BSc International Relations and English Language  

Why choose Aston?

  • English Language at Aston is ranked 13th (out of 105 programmes in the UK) in the Guardian University Guide 2015

  • International Relations at Aston is currently ranked Top 20 in the UK for Employability in the latest Guardian University Guide and Sunday Times University Guide.

  • English Language achieved 100% Overall Satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey.
  • Politics & International Relations at Aston has been rated between 101-150 institutions globally for 2012-13, in the QS World University Rankings 
  • Internationally recognised research, backed by the Aston Centre for Europe (ACE)
  • English Language staff work routinely with law enforcement as expert witnesses in cases where speech and/or text constitutes part of the evidence

3 years full time or 4 years with integrated placement year

UCAS Code: LQ23

Typical Offers
: ABB from 3 A-levels. General Studies accepted. 

If your predicted grades are close to those stated in Aston's typical offers and if you are interested in Aston University and the courses we offer we encourage you to apply to us as one of your 5 UCAS choices. In addition to your predicted grades, when making offers we also consider your previous academic performance (eg AS grades, GCSEs), your school/college reference and the commitment and motivation you demonstrate for your chosen course via the personal statement. Applicants and their teachers/advisers are welcome to contact us with individual queries about entry qualifications via lss_ugadmissions@aston.ac.uk.

View our Admissions Policy. 

IB: 33 points in the IB diploma including TOK/Bonus points. Standard level Maths and English 5 required.
Access: Pass Access to HE Diploma with Merit in each module.  Humanities or Social Sciences Access course preferred, but other courses considered on an individual basis. 
BTEC: National Extended Diploma DDD.  Mix of Diploma/ Subsidiary Diploma/A-levels acceptable. 

We accept a wide range of UK, EU and International qualifications: please contact us for further advice.

Specific subject requirements:
GCSE English Language and Maths Grade C.

Tuition fees 2014/15: £9,000 (£1,000 during placement year) for UK/EU students. More on fees

Applicants receiving offers are invited to an open day.

This multi-disciplinary programme has a key emphasis on the practical application of International Relations and English Language to the real world, through the optional placement year and professionally relevant modules which draw directly on Aston’s cutting-edge research. You will examine the nature of relations between states and also of the roles played by international institutions, other intergovernmental organisations, multinational corporations and NGOs. You will also be provided with the theoretical knowledge and understanding of English language and how it works in society. Important strengths of the course include the research-active teaching staff who are internationally recognised for their work on Western and Eastern Europe, Forensic Linguistics, Language and Gender and TESOL Studies. Aston is also one of only a few UK universities to offer International Relations and English Language with a fully integrated placement year. The distinctive placement year is an optional feature of the programme and is designed to give our students a distinct advantage on the graduate labour market. Our International Relations and English Language graduates are in demand from a wide range of employers where a sound understanding of societies, organisations, institutions and communication skills are required.

Sample module options: The following module descriptions are indications only -  the University reserves the right to change the modules on offer, the module content and the assessment methods.

Year One
This module offers an introduction into world politics and international relations. We inhabit a world of rapid change and solid knowledge of the underlying structures, dynamics and processes of international relations will be essential for your future professional (and private) life. During Teaching Period 1, we will focus on the pillars of the state system, introduce some key concepts, the theoretical traditions of realism and liberalism and examine the causes of cooperation and conflict. During Teaching Period 2, our emphasis will be on international law and international organisations such as the UN and the EU. We will also look at the structure of the global political economy, analysing the global financial system, international trade and development. We will also investigate topics such as environmental issues, terrorism and religion in international relations.

Assessment method: Two-Hour exam at the end of each Teaching Period (50% each)

This module provides you with a good knowledge of formulating and analyzing research questions and presenting sources in an academically relevant way. Students will be able to learn to research, plan and structure an essay; acquire language specific features of essay writing; identify the research tools in the library; work into a virtual learning environment; and use electronic resources to polish their work.

Assessment method: A Take Away Paper at the end of the Teaching Period.

