Culture, Diaspora, Ethnicity (MA)

Year of entry


Start date

October 2018


Central London


Fully Approved


One year full-time or two years part-time


Two evenings a week full-time or one evening a week part-time

Convened by academics who have interests in racialisation, postcoloniality, urban multi-culture and psychoanalysis, this multidisciplinary Master's programme offers you the opportunity to study a wide range of different subjects, looking specifically at:

  • debates on 'race' and racism, multi-culture and postcoloniality and empire; and the formation of modern Britain and contemporary transnational political communities, social identities and urban cultures
  • connections between histories of colonisation and contemporary social formations and inequalities in the UK
  • how local debates on 'race' and racism are shaped by the global geopolitics of the twenty-first century.

We aim to draw connections between interlocking colonial histories across the globe and our ordinary, local, everyday life here in contemporary Britain, focusing on a range of subjects, including:

  • histories of colonisation, systems of slavery, the concept of 'race' and the invention of 'the West'
  • colonial cultures, class, nationalisms, 'respectability' and the invention of 'whiteness'
  • histories of criminalisation and imprisonment
  • human rights
  • the war on terror'
  • diaspora, place and belonging
  • psychoanalysis and 'race', 'hybridity', 'mixedness', 'whiteness', 'race' and 'beauty' and 'race', gender, sexuality and desire.

This programme will be relevant to those who want to develop careers in social research, education, law, journalism, youth and community work, urban planning, housing, politics, the arts and cultural industries, health and social care in particular. It will also be of interest to those who wish to pursue an academic career in sociology, cultural studies, postcolonial studies, urban studies, psychosocial studies, or in the social sciences or humanities more generally and to those who simply wish to develop an advanced understanding of 'race' and racism, multi-culture and postcoloniality.


  • This degree is designed for students from all backgrounds to pursue their own particular research and professional interests. It draws from sociology, cultural studies, history, urban studies, literary studies, psychosocial studies, philosophy and politics and will introduce you to different historical and political debates and theoretical perspectives in the broad multidisciplinary area of 'race' and racism, multi-culture and postcoloniality.
  • Through our formal link with the University of São Paulo, Brazil, you can undertake an optional module at the University of São Paulo as part of your programme of study at Birkbeck.
  • You will become part of a vibrant, stimulating and diverse intellectual environment, with access to our Race Forum, research centres including the Birkbeck Institute for the HumanitiesBirkbeck Law School Centre for Law and the Humanities and the Centre for Media, Culture and Creative Practice, and reading groups such as the Postcolonial Studies Reading Group.
  • Birkbeck Library has an extensive teaching collection of books, journals and learning resources in sociology, cultural studies, postcolonial studies, psychosocial studies and related disciplines. You will also be able to use the rich research resources nearby including Senate House Library, the British Library of Political and Economic Science (the LSE Library), the SOAS Library and the British Library. 
  • In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), Sociology at Birkbeck was ranked 13th in the UK.

Course structure

The programme combines taught core and option modules and provides the opportunity for independent research supervised by an academic. The core modules introduce you to significant historical and political debates and theoretical perspectives. The option modules are specialist subject courses that focus on a specific area, such as human rights, Lacanian psychoanalysis, migration and refugees, or Latin American cinema.

You complete 180 credits, composed of two 30-credit core modules, two 30-credit special subject option modules and a 60-credit dissertation/independent research project.

You can also choose from a range of option modules convened by other academics in other departments across the College.

Full-time students

You take the core module 'Race', Racism, Postcoloniality, an option module and a Research Methods module to support you in choosing, developing and undertaking a piece of independent research (qualitative empirical or theoretical) in the autumn term.

You then take the core module Culture, Community, Identity and a second option module in the spring term and attend a series of dissertation workshops in the summer term.

Part-time students

In Year 1, you take the core module 'Race', Racism, Postcoloniality in the autumn term. Option modules can be taken in the autumn, spring or summer terms.

In Year 2, you take a Research Methods module in the autumn term to support you in choosing, developing and undertaking a piece of independent research (qualitative empirical or theoretical).

A second option can be taken in the autumn, spring or summer terms. The core module Culture, Community, Identity is held in the spring term and you will attend a series of dissertation workshops in the summer term. The dissertation is submitted at the beginning of September at the end of the second academic year.

Option modules vary every year; the list below is indicative.

Read more about this programme in our handbook.

Module groups

Core modules

Indicative psychosocial option modules

Indicative College-wide option modules

Independent research module


The dissertation is 10,000-12,000 words. Full-time students submit this at the end of the academic year in September. Part-time students submit it at the end of Year 2 in September. You will work closely with a dissertation supervisor.

