Renaissance Studies (MA)

The MA in Renaissance Studies explores the question of what the Renaissance was and what approaches are best suited to understanding it.

From the start, you will undertake training in postgraduate research skills. 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 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.

In addition to the core teaching and individual research support, you will benefit from many Birkbeck Renaissance events, including our day on 'Researching the Text'. You will have the opportunity to attend the London Renaissance Seminar, a forum held at Birkbeck where you will be able to hear some of the best scholars in the field presenting and discussing their newest research in all aspects of early modern history, literature and culture.

Highlights

  • Arts and humanities at Birkbeck are ranked fifth best in London, 18th in the UK and 87th globally in the 2019 Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject.
  • 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.
  • There are two places available to MA Renaissance Studies students for training at the Globe Theatre (contact Programme Director for details). Read a blog post written by a former student.
  • The School of Arts offers a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.
  • The School of Arts is an official partner of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. Opportunities for students have included a year’s free membership of the ICA, private views, discounts on all talks and events, free members' screenings and £3 cinema tickets on Tuesdays, up to 25% off ICA Artists' Editions and a monthly e-newsletter.

Course structure

You begin with a core course that examines the way the Renaissance has been understood, and then you go on to choose three 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.

Module groups

Core module

Indicative option modules

MA Renaissance Studies dissertation

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

Route 1: English Literature

  • The Renaissance: Concepts and Issues
  • Literature of the English Reformation
  • The Literature of Elizabethan London
  • Visualising the Renaissance Stage
  • Summer core course (Renaissance Witnesses)
  • Dissertation on the Renaissance stage

Route 2: Renaissance Studies

  • The Renaissance: Concepts and Issues
  • Power and Control in Spanish Golden Age Art
  • Magic, Science and Religion
  • The Woman Question: Medieval to Renaissance
  • Summer core course (Renaissance Witnesses)
  • Dissertation on Isabella d’Este’s patronage

Route 3: Renaissance Italy

  • The Renaissance: Concepts and Issues
  • Rome: Place, Continuity and Memory
  • Art in the Age of Giotto
  • The Art of Persuasion
  • Summer core course (Renaissance Witnesses)
  • Dissertation on power and control in Florentine domestic space

Route 4: Shakespeare

  • The Renaissance: Concepts and Issues
  • Visualising the Renaissance Stage
  • Text and Action: Renaissance Stage Directions
  • Literary London
  • 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 (eg 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

      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 (eg 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.

      Visa requirements

      If you are not from the European Economic Area (EEA) and/or Switzerland and you are coming to study in the UK, you may need to apply for a visa.

      The visa you apply for varies according to the length of your course:

      • Courses of more than six months' duration.
      • Courses of less than six months' duration.
      • Pre-sessional English language courses.

      International students who require a Tier 4 visa should apply for our full-time courses (with the exception of modular enrolment certificates of higher education and graduate certificates), as these qualify for Tier 4 sponsorship. If you are living in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, you will not be eligible to enrol as a student on Birkbeck's part-time courses (with the exception of some modules).

      For full information, read our visa information for international students page.

      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

      Fees

      Part-time home/EU students: £4175 pa
      Full-time home/EU students: £8350 pa
      Part-time international students: £7600 pa
      Full-time international students: £15200 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

      Teaching

      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.

      Our distance-learning and blended-learning courses and modules are self-directed and we will provide you with interactive learning opportunities and encourage you to collaborate and engage via various learning technologies. These courses involve limited or no face-to-face contact between students and module tutors.

      In addition, you will have access to pastoral support via a named Personal Tutor.

      Methods of teaching on this course

      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.

      Contact hours

      On our taught courses, you will have scheduled teaching and study sessions each year. Alongside this, you will also undertake assessment activities and independent learning outside of class. Depending on the modules you take, you may also have additional scheduled academic activities, such as tutorials, dissertation supervision, practical classes, visits and fieldtrips.

      On our taught courses, the actual amount of time you spend in the classroom and in contact with your lecturers will depend on your course, the option modules you select and when you undertake your final-year project.

      On our distance-learning and blended-learning courses, discussion, collaboration and interaction with your lecturers and fellow students are encouraged and enabled through various learning technologies, but you may have limited or no face-to-face contact with your module tutors.

      Timetables

      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 larger groups, whereas seminars usually consist of small, interactive groups led by a tutor.

      Independent learning

      On our taught courses, much of your time outside of class will be spent on self-directed, independent learning, including preparing for classes and following up afterwards. This will usually include, but is not limited to, reading books and journal articles, undertaking research, working on coursework and assignments, and preparing for presentations and assessments.

      Independent learning is absolutely vital to your success as a student. Everyone is different, and the study time required varies topic by topic, but, as a guide, expect to schedule up to five hours of self-study for each hour of teaching.

      On our distance-learning and blended-learning courses, the emphasis is very much on independent, self-directed learning and you will be expected to manage your own learning, with the support of your module tutors and various learning technologies.

      Study skills and additional 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

      Assessment is an integral part of your university studies and usually consists of a combination of coursework and examinations, although this will vary from course to course - on some of our courses, assessment is entirely by coursework. The methods of assessment on this course are specified below under 'Methods of assessment on this course'. You will need to allow time to complete coursework and prepare for exams.

      Where a course has unseen written examinations, these may be held termly, but, on the majority of our courses, exams are usually taken in the Summer term, during May to June. Exams may be held at other times of the year as well. In most cases, exams are held during the day on a weekday - if you have daytime commitments, you will need to make arrangements for daytime attendance - but some exams are held in the evening. Exam timetables are published online.

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

      Methods of assessment on this course

      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, and you must submit a dissertation of 14,000-15,000 words.

    • Careers and employability

      Careers and employability

      Graduates go on 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.

      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 link.

      Birkbeck can give you all of the information and help you need to complete your application form.

      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.