This module provides an analytical and substantive overview of European history from 1789 to the present, with a focus on the post-1945 period. The module is structured thematically. Students will analyse and interrogate certain critical junctures in European history that have determined the shape of both the European continent and the contemporary world. The primary aim of the course is to provide an empirical background for students in the international history of Europe from the 19th to 21st centuries that will allow students to apply, contextualise and better understand the political science and international relations theories that form the focus of the other core modules.

Assessment method: two examinations, 1x 2 hour (January), 1x 3 hour (May). 
In this module, students look at how words are used in written and spoken texts to create meanings, and use dictionaries, corpus analysis and other practical techniques to understand the processes involved, and to analyse words in different ways.

Assessment method: 2.5-hour written exam (100%)

This module introduces you to the basics of one model of grammar: Systemic Functional Grammar, including key concepts and terms. It also involves practical workshop activities where you apply in practice what you have learnt in theory.

Assessment method: 3-hour written exam (80%), Attendance and participation (20%)

This module looks at language as it is employed for a variety of purposes in both private and public contexts. It also extends methods of communication to cover non-verbal means whereby messages are conveyed, as substitutes for and supplements to the use of words. Topic areas to be covered will include paralinguistics in interaction and in texts (links between image, gesture and word), language and technology, media language and the language of interpersonal communication.

Assessment method: A written assignment of 2500 words (50%), 2500-3000-word group project (50%)

The module provides a brief introduction to the historical development of English, as a basis for the investigation of the concepts of language varieties and boundaries. This leads to an exploration of the issues and controversies surrounding the present-day role of English as a world language. An emphasis on language description reinforces the terminology and concepts taught in the companion modules of Level 1, while the teaching also focuses on the socio-historical forces which have shaped the development of English, reflecting the perspective of the programme overall.

Assessment method: 4-5-minute individual presentation (20%), 2-hour closed-book written exam (80%)

This module introduces the concepts of register and genre: the ways in which spoken and written texts are shaped by their purpose, the relationship between reader and writer or speaker and hearer, and formal aspects of the communication (pictures, writing, speech, song etc).

Assessment method: 1,500-word essay (50%), 1,500-word essay (50%)

This module introduces language description at the levels of phonetics and phonology. It provides the descriptive and analytical tools needed to discuss phonological processes and aspects of speech production, involved in variation across accents of English.

Assessment method: 1,500-word essay (60%), Class test (40%)

Year Two

This module seeks to provide you with a strong understanding of the institutional configuration of the EU and how these institutions have been shaped by the relations between member states of the European Union. The module introduces you to the theories of European integration, and challenges you to assess competing views on the dynamics of the integration process over time. In the second part of the module, we explore a core set of policies areas of the EU, and students are asked to relate the politics and institutional make-up of the EU to developments in those policy fields. 

Assessment method: A 2-hour exam at the beginning of Teaching Period 2.

This module introduces students to key debates in security studies. The course is a mix of theoretical inquiry and empirical application. First, the module introduces students to the development of key theoretical perspectives in security studies., such as the traditional schools of realism and liberalism, through to critical security studies, constructivism and human security amongst others. After this, the module moves on to a range of traditional and non-traditional security challenges, and using the theoretical frameworks introduced, discusses issues including warfare, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, organized crime, human trafficking and the defence trade.  

Assessment method: exam (50%) and 2,000 – 3,000 word group report (50%)

This module seeks to provide you with a broad understanding of the design and conduct of research into political and social topics. Students learn about the basic concepts related to the design and conduct of research, such as ontology and epistemology. They also learn about the main schools of political and social enquiry and the tools that are utilised in social science research. There is analysis of the main traps and pitfalls in the way that data is collected, manipulated and presented, so that students avoid these traps and are alert to abuses by others.

Assessment method: An assignment or assignments to the equivalent of 1,800 words in TP2.

