MA Adult Literacy, Lifelong Learning and Development

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MA Adult Literacy, Lifelong Learning and Development

University of East Anglia
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The MA Adult Literacy, Lifelong Learning and Development: International Perspectives is intended for those working in adult education and basic literacy, particularly in international and community development programmes. This pathway consists of a specialist unit on adult literacy, lifelong learning and international development; a unit on educational research methods; and a dissertation, focused on the student’s individual area of interest.

We welcome people working in policy, planning and evaluation roles, as well as teachers, NGO activists and literacy facilitators. Whilst we envisage that many of our students will be working in countries of the global South, in Asia, Africa and South Am…

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The MA Adult Literacy, Lifelong Learning and Development: International Perspectives is intended for those working in adult education and basic literacy, particularly in international and community development programmes. This pathway consists of a specialist unit on adult literacy, lifelong learning and international development; a unit on educational research methods; and a dissertation, focused on the student’s individual area of interest.

We welcome people working in policy, planning and evaluation roles, as well as teachers, NGO activists and literacy facilitators. Whilst we envisage that many of our students will be working in countries of the global South, in Asia, Africa and South America, the course is also appropriate for those working in the UK, US or Europe who are interested in developing a new perspective on their work. All applicants should have a real interest in the field of adult literacy and lifelong learning. Although approaches to adult literacy teaching and learning and curriculum development will be explored – including functional literacy, REFLECT and Freire – this is not a hands-on ‘teacher training’ course. This course will however provide you with critical insights and research skills for taking forward and developing innovative adult literacy and lifelong learning programmes, or for doing doctoral level research in this area.

  • This pathway provides an excellent base for a career in adult literacy and development, with non governmental organisations, international development agencies or national Governments
  • This pathway offers a unique introduction to researching adult literacy, and development, combining in-depth understanding of literacy theory and research methodology with practical experience of conducting literacy research
  • You will be supported by internationally recognised researchers in this field, with access to a wide range of materials and literacy networks in developing countries
  • View our fact sheet for further information

Programme Structure

Students follow a core programme introducing the changing theoretical understanding and policy approaches in the areas of adult literacy, international development and lifelong learning. In parallel, students will choose specialist topics relevant to their own needs and interests which they are encouraged to explore through designing their own individual research project. Students will receive one-to-one supervision for this element of the course. Those coming from professional roles in adult literacy, lifelong learning and development programmes will have the opportunity to work on a dissertation which contributes to their organisation’s work and enhances their professional development. .
The specialist unit is led by Prof. Anna Robinson-Pant and Prof. Alan Rogers, both leading researchers in the field of adult literacy and development.

Anna Robinson-Pant worked as a literacy trainer, planner and researcher in Nepal over many years. She was awarded the UNESCO International Award for Literacy Research in 2001 for her book, Why eat green cucumber at the time of dying? Exploring the link between women’s literacy and development and has since published widely in this area, including an edited book, Women, literacy and development: alternative perspectives. She has conducted research and policy work for a range of organisations, including NGOs, DFID and UNESCO (including commissioned research for the Global Monitoring Reports on Education for All and Mid-Term Review of the UN Literacy Decade). Since coming to UEA, she has conducted research with international students on academic literacies. Her book, Cross-cultural Perspectives on Educational Research, (published in 2005 by the Open University Press) looks at the issues students face in entering UK higher education.

Alan Rogers’ main interests and experiences lie in adult learning and teaching, especially in developing countries. He has worked in many countries in Asia and Africa as a consultant and trainer, especially in adult literacy. Among his publications are: Teaching Adults, Learning for Development and Non-formal Education: flexible schooling or participatory education? His current projects include an ethnographic approach to literacy training called LETTER which has been provided in India, Ethiopia and is being run in Uganda, and a project in Afghanistan on skills training and literacy.

Where possible, colleagues from the UEA Literacy and Development Group (LDG) also contribute to the MA sessions. Students are also encouraged to attend the public seminar series on Education and Development and the LDG informal reading group sessions – to extend their understanding of debates introduced on the course.

Students will gain an understanding of how adult education policy and programmes relate to international development policy objectives, through policy-focused analysis of the impact of literacy on development indicators such as health, income and political participation.

