• Status: Fully Approved
  • Start date: October 2017
  • Duration:

      1 year full-time or 2 years part-time

    • Attendance:

      2 evenings a week full-time or 1 evening a week part-time, October to June

    • Location:

        Central London

      Programme overview

      MA Renaissance Studies explores the question of what the Renaissance was and what approaches are best suited to understanding it. The programme considers different aspects of Renaissance culture, particularly the social and intellectual histories of England, France, Italy and Spain. You will study with Birkbeck's internationally recognised experts in Renaissance English literature and culture, history of art, French, history and Spanish, tailoring your module choices towards chosen specialisms. By the end of the course you will be able to demonstrate a conceptual understanding of the questions associated with the study of the Renaissance and will have had the opportunity to either specialise or work in an interdisciplinary way. From the start, you will undertake training in postgraduate research skills.

      You begin with a core course which examines the way the Renaissance has been understood and then you go on to take 3 options in areas of specialist interest. You can see detailed descriptions of our core course and all the option modules below. Finally, you will be individually counselled in your choice of dissertation topic.

      In addition to the core teaching and individual research support, students benefit from many Birkbeck Renaissance events. This includes the London Renaissance Seminar, which brings many internationally renowned academics to Birkbeck, and events specific to the Birkbeck Renaissance group, including our day on 'Researching the Text'.

      How to apply

      You apply directly to Birkbeck for this course, using the online application link below.

      Need help with your application? Watch videos featuring our academic experts giving advice on applying to Birkbeck and answering some of the most frequently asked questions.

      Birkbeck can give you all of the information and help you need to complete your application form, including our online personal statement tool, which will guide you through every step of writing your personal statement.

      Application deadlines and interviews

      We recommend you apply as early as possible in the admissions cycle (November to July). Later applications may also be considered, subject to availability of places.

      Online application

      Renaissance Studies (MA) (Part-time)

      Renaissance Studies (MA) (Full-time)

      Why study this course at Birkbeck?

      • Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked third best in London and 11th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2015-16 World University Subject Rankings.
      • In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), English Language and Literature at Birkbeck achieved 100% for a research environment conducive to producing research of the highest quality, while 91% of eligible staff submitted research, of which 75% was recognised as world-leading or internationally excellent.
      • As an MA student, you will have the opportunity to attend the London Renaissance Seminar, a forum held at Birkbeck that discusses all aspects of early modern history, literature and culture. You will be able to hear some of the best scholars in the field presenting and discussing their newest research.
      • MA Renaissance students are invited to apply for 2 research internship placements at the Globe Theatre. Read a blog post written by a previous Globe Theatre intern.
      • The programme offers both research skills and opportunities to put them to work. For example, in the second term of your degree you are offered practical study of palaeography. The summer core course is based around the materials of Renaissance evidence: objects, painting, manuscript and print. We explore a range of methodologies.
      • The School of Arts offers a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.

      Course structure

      You will take a core course which examines the various ways the Renaissance has been understood and then go on to choose 3 option modules in areas of special interest to you. Finally, you will develop a dissertation topic under the expert guidance of one of our academics.

      To find out more, read our programme handbook.

      Core module

      Indicative option modules

      One reason for the course’s enduring success is that students decide whether to make their route diverse or disciplinary. Here are 4 sample paths to show what that means.

      Route 1: English Literature

      Route 2: Renaissance Studies

      Route 3: Renaissance Italy

      • Summer Core Course (Renaissance Witnesses)
      • Dissertation on power and control in Florentine domestic space.

      Route 4: Shakespeare

      • Summer Core Course (Renaissance Witnesses)
      • Dissertation on Shakespeare and Renaissance and/or contemporary performance.

      Throughout the MA you work with tutors individually as well as in seminars. One-to-one tutorial time is structured into the programme. Tutorial support covers a wide range of topics from the use of the Renaissance in a career to the more obvious support with essays.

      Whether you undertake disciplinary study (e.g. in English literature) or take modules in several disciplines will depend on how you decide to use the MA and staff will work with you on establishing a route that suits you. Students use it in both ways and develop strong contacts throughout the School of Arts.

        Entry requirements

        Good second-class degree or higher, preferably in a subject relevant to Renaissance studies (for example, classics, history, history of art, literature and languages, philosophy or political science). We also welcome students with backgrounds in other disciplines too (e.g. medical, commercial, scientific).

        International entry requirements

        If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, the requirement for this programme 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 of the sub-tests.

        If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses, foundation programmes and language support services to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.

        Visit the International section of our website to find out more about our English language entry requirements and relevant requirements by country.


        Part-time home/EU students: £ 3975 pa
        Full-time home/EU students: £ 7950 pa
        Part-time overseas students: £ 7225 pa
        Full-time overseas students: £ 14450 pa

        Payment and Fees Discounts

        Flexible finance: pay your fees in monthly instalments at no extra cost. Enrol early to spread your costs and reduce your monthly payments.

        Fees discounts: If you are a Birkbeck alumni or a member of a union that is recognised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), you may apply for a 10% discount off your tuition fees.

        Funding and Financial Support

        The government's new postgraduate loan scheme allows you to borrow up to £10,000 to cover the cost of your tuition fees, living costs or other study expenses – and you don't have to start repaying until 2019.

        The School of Arts offers a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.

        MA Renaissance Studies students have successfully applied for funds from Birkbeck. You will need to apply early in the academic year. Bursaries are available for full-time and part-time study and are competitive. Birkbeck has an excellent record in supporting students working in the Renaissance and Early Modern period. For example, in the year 2014-15 5 students in the Department of English and Humanities working towards MA or PhD study were supported by the School of Arts or AHRC. Further students are supported through other Departments and Schools.

        Part-time students who are experiencing financial need may apply for assistance from the Birkbeck Alumni Fund Postgraduate Opportunity Bursary.

        Find out more about funding and financial support at postgraduate level.

        Careers and employability

        Graduates go to careers in museums management and curating, academia, journalism and publishing, research, marketing and public relations. Possible professions include management, curating, or publishing. This degree can also be useful in a variety of roles within the creative sector, such as journalist or public relations officer.

        Find out more about these professions.

        Find out more about the destinations of graduates in this subject.

        We offer a comprehensive Careers and Employability Service to help you advance your career, while our in-house, professional recruitment consultancy, Birkbeck Talent, works with London’s top employers to help you gain work experience that fits in with your evening studies.

        Teaching and assessment


        Teaching is by lectures and seminars. The teaching staff, from both Birkbeck and other London colleges and institutions, are specialists in Renaissance and early modern literature, cultural studies and history of art.

        Research skills seminars provide an introduction to bibliography and palaeography, and to the use of libraries and archives.

        Support is provided by a personal tutor for the duration of the degree and by a specialist adviser for the dissertation.


        The core module is assessed by a critical bibliography of 2000 words and a critical review of a core text (2500-3000 words).

        Option modules are each assessed by an essay of 4000-6000 words.

        Dissertation of 14,000-15,000 words.

        Further study opportunities

        If you are interested in further research, we offer an MPhil/PhD in English and Humanities.