Analysing  dynamics and events in world politics does not happen in a conceptual and theoretical vacuum. Theoretical approaches provide us with the tools to make sense of the complex and colourful reality that is contemporary international relations. In this 20-cr module we will look at the various competing theoretical frameworks of international relations. We will learn how international relations has developed as an academic discipline through the analysis of four theoretical debates that constitute international relations. We will also discuss how political philosophy has influenced the way we view contemporary world politics.

Assessment method: Essay in Teaching Period 1 (50%), Exam in Teaching Period 2 (50%)

This module introduces you to different variations of English, including: social and regional variation; Englishes around the world and differences between spoken and written modes.

Assessment method: 3-hour exam 

The context for the module will be set by considering how language and work are inter-related on a macro scale. It will look at the impact of global trends on both work and language practices, as increasing numbers of business enterprises trade across national borders, necessitating international – and ‘intercultural’ – communication. The remainder of the module will take a more micro perspective, reviewing the ways in which speakers, writers and readers make use of particular kinds of discourse in work-related communication.

Assessment method: 2,500-word assignment (100%)

This module aims to introduce you to the ways in which media texts both reflect and construct our social practice and values. It addresses a range of issues, such as what makes something newsworthy, whether there is objectivity in news reporting, whether different social groups are equally represented in mass media texts, and what part visual images and layout play in our media messages; and it introduces you to a variety of methods for describing and critically evaluating media texts in relation to these issues.

Assessment method: 2,000-word case study (80%), Attendance and participation (20%)

This is an introductory course to TESOL. By the end of the module, the students will have become aware of the basic requirements of a teacher of English to speakers of other languages. They will have had the chance to develop some of the skills necessary for the TESOL teacher. The emphasis will be on developing the skills, organisational and pedagogical, which will allow them to teach or tutor their specialism. The areas covered will be course and syllabus design, materials evaluation and preparation, strategies for teaching lexis and grammar, lesson planning, delivery and evaluation.

Assessment method: Short lesson (10-15 minutes) on approved topic (50%), 1000 word summary and critique of a journal article (50%)

Final Year

This module considers key questions in post-Cold War international security. It starts by considering the scope and evolution of Security Studies, and introducing students to key approaches to security, including realism, liberalism and constructivism. Subsequently, students will have the opportunity to examine key concerns of global security by considering issues such as the pattern of global conflict, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, energy security, piracy and the defence trade. We will also consider the changing role of key security actors, such as the UN and NATO.

Assessment method: 5,000 word essay (100%)

The module offers an introduction to central and east European politics. It begins with an overview of the events that led up to the collapse of communism, before considering the key themes that have dominated politics in this region since 1989. These include economic reform, democratic transition, institutional design, nationalism, security questions, accession to Nato and the EU and so on.

Assessment method: 1x 3000-word essay to be submitted at the end of the module.
This module considers the countries of the Western Balkans (Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo) on their path to European integration and efforts in dealing with legacies of conflict and transition.  The module begins by looking at the recent past of the area – the 1991 collapse of Yugoslavia, 1992-1999 conflicts – and how these events have influence the subsequent political development of the successor states.  The module then considers the region’s various challenges including  post-conflict governance, statehood, intervention, ethnic tensions, war crimes, Kosovo independence and EU integration.

Assessment method: 3,000 word policy brief (100%)

This module considers key questions in post-Cold War international security. It starts by considering the scope and evolution of Security Studies, and introducing students to key approaches to security, including realism, liberalism and constructivism. Subsequently, students will have the opportunity to examine key concerns of global security by considering issues such as the pattern of global conflict, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, energy security, piracy and the defence trade. We will also consider the changing role of key security actors, such as the UN and NATO. 

Assessment method: 5,000 word essay (100%)

This course aims to enable students to research in significant depth a topic in Politics, and address and elaborate key concepts used in the analysis of historical, political, social and cultural institutions and processes. This knowledge, and drawing upon previous modules studied in levels 1 and 2 form the conceptual, methodological and analytical bases for research into their topic. Students will produce an independently researched piece of work, supervised by a lecturer from Politics and International Relations.

