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R002 Modern Languages and Cultures (with Year Abroad) BA Undergraduate  2018


UCAS code R002
Degree BA
Mode of study Full Time
Duration 4 years
Location Durham City
Typical Offers A Level
International Baccalaureate
Please also check Requirements and Admissions.
Alternative qualifications

Department(s) Website
Telephone +44 (0)191 334 3441

Course Summary


We offer post A-level courses in French, German, Italian, Russian and Hispanic Studies. These courses are open to students who have an A-level (at least Grade A) or equivalent qualification in that language. We also offer beginners’ courses in Arabic, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian. Beginners can take cultural modules alongside post-A Level students, and completely merge with the advanced stream in the final year.

Here are some examples of how to combine languages:

  • You might choose to study one language (chosen from French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish). You will need an A-level at the appropriate grade pass in your chosen subject. However, if you wish to study Arabic as a single language, you will need an A-level at the appropriate grade pass in at least one other foreign language. You take four modules in the language area of your choice, along with a further two modules in a subsidiary subject of your choice outside the School in both your first and second years. You then take your year abroad and return to your final year to take either six modules in your chosen language or five modules in your chosen language and one module from a subject studied in your second year. Subsidiary subjects may be chosen from those available in departments outside of the School, subject to module availability, individual entry requirements and timetable compatibility
  • You might choose to study two languages (chosen from Arabic, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish). These languages can normally be divided 3 modules +3 modules between two languages, or 4+2 as you prefer (subject to some variation in module availability between the languages)
  • You might initially choose to study three languages (chosen from Arabic, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish), which you study in equal proportions (2+2+2). After your first year, you will be required to drop one of these and study no more than two languages in years 2 and 3. 
  • There are three ways of combining study of a language and its culture with another subject throughout your degree (with a year abroad). Combined Honours in Social Sciences and Liberal Arts allow flexible combinations of one or two languages with other subjects, while the Modern European Languages and History programme allows you to study one language (Advanced or Beginners, excluding Arabic) and History in roughly equal proportions

Year 1

Students will take a core language module for each of the languages they are studying. This is a single module for all languages studied post-A Level and a double module for beginners’ languages. These core modules focus on the four skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. In addition, you will choose from a wide range of modules dealing with various aspects of the literature, film, art, history and politics of the different cultures you are studying. These cultural modules aim to develop students’ independent research and analytical skills as well as introducing them to the cultures in question.

All first-year modules are intended to function as introductions to and more general overviews of areas of study in which you will specialise later in the degree.

Year 2

Students will continue to take a core language module for each of the languages they are studying. These core modules focus on and continue to develop the four skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. In addition, you will choose from a wide range of modules on the literature, film, art, history and politics of the cultures you are studying. All second-year modules build on skills and knowledge acquired in the first year and allow students to specialise more in areas which interest them (from medieval literature to contemporary film).

Year 3

The third year is spent abroad and students divide their time between countries whose languages they are going to study at Level 3 in the final year. They can spend this time as an English assistant in a school, as a student in a university and/or in employment of some kind. During the year abroad you will complete a Target Language Research Project for each of the languages you are going to study at Level 3 in the final year, supervised by a designated Year Abroad project supervisor.

Year 4

Students will continue to take a compulsory language module for each of the languages they are studying. These compulsory modules focus on and continue to develop to a high level the four skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. In the final year, students will also research and write a dissertation on an aspect of culture or cultural production, supervised by a member of staff with expertise in the selected topic area.

In addition, you will choose from a wide range of specialist modules on literature, film, art, history and politics relating to the cultures you are studying. These modules are designed around staff research expertise. All fourth-year modules build on skills and knowledge acquired earlier in the degree and allow students to specialise still further in areas which interest them (such as the work of a particular writer or the culture of a particular period).

Study Abroad

School of Modern Languages and Cultures

We attach great importance to your time abroad, during the third year of your degree, which you may spend as an English assistant in a school, as a student in a foreign university, or in employment with an overseas organisation. This is a time of enormous linguistic and personal development from which you should gain a high level of fluency in your language(s) and enjoy a unique opportunity to make new friends, appreciate new cultures and learn to work and study in new ways. Employers at home and abroad are impressed by the lasting benefits, especially in increased linguistic confidence, intercultural agility and general self-motivation. During the year abroad you will complete an academic assignment related to each of the countries in which you stay. You will need to pass these in order to fulfil the requirements of the BA in Modern Languages with Year Abroad.