In particular, the specialist unit aims to:

  • introduce the changing concepts and approaches within the fields of adult literacy and lifelong learning
  • provide an understanding of how adult education policy and programmes relate to international development policy objectives
  • explore the relationship between adult literacy/numeracy, lifelong learning and social change (including gender relations)

Students will also be provided with an overview of contemporary understandings of adult learning, as well as approaches to adult literacy/numeracy programming (including REFLECT, functional literacy, and family literacy).

The specialist option enables students to design and report on their own professionalised learning programme of action, reflection and study.

Guidance materials, tutorials and workshops will support the creation of individual programmes of learning in an area of their own choice, leading to the dissertation.

Research methodology forms the core of this part of the MA programme and provides an introduction to the tools and theoretical frameworks for conducting the student's own literacy research study. The area is negotiated with programme staff to reflect students' professional needs and interests. Specialist sessions and tailor-made support with academic writing are also offered to all students.

THE UEA Literacy and Development Group

The Literacy and Development Group collaboration has brought together researchers in the School of Education and Lifelong Learning and the School of International Development. The Group promotes a strong research and teaching community to help support and stimulate research interest and teaching in the field of adult literacy and development.

Established in 2003, the Literacy and Development Group now has a growing international reputation in the field of adult literacy. We offer a friendly and supportive environment for learning about literacy and development, including regular seminars on Education and Development with presentations from international experts in the field. See our website for details of our recent activities and publications by our members:


This pathway within the MA in Education will provide an introduction to issues around pedagogy, planning and policy in the field of adult literacy and lifelong learning within an international context. The pathway will be particularly relevant to teachers and educators in the field of adult literacy and lifelong learning, as well as those working in development organisations in training, planning, policy and research roles.

This unit is divided into three key areas:

1. Literacy, development and adult learning: an introduction to the concepts

Starting with the concept of literacy as a social practice, we will draw on ethnographic research to unpack the relationship between literacy and international development. We will discuss current theories in adult learning and their relevance for policy, planning and practice in lifelong learning, as well as including an introduction to key debates and approaches in development theory.

Assessment: 1000 word review of three key articles introduced during the unit, and a ten minute oral presentation analysing the student’s own educational and professional experiences from the perspective of literacy as a social practice (using the student’s own country as a case study).

2. Adult literacy and lifelong learning: policy perspectives

We will introduce international educational policy agendas that have influenced national policy and practice in countries in the South. We will look particularly at policy designed to address language and gender inequalities and explore the research on the ‘benefits’ of literacy, which has influenced much international policy in this area.

Assessment: 3500 word assignment consisting of a critical account based on the research literature of the links between adult literacy and one aspect of socio-economic change (eg health behaviour, legal rights, gender relations, poverty alleviation). The assignment should also examine educational policy in the chosen area.

3. Basic Adult Education and Literacy: looking at learning and teaching approaches

We will explore some of the main approaches to adult literacy and lifelong learning, including Freire, REFLECT, functional literacy, family literacy and language experience approaches. Through in-depth study of adult learning programmes in a range of countries, we will examine questions around the selection, training and support of facilitators, monitoring and evaluation, learning-teaching approaches, materials and resources.

Assessment: an assignment of 3500 words which is a case study discussing the main approaches and current theories in adult literacy and lifelong learning in relation to a country of the student’s choice.

The teaching of the unit will be through 15 lecture/seminar sessions and tutorial support for assessed work, totalling 60 hours contact time for each student.

Student Experiences

Comments from last year’s students

Saffiatou Savage-Sidibeh has now returned to the Gambia, where she works as the Principal Education Officer and Head of the Government’s Non-formal Education Unit, of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education. She writes:

“On my return home to the Gambia, I was almost immediately engaged by the office of the Vice President as a member of a taskforce for the development of the African Gender Development Index (AGDI) 2011, Gambian version. I was identified as the team leader of the education component within the Social Power Capabilities’ Block, tasked to gather information to inform the compilation of the AGDI 2011 study report. This was indeed a challenge. The scarcity of data is evident in many countries especially within our sub region in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, my attainment of a Master’s degree from the Adult Literacy, Lifelong Learning and Development programme of the School of Education and Lifelong Learning, University of East Anglia, has greatly boosted my morale and built my confidence to face challenges and perform assignments effectively.

