Taught course

Critical Theory

Birkbeck, University of London · English, Theatre and Creative Writing

Entry requirements

Our standard postgraduate entry requirement is a second-class honours degree (2:2 or above) from a UK university, or an equivalent international qualification. Your first degree does not have to be in arts or humanities.

We will review every postgraduate application to Birkbeck on its individual merits and your professional qualifications and/or relevant work experience will be taken into consideration positively. We actively support and encourage applications from mature learners.

Months of entry


Course content

This MA Critical Theory gives you the opportunity to explore the provocations of various waves of critical theory in relation to culture. You will examine a multitude of critical theoretical approaches - with an emphasis on the contributions of the German critical tradition from Kant through Marx to the Frankfurt School, and all those thinkers following in its wake. You will also consider the crossings of politics and aesthetics and theory’s acknowledgement of, and resistance to, social injustice.

Culture is understood here in its broadest sense, and you will explore it in relation to contestations around topics such as:

  • science and technology
  • materialism
  • ecological crisis
  • migrancy
  • global and planetary forms
  • sexuality
  • gender.

You will consider how the insights and analyses of twentieth- and twenty-first-century critique relate to numerous forms, including literature, print culture, painting, film, photography, music and digital formats such as touchscreens, gaming or virtual environments. You will gain confidence in your ability to use constructive, explorative dialogue and debate to seek answers to complex questions.

This MA Critical Theory offers you a selection of option modules which allow you to focus more specifically on such questions raised within the compulsory modules. These option modules also give you the chance to think across a wide range of cognate subjects and build up areas of expertise.


  • On this MA you will help determine the direction of critical theory through small seminar group discussion with leading practitioners in the field.
  • Birkbeck has very active research centres and institutes - including the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities - that add further ways of deepening your knowledge of critical theory and modern and contemporary culture.
  • You will also have access to some of the best library resources in the world, including the University of London Library and the British Library, just a few minutes away from our Bloomsbury campus.
  • Birkbeck is located in the heart of literary London, in Bloomsbury, WC1. You could be studying in a building that was once home to Virginia Woolf and frequented by members of the Bloomsbury Group, now home to our School of Arts. The building houses our own creative hub which includes the Peltz Gallery, the Gordon Square Cinema and a theatre and performance space.
  • Birkbeck was ranked 2nd in the UK for its English Language and Literature research in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.
  • The School of Arts offers a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.

Information for international students

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 and foundation programmes to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • MA
    full time
    12 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    part time
    24 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

Student Advice Service
+44 (0)20 3907 0700