Course Detail

To find out more about the modules available to students studying at Durham University please click here.

Please note: Current modules are indicative. Information for future academic years may change, for example, due to developments in the relevant academic field, or in light of student feedback.

Course Learning and Teaching

Typically, a student of Modern Languages and Cultures will have 10-11 hours of classroom teaching per week in the three years of the degree that are based in Durham. How much of this is devoted to language learning will depend on how many languages you study (up to three in the first year and up to two in the second and final years). Post-A Level core language modules mostly involve 2 teaching hours per week, while beginners’ core language courses in the first year are double modules with 5 or 6 teaching hours per week. Language classes develop speaking, listening, reading and writing skills as well as grammatical understanding. Optional modules focusing on a wide range of forms of culture (literary and visual) and cultural history are mostly taught by means of weekly lectures and fortnightly seminars, some of which are conducted in the target language.

Classroom teaching is an important part of your learning, but this is only the beginning of your learning. It provides a starting-point for your development as an independent, self-motivated learner. The majority of your time will therefore be spent working independently, reading widely, making notes, finding sources of information, listening to and viewing audiovisual materials. For each hour of timetabled classroom teaching you will therefore be expected to carry out approximately four hours of independent study and research.

A significant proportion of this time will be spent preparing and completing assessment tasks, both formative and summative. In core language and specialised translation/interpreting modules, heavy emphasis is placed on formative assessment as an ongoing element of the learning process, progressively preparing students for written and oral summative assessments. In cultural modules, most assessment is summative, largely consisting of a mix of essays and written examinations, with oral presentations in some modules.
In addition to regular support and feedback from module teachers and conveners, your learning will be supported at the individual level by a personal Academic Adviser, who will meet with you three times a year to discuss your overall progress. This support network continues during the Year Abroad, when every student is supported by a designated Target Language Research Project Supervisor.

The Year Abroad is a key element in the progressive, developmental education Modern Languages & Cultures at Durham seeks to provide, fostering the accelerated acquisition of language skills and expanding intercultural competence. The amount of time spent on academic study during the Year Abroad will vary according to whether you choose to do work or study placements. All students will, however, work independently during their time abroad on preparation for their final-year dissertation and the Target Language Research Project(s) submitted at the beginning of their final year.
In general, there will be an increasing emphasis on independent learning and research skills, culminating in the final-year dissertation and Target Language Research Project. Rather than imparting detailed information, the main aim of the teaching you receive will be to help you to learn how to learn – guiding you towards using resources effectively, thinking critically and formulating persuasive arguments.

Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:

  • We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or who may have had a break in their study. 
  • Grade A at A-level or equivalent in French, German, Italian, Russian or Spanish is required to study that subject at advanced level
  • Grade A at A-level, or equivalent, in a modern European language is required to begin the study of a new beginners’ language, including Arabic
  • We do not include General Studies or Critical Thinking as part of our offer
  • Typical IB score 37 to include 666 in higher level subjects. Higher level subject requirements apply, see above 
  • Key skills qualifications are welcomed, but are not taken into account as part of the entry requirements
  • We are pleased to consider applications for deferred entry.

Science A-levels

Applicants taking Science A-levels that include a practical component will be required to take and pass this as a condition of entry. This applies only to applicants sitting A-levels with an English examination board.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Information relevant to your country

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £9,250.00 per year
Home Student £9,250.00 per year
Island Student £9,250.00 per year
International non-EU Student £18,300.00 per year

Note: Fees are subject to review and change in-line with inflation.

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding 

Career Opportunities

School of Modern Languages and Cultures

A BA in Modern Languages from Durham will provide you with an impressive and unique portfolio of cultural knowledge, transferable skills and placement experiences that is much valued by employers worldwide. The combination of linguistic ability, intellectual rigour and cultural understanding that you acquire during your course makes you eminently employable in a wide range of careers both here and abroad. These include specialist occupations, such as interpreting, translation and teaching, but also industry, business, marketing, finance, the civil service, the European Union agencies, law and the media. In fact, statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency reveal that language graduates are on average 10-15% better paid than other arts graduates and have the lowest unemployment rates overall (only outdone by those in medicine and law). With the UK as a whole now producing fewer and fewer linguists, graduates in Modern Languages are increasingly sought after. As one employer put it, 'the ability to communicate internationally is becoming a pre-requisite for success'.