The course indeed built my capacity in asking questions, in critically analyzing statements based on evidence/facts and in making concrete judgments. These skills helped me greatly to successfully accomplish my first assignment at the level of the Vice President’s office back home, and will help me further in the coordination and management of my projects and programmes as the Head of the Adult and Non-Formal Education Unit of my Ministry.

It is perhaps too early to fully judge my acquired competencies just a few months after completing the MA programme. But I can confidently say that it has given me an added eye with an intellectual mind to read the world”.

Elena Tsangaridi is now back in Cyprus and writes:

“I feel that the MA course helped me to see the world differently! Before that I didn't know much about the developing world and their educational systems but now I feel more confident to start searching more and more things about these educational programmes. It helped me also to understand in some points the educational system here in Cyprus, especially for adults and why all these programmes such as night schools or teaching adult foreigners Greek language is important. It helped me to see another part of my country, like immigrants for example from a different glance!

This MA course gave me the opportunity to start looking at other, unknown aspects of the society I am living in, such as dyslexia in adults and what kind of educational programmes there are in Cyprus for them. This is something that I have never thought to do before. Furthermore, because of this course I improved my critical thinking and now I am questioning things and situations more and more. I don't take anything for granted!

I have just had the opportunity to participate in a training seminar here in Cyprus, part of lifelong learning and Youth in Action Programmes, and I've seen many of the participatory methods we learnt with you in action! I was very happy and excited about that!!! I am also thinking to get involved more in that kind of lifelong learning programmes and start doing things about my village but because of the financial crises is very difficult to find money or sponsorships at the moment.

I hope all the best for the future of this MA because honestly, it was a difficult but also enjoyable year with the company of great professors and colleagues!”

Ahmmardouh Mjaya, researcher at the Centre for Language Studies, Chancellor College, University of Malawi, has now resumed his university teaching responsibilities again. Writing from Malawi, he reflects on what he learned from the MA course:

  • What I liked most about the course is its holistic approach to the subject of adult literacy (from policy through curriculum, training of facilitators, facilitation to assessment) including its assumed link with development as well as the course's appeal to the reality on the ground in this field.
  • Based on evidence from ethnographic studies, this course has helped me re-examine my own perceptions and assumptions about literacy and development such that if I were given another chance to oversee an adult literacy initiative I would be more cautious when dealing with the adult learners than I was some two years ago. These studies have made me realise that literacy is very complex.
  • Professionally, this course has helped me become recognised as someone who has some expertise in this field such that colleagues in the faculty now come to me to ask about any issues concerning adult literacy.

Eleni Konidari came to the MA course with experience of teaching adults in Greece:

“One of my best choices was the decision to come to the University of East Anglia and do the MA in Adult Literacy, Lifelong Learning and Development: International Perspectives. It opened a whole new world to me and changed what I had being thinking before about adult literacy! I think this was the most important thing I gained from the Masters, a brand new understanding of literacy and a new way of thinking in general. What more is that the programme stands both in Education and Development and this makes it really interesting.

What makes the adult literacy masters in UEA really worth doing is the passion and the commitment of Professors Anna Robinson-Pant and Alan Rogers for the program. This is something that really made a huge difference to our studies. The program was very well designed and every session with the professors was exciting giving us so much new knowledge and tools for thinking. The way they supported us throughout the year was really amazing. Not only the well planned and rich sessions we had, and the materials they were giving us (we even had a special little library for our program consisted of professors’ personal collections of books) but also the tutorial time we could have and the systematic and thorough feedback for every piece of work we were submitting, all these made the program a fantastic academic experience.

However, personally not only I learnt much from my professors but also from my classmates some of whom had long established working experience in the literacy field. I particularly liked the sense we had in this programme all together as a family. Today I am happy to be still at UEA as the stimulus and the skills I gained during my Masters led me to a PhD funded by the university.”

Course Organiser:Prof Anna Robinson-Pant
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Entry Requirements Degree Subject: Educational Studies or Social Science Degree Classification: 2.1 or equivalent Special Entry Requirements: Relevant teaching experience desirable Entry Requirement

Applicants should normally have a good first degree from a recognised higher education institution. The University will also take into account the employment experience of applicants where relevant and applications are actively encouraged from those who want to return to academic study.