Assessment method: 4,000-6,000 word dissertation (100%)

Extended Politics Dissertation (LP3006): 10,000 word dissertation (80%) and oral exam (20%)

Ethics and international politics asks students to engage both theoretically and practically with contentious issues of contemporary world politics.  The first half of the course is dedicated to ethical theories of international politics which are then used in the second half of the course to engage with themes which involve, but are not limited to, violent conflict, humanitarian intervention, torture, human rights and the just war tradition.  Throughout the term students are ask to produce a weekly reflective diary to be submitted for both formative and summative evaluations prior to producing a final research paper reflecting on the wider themes of ethics and morality within the structures of international politics.  
In this module, students learn the key concepts and terminology of corpus linguistics and how to use corpus tools to conduct research into language in use, and look at some areas of applied linguistics in which corpora are used, such as lexicography, pedagogy, and translation.

Assessment method: Written assignment of 2000 words (50%), Practical project report (equivalent of 1000-1500 words) (50%)
This module considers frameworks, methods of analysis and applications associated with critical discourse analysis. It also considers the relationship between critical discourse analysis and other forms of discourse analysis, thereby developing a critical awareness of discourse analysis in general.

Assessment method: Portfolio of seminar-based tasks (700-800 words in total) (50%), 2,500-word critical discourse analysis (50%)
This module aims to introduce you to the ways in which the social construction of gender both reflects and inflects our discursive practices. It addresses a range of issues, beginning with an overview of feminist language study and alternative views of the relationship between gender, language and society. The second part of the module then moves on to consider questions of how gender issues are reflected in a range of social and institutional contexts, including for example, education, the media and the workplace. You will be introduced, throughout the module, to a variety of methods for describing and critically evaluating gendered linguistic practices in relation to these issues and contexts.

Assessment method: Attendance and participation (20%), 3,000-3,500 word research project (80%)
This module will focus on one specialist area of Applied Linguistics, the application of the tools and techniques of language description to spoken and written texts which have a significance in court cases. The module will look at topics such as: techniques for authorship attribution; questions of copyright and the detection of plagiarism; disputed police records of interview and confession; suspect suicide notes; and anonymous letters.

Assessment method: Mock expert report with literature review (2,000 words) (50%), Critique of expert report (1,500 words)
This course aims to enable students to research in significant depth a topic in English Language, and address, elaborate and apply key concepts used in the linguistic analysis of discourse, in professional, social, educational and/or cultural institutions and contexts. The dissertation allows students to undertake supervised research on a topic that is new to them. It is the longest and most sustained piece of research undertaken in the English Language part of their degree programme.

Assessment method: Dissertation proposal (20%), Dissertation (80%) 

Our graduates are in demand from a wide range of employers who value their understanding of different cultures and societies, their communication skills and motivation for team work. Recent destinations for our English Language and International Relations graduates include:   

  • Ministerial Support Officer, Department of Work and Pensions
  • Campaign Assistant, Conservative Party
  • Events Coordinator, Financial Business News
  • Graduate Trainee, Tesco
  • Research Executive, Info Group / Orc International
  • Trainee in Business Relationship Management
  • PR Graduate Trainee, Lidl
  • Sales and Marketing Manager, Rapid English
  • Project Coordinator, International Bridges to Justice
  • Junior Publicist, Warner Bros Pictures
  • Recruitment Adviser, West Midlands Police
  • Worcestershire County Council, Project Support Manager
  • Graduate Trainee, BAE Systems
  • Project Assistant, Birmingham City Council
  • Marketing & Sales Manager, Copper Alloys Ltd
  • Orphan Support Officer, Islamic Relief
  • Assistant Brand Manager, Diageo
  • Trainee Probation Officer, National Probation Service
  • Political Group Assistant, Warwickshire County Council
  • Bilingual Speech & Language Therapy Assistant, NHS 
  • Editorial Assistant, Blast TV 
  • Case Worker, Crown Prosecution Service 
  • Learning Support Assistant, Balfor Education 
  • Tenancy Support Worker, Midland Heart 
  • Trainee Teacher, Castle Vale School 
  • MA Broadcast Journalism, University College Falmouth 
  • PGCE Secondary English, the University of Birmingham 
  • MSc Human Resource Management, King’s College London
  • PhD Forensic Linguistics, Aston University 


You will be involved in: lectures, tutorials, seminars, e-seminars, small-group work, project work and independent study. Many of your modules will be in workshop format, alternating theoretical input with practical analysis, and allowing you to test out your understanding in discussion with other students and your tutor. There are also opportunities for group and collaborative work. Students undertake a major piece of independent research in final year.