In particular, the Year Abroad, which is and will continue to be an integral part of all our degree programmes, will give you a headstart in the job market. There is significant evidence that the experience of working and studying abroad delivers not just improved language abilities and increased knowledge but also greatly enhanced intercultural, problem-solving and personal skills. These are a factor in landing first and subsequent jobs for over 70% of language graduates, a significant factor for over 30%, and the determining factor for about 10%. Employers are becoming increasingly aware that language graduates who have spent a year abroad are amongst the most mature, adaptable and independent people entering the job market.

For inspiring examples of where a Durham Modern Languages degree can lead to, read our MLAC Alumni Stories.

My placement during my year abroad and experience in Peru led to my return to work there after graduation, and promotion to regional manager within 5 months.

Of those students that left in 2016:

  • 92% are in employment or further study six months after graduating

Of those in employment:

  • 91% are in graduate level employment
  • Median salary £24,733

(Source: Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey of 2015/16 graduates. The DLHE survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing six months after graduation. Full definitions for the DLHE Record can be found

Durham University Modern Language graduates enter a wide range of occupational areas including management; publishing; marketing; translation; teaching; business and finance. Our graduates find employment with a wide range of employers both in the public and private sector including the British Council; Barclay's Wealth; Deloitte; Ernst and Young; Goldman Sachs, Grant Thornton; Pharmacia; PwC; Proctor and Gamble; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; the NHS and Teach First. Roles our graduates progress into include copyright and marketing executive; banker; journalist; teacher; trainee tax advisor; research executive; buyer; live subtitler; trainee investment banker; translation checker; writer and translator.

Study and work abroad

MLaC students spend a year abroad after their second year of study. This involves studying and/or working abroad which enriches their cultural awareness and develops the essential employability skills sought by graduate employers.

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Pre-application open days are the best way to discover all you need to know about Durham University. With representatives from all relevant academic and support service departments, and opportunities to explore college options, the open days provide our prospective undergraduates with the full experience of Durham University.

Please see the following page for further details and information on how to book a place:

Discover Durham Tours

Discover Durham tours offer a brief introduction to the University. The tour begins at one of our undergraduate colleges, where you will receive an introductory talk from a member of college staff, followed by a tour of the college by current students.

Overseas Visit Schedule

Department Information

School of Modern Languages and Cultures


In a world of increasing cultural and economic globalisation, a degree in Modern Languages is your passport to international career opportunities and a lifelong love of languages and cultures. Employers of all kinds are looking for ‘global graduates’: people with excellent communication skills, sensitivity to other cultures and the ability to mediate between them, and the confidence to adapt to differentenvironments.

At Durham University you can specialise in one or two languages and the cultural worlds associated with them – choose from Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hispanic Studies, Italian, Japanese and Russian. You will develop high-level language skills and in-depth intercultural awareness. The year abroad will give those capabilities a crucial boost as well as providing valuable experience of working or studying in different countries. We place a strong emphasis on the study of cultural production: a stimulating range of options enriched by the world-class research expertise of our staff will enhance your critical thinking, communication, research and analytical skills.

  • 94% of our Modern Languages and Cultures students said their course was intellectually stimulating in the National Student Survey 2015 (sector-wide average 87%).
  • 2nd for French, German and Iberian Languages in The Complete University Guide 2016.
  • 2nd for Russian and East European Languages in The Complete University Guide 2016.
  • 5th for German and 3rd for Iberian Languages in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016.
  • 4th for French, 2nd for Italian, and 3rd for Russian and East European Languages in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016.


For a current list of staff, please see the School of Modern Languages and Cultures web pages.


We have 82 teaching staff, including 16 language teaching fellows and 17 native speaker language assistants. The recently refurbished language laboratories have excellent audio-visual facilities and both main lecture rooms and small group teaching rooms are equipped for the increasing integration of film and other audio-visual material. The School’s Open Access Centre is situated in the same building, offering further self-access resources. Durham has first-class library facilities, with the main University collections supplemented by those of college libraries.