These are some of the dissertation topics chosen by students in previous years:

  • 'Postcolonial Melancholia' and 'The War on Terror'
  • The 'London Riots' of 2011
  • Theorising Hybridity
  • Contemporary Far-Right Movements in the UK
  • 'Everywhere and Nowhere': The Construction of Whiteness in White Disabled People's Lives
  • 'Race', Faith and Gentrification in South East London. A Study of a Campaign against a Black Majority Church in Camberwell, London
  • Fear, Crime and Racial Segregation in a Local Neighbourhood in a Small Town in Contemporary Italy
  • Multi-Agency Approaches to Victims of Race Hate Crime
  • The (Re)Criminalisation of Black Youth in Britain
  • 'Mixed-Race' Identities in Contemporary London
  • Representations of Blackness in Contemporary R&B and Hip-Hop
  • Representations of 'Honour Killings' and Anti-Muslim Racism in Contemporary Britain
  • Zionism and Rastafarianism
  • Representations of Multiculturalism in Contemporary Children’s Literature
  • Contemporary Asylum Legislation in the UK and the Criminalisation of Refugees
  • Hindu Nationalisms in Contemporary India
  • Caribbean Identities in a South London Neighbourhood
  • 'Race' and Psychoanalysis
  • 'Race', 'Beauty' and Contemporary Popular Multi-culture
  • Japanese Women Living in Postcolonial London.
  • Entry Requirements

    Entry requirements

    Good degree in social sciences or humanities.

    Recent professional qualifications, relevant work/practical experience, or a lively interest in the subject area will also be considered.

    International entry requirements

    If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 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.

    Credits and Accredited Prior Learning (APL)

    If you have studied at university previously, you may have accumulated credits through the modules you studied. It may be possible to transfer these credits from your previous study to Birkbeck or another institution. You should discuss this with the Programme Director when you are making your application.

    Find out more about credits and Accredited Prior Learning (APL).

  • Fees


    Part-time home/EU students: £4075 pa
    Full-time home/EU students: £8175 pa
    Part-time international students: £7425 pa
    Full-time international students: £14850 pa

    Students are charged a tuition fee in each year of their programme. Tuition fees for students continuing on their programme in following years may be subject to annual inflationary increases. For more information, please see the College Fees Policy.

  • Teaching and assessment


    At Birkbeck, almost all of our courses are taught in the evening and our teaching is designed to support students who are juggling evening study with work and other daytime commitments. We actively encourage innovative and engaging ways of teaching, to ensure our students have the best learning experience. In the 2017 Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the government’s system for rating university teaching, Birkbeck was allocated a Silver award.

    Teaching may include formal lectures, seminars, and practical classes and tutorials. Formal lectures are used in most degree programmes to give an overview of a particular field of study. They aim to provide the stimulus and the starting point for deeper exploration of the subject during your own personal reading.

    Seminars give you the chance to explore a specific aspect of your subject in depth and to discuss and exchange ideas with fellow students. They typically require preparatory study.

    In addition, you will have timetabled meetings with your Personal Tutor.

    Methods of teaching on this course

    A range of teaching and learning methods, such as lectures, seminars, student presentations and supervisions.


    Timetables are usually available from September onwards and you can access your personalised timetable via your My Birkbeck Profile online (if you have been invited to enrol).

    Indicative class size

    Class sizes vary, depending on your course, the module you are undertaking, and the method of teaching. For example, lectures are presented to large groups, with 30 to 100+ students in attendance, whereas seminars usually consist of small, interactive groups of 10 to 30 students, led by an academic.

    Academic support

    Birkbeck offers study and learning support to undergraduate and postgraduate students to help them succeed. Our Learning Development Service can help you in the following areas:

    • academic skills (including planning your workload, research, writing, exam preparation and writing a dissertation)
    • written English (including structure, punctuation and grammar)
    • numerical skills (basic mathematics and statistics).

    Our Disability and Dyslexia Service can support you if you have additional learning needs resulting from a disability or from dyslexia.

    Our Counselling Service can support you if you are struggling with emotional or psychological difficulties during your studies.

    Our Mental Health Advisory Service can support you if you are experiencing short– or long-term mental health difficulties during your studies.


    Assessment is an integral part of your university studies and usually consists of a combination of coursework and examinations. You will be given time to complete coursework and prepare for exams.

    Unseen written examinations are usually taken in the Summer term, during May to June, and, in most cases, are held during the day on a weekday – if you have daytime commitments, you will need to make arrangements for daytime attendance. Exam timetables are published online in March each year.

    Find out more about assessment at Birkbeck, including guidance on assessment, feedback and our assessment offences policy.

    Methods of assessment on this course

    One 4000-word essay per core module and a 10,000-12,000-word dissertation. Assessment for option modules varies.


    As well as a mark for your coursework and exams, you will also receive feedback from your marker(s) to help you learn, improve and succeed. We encourage you to discuss feedback with your module tutor.

    Feedback can come in different forms: notes via Moodle (our online learning environment); a paper copy of a completed feedback form; or in-class or face-to-face feedback. The College Policy on Feedback on Assessment sets out what you can expect from your feedback.

    Your department will usually provide you with your marked coursework within four weeks of submission. Your initial mark is provisional until the relevant Board of Examiners has confirmed it.

    Your official coursework and exam results will be made available to you via your My Birkbeck Profile online.

  • Careers and employability

    Careers and employability

    Graduates include youth and community workers and workers for charities and organisations whose concerns range from policing to domestic violence, refugees and asylum, human rights, homelessness, imprisonment and rehabilitation. They also include barristers and solicitors, psychoanalysts and psychotherapists, lecturers and social researchers in the areas of sociology, cultural studies, postcolonial studies, urban studies and social policy, teachers, film-makers, activists, curators, architects, novelists, journalists and those working in the arts and cultural industries.

    There are currently several graduates undertaking doctoral research in this subject area.

    Find out more about these professions.

    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.

  • How to apply

    How to apply

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

    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

    There is no closing date, but we encourage you to apply as early as possible.