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
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.
Renaissance Studies (MA) (Part-time)
Renaissance Studies (MA) (Full-time)
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.
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.
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: £
paFull-time home/EU students: £
paPart-time overseas students: £
paFull-time overseas students: £
Payment and Fees Discounts
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.