It is normal for undergraduate students to apply for entry to postgraduate programmes in their final year of study. Applicants who have not yet been awarded a degree may be offered a place conditional on their attaining a particular class of degree.

Students for whom English is a Foreign language

We welcome applications from students whose first language is not English. To ensure such students benefit from postgraduate study, we require evidence of proficiency in English. Our usual entry requirements are as follows:

  • IELTS: 6.5 (minimum 6.0 in all components)
  • TOEFL: Internet-based score of 92 (minimum 19 listening, 21 speaking, 19 writing and 20 reading)
  • PTE (Pearson): 62 (minimum 55 in all components)

Test dates should be within two years of the course start date.

Other tests such as TOEIC and the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English are also accepted by the university. Please check with the Admissions Office for further details including the scores or grades required.

INTO UEA and INTO UEA London run pre-sessional courses which can be taken prior to the start of your course. For further information and to see if you qualify please contact (INTO UEA Norwich) or (INTO UEA London).

The School of Education and Lifelong Learning is one of the UK's leading centres for research and teaching in education, offering a distinctively broad range of programmes at Postgraduate level.

We are a diverse community of practitioners, scholars and academics who teach, research, and provide professional development. We seek to equip educationalists and other professionals with the skills and insights they need as part of their continued professional development at a time of rapid educational and organisational change.

The School is nationally and internationally recognised for its work in educational innovation and social change; literacy and development; and mathematics education. We have extensive links with overseas agencies and organisations and strong working relationships with practitioners, educators and policymakers in all sectors of the education system and other related professional fields. We are proud of both our local roots and our international reach and our partnerships with schools and colleges, with adult educational groups and with governments and universities are greatly valued.

We use a variety of teaching technologies, including lectures, seminars, practical work and IT e-learning resources. These are delivered by experienced members of academic staff, often in a relatively informal learning environment within small groups. Assessment is usually by written assignments and a dissertation. A continuous control process ensures that our teaching quality continues to develop, and students have access to a number of quality-control channels including student feedback forms, debriefing meetings, and the Student Liaison Committee to help us monitor, evaluate and develop current practice.

There are many external indicators which endorse the quality of our teaching and research. These include top ratings within the National Student Satisfaction survey, '+3' Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) recognition, and "Outstanding" recognition by OfSTED for our programmes of Initial Teacher Education.

Career Opportunities

Our graduates enjoy excellent employment prospects. A high proportion of our Masters graduates occupy senior posts in schools, universities and ministries all over the world.

The University of East Anglia provides a professional Careers Centre and, together with the School's Academic Careers Adviser, we will help students to pursue their chosen career path and develop their employability skills.

Come and Visit Us

Our Open Days will give you the opportunity to experience the University of East Anglia's unique campus atmosphere.

You will have the chance to attend subject-specific talks and presentations about student life and finance. You will also be able to talk directly to academics, admissions staff and current students giving you a first-hand impression of life at the University of East Anglia - check out the accommodation, learning resources, student support, and our sport and entertainment facilities.

If you are not able to visit us in person, check out our Virtual Open Day experience which we hope will help to provide you with an insight into life and study at the University of East Anglia.

Further Information

If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances with the Admissions Office prior to applying
please do contact us:

Admissions Office (Education and Lifelong Learning)
Tel: +44 (0)1603 593252

Please click here to download the School of Education and Lifelong Learning Postgraduate Prospectus or register your details via our Online Enquiry Form.

International candidates are also actively encouraged to access the University's International section of our website.

Fees and Funding

Fees for the academic year 2013/2014 will be:

  • UK/EU Students: £5,000
  • International Students: £12,500

International applicants from outside the EU may need to pay a deposit.

Living Expenses
Approximately £7,500 living expenses will be needed to adequately support yourself.

Scholarships and Funding

A variety of Scholarships may be offered to UK students. Please click here for more detailed information about funding for UK students.

The University offers around £1 million of Scholarships each year to support International students in their studies. Scholarships are normally awarded to students on the basis of academic merit and are usually for the duration of the period of study. Please click here for further information about fees and funding for International students.

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