You will be allocated a Personal Tutor when you join us and you will be encouraged to make regular contact with them throughout your studies. Personal Tutors are there to help discuss academic and, in some cases, personal issues. Personal Tutors can also often offer support by writing references for placement/graduate employment and academic research.

Assessment is through a combination of written and oral exams, coursework, essays, translation tasks, presentations and an extended dissertation during your Final Year. Exams take place in January and May/June.

For further information, see the International Relations joint honours programme specification and the English Language joint honours programme specification

Dr Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations 

Dr Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik

“My research focuses on post-conflict societies and their democratisation and reconciliation, drawing on Serbia and Kosovo as specific cases. Throughout my research, I also collaborate with other scholars, and therefore the issues that I look at can be quite wide ranging. For instance, I’ve recently investigated how Serbia as a society deals with war crimes and legacies of the past, but also how Serbia and Kosovo – previously at war – interact in peacetime. Much of this feeds directly into my teaching. I teach a module called ‘Conflict and Politics in Contemporary Balkans’, where I include insights from my research and trips to the region. On a module called ‘Conflict, Intervention and Reconciliation’, there are sessions dedicated to post-conflict justice and prosecuting of war crimes, so Serbia and Kosovo often feature as examples which we compare to other parts of the world. Most recently, I spent some time at the Centre for European Studies, Harvard, as a visiting scholar, where I worked on a new research project on social movements in Serbia. There is a rich tradition of protest and social movements in the Western Balkans more generally, so this will be the basis of one of the lectures I will teach next semester.”

Dr Krzysztof Kredens - Director of Undergraduate Programmes in English Language

Dr Kredens

“In my five years at Aston possibly the most flattering praise I received came from a student who said ‘This module messes with my head’. ‘Messing with students’ heads’ is not necessarily what the official course description promises but in my teaching I try and challenge students’ perceptions of what language is and what it can – and cannot – do for them. The key message I try to get across is that understanding the linguistic phenomena we encounter, but rarely notice, on an every-day basis is crucial for understanding and shaping the world around us. We all acquire knowledge in essentially two ways – either through direct experience or from others. For most of our knowledge we have to rely on other people’s perceptions, which, before reaching us, are encoded into language. Language then carries knowledge; once we realise the importance of this simple notion, we can make fully informed and conscious choices as to how we can use language as a powerful tool to achieve certain aims. At Aston our focus is on language use rather than structure. We do make sure our students acquire the relevant theoretical concepts, but our ultimate aim is to show how language works in actual interactions. We focus on the practical applications of English Language studies. We are passionate about teaching and, importantly, use our own research to inform it. As a result our students often have access to the latest research findings even before they are published in academic journals or the media.''

The placement year is optional for students studying International Relations and English Language. If you choose to take a placement year, this will take place during your third year at Aston and is worth 10% of the final degree result. Unlike some other universities, the placement year at Aston is not a ''bolt-on'' year, it is an integral part of your degree for which you are prepared in your second year.

A distinctive feature of our placement year is the flexibility that we offer. You will be able to choose between undertaking a paid work-experience placement with a company or working as a teaching assistant in a school (either in the UK or abroad) - you might even choose to combine two of these options. 

We are extremely proud of the high level of preparation, orientation and support that we provide before and during your year abroad. We have a full-time Placements Team who will give you plenty of individual help and advice, and even come and visit you during your time away. 

Find out more about the Placement Year.

Contact Details

Tel: 0121 204 3777

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