Study this programme anywhere in the world and receive a fully accredited University of London degree

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Applied Educational Leadership

MA, PGDip and PGCert

If you're an educational professional looking to progress into management or consultancy, or an educational planning or development role, this is the ideal degree for you. 

Provided by the UCL Institute of Education, this MA programme is available by distance learning, allowing you to study flexibly while balancing work and personal commitments.

Sitting around the table in Student Central
Study the MA Applied Educational Leadership, led by the UCL Institute of Education, anywhere in the world.

By studying this programme, you will:

  • improve your understanding of educational leadership;
  • be able to apply theory and research in your current role;
  • foster your continuing professional development through reflection on practice;
  • contribute towards improvement of educational systems and institutions and reflect on the quality of learning and teaching.

Programme details

  • For the Postgraduate Certificate: you study 2 core modules.
  • For the Postgraduate Diploma: you study 2 core modules and 2 optional modules.
  • For the MA: you study 2 core modules, 2 optional modules and a dissertation.

View Modules

Application and registration deadlines

Start studyingSeptemberSeptemberJanuary
Application deadline01 March 201919 July 201901 November 2019
Application decision date*29 March 201916 August 201929 November 2019
Registration deadline31 August 201931 August 201914 December 2019

* Application decision date: this is the date when you will hear if your application has been successful. If successful then you will receive an Offer letter by email inviting you to register for the given session. Notification is also sent to those who are unfortunately not successful.

Please also note, if you are still in the process of securing funding then it is advisable you apply as early as possible. If you apply before 01 March 2019 then you will receive a decision on 29 March 2019. Meaning if successful you will then have 5 months to arrange finances before the registration deadline date of 31 August 2019.

You can begin your studies in September or January. We allow you up to five years to complete your qualification. A typical route through the MA is shown below:

YearSeptember modulesJanuary modules
Year 1 [Core modules]Leading and managing educational change and improvementLeadership for the learning community
Year 2 [Optional modules]Finance and resource management or Developing personal leadership skillsExploring education policy or Values, vision and moral purpose
Year 3 [Dissertation]You will be supported by your tutor to produce a Dissertation of 15,000 words

The programme is offered online and is fully supported by a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). You study at a time and pace that suits you (subject to course-specific deadlines) using the study materials provided, with support available from academic staff.

Study materials

Your study materials have been developed by academics in educational leadership from the Institute of Education. You will also receive additional readings that have been specially selected to complement the core course material.

Online support

When you register, we will give you access to your Student Portal. You can then access your University of London email account and other key resources:

  • The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) offers online learning support, focused conferencing and work spaces linked to specific activities, informal discussion areas, and links to resources.
  • The Online Library provides access to over 100 million academic electronic items comprising E-books, E-journals, conference proceedings, etc. In addition, students can request items which are not held in the library via the library's Inter-Library loans service with the British Library.
  • Senate House Library provides free reference access for all registered distance and flexible learning students.
  • Online tutors will mediate online conferences and provide advice on individual queries.

Time commitment

To complete the MA programme in the minimum study period (3 years), we estimate that you will need to study for approximately 10-15 hours per week.


Each module is assessed by a combination of coursework and a written exam (usually held in May). The dissertation is assessed by a project of 15,000 words.

You can sit exams at an approved centre anywhere in the world (mainly Ministries of Education or the British Council). Each centre charges a fee for hosting exams.

More about exams.

What qualifications do you need?

  • An undergraduate degree in any subject (e.g. bachelor) comparable to a UK second-class honours degree from an institution acceptable to the University.
  • At least two years’ experience as professionals in an educational setting, including experience of leading other educators. This is commonly a school, university or childcare setting, but we accept applicants from a wide range of educational institutions. As this is an applied course linking theory to practice, we also expect that you will remain in a leadership position throughout your studies. