated in historic Bloomsbury, the academic heart of central London, within easy reach of a wealth of study resources such as the British Library and the British Museum. Birkbeck is also close to world famous museums and galleries and other major tourist attractions, with excellent transport links.
    • Part of the University of London: Birkbeck awards prestigious University of London degrees.


Image by André Stéfano