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TESOL: Home or Away?

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By Kim Willis – MA TESOL Programme Leader 

We have designed our MA TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course to be as flexible as possible in order to meet the needs of our diverse student population.

If you are an international student and are able to join us on campus here in Sunderland, then our full time, on-campus, mode is undoubtedly the best way to get an immersive experience; to learn more about life and culture in the UK, and to develop your English language skills to the full. If you opt for this mode, the duration of the course is 12 months.

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Our on-campus mode is available part-time as well, for those who are unable to commit to full-time study due to family or work commitments. Our part-time students normally take one module per semester in the first year of study. This pattern is repeated in the second year, but students progress to the 15-week dissertation phase at the end of the second semester, and graduate in the autumn. The programme takes approximately two years to complete part-time in this way.

Many of our students are already practising teachers, working in a wide range of educational contexts around the globe. For these students, Independent Distance Learning (IDL) is a very convenient and attractive option. As long as you have access to a computer, you can work from anywhere in the world and are not expected to come on campus at all.


"Our distance learning students frequently prove to be particularly effective and versatile independent learners, with a high degree of personal motivation."

Kim Willis – Programme Leader, MA TESOL

The full-time IDL mode takes approximately 18 months to complete. We are often asked how many study hours per week are required; to be honest, it is almost impossible to estimate the actual number of hours per week that students require to complete the course, as this depends very much on the individual. However, there are normally two elements of assessment for each module and students who are already in teaching posts or who have quite heavy personal commitments generally manage to keep up with this. If a student’s circumstances change and they are finding it difficult to stay on top of their studies, it is possible to leave the course early with an interim award; for example, a Postgraduate Certificate TESOL. A part-time IDL route is also available for students who prefer to complete at a slower pace, which takes approximately 2.5 years.

We are aware that in some countries, distance learning qualifications may not be treated on a par with on-campus awards. In our view, this is simply not justified as our learning outcomes are identical for both on campus and IDL. Our distance learning students frequently prove to be particularly effective and versatile independent learners, with a high degree of personal motivation. We therefore make no distinction between our on-campus and distance learning students in terms of the award offered or the wording on their certificates. Nevertheless, some students ask us if they can come to Sunderland to complete the dissertation phase in order to experience on-campus study; this is now possible via a change of study mode.

If you have any questions about the many flexible ways of studying the programme, the MA TESOL team would be very happy to help answer them!

Published: 18 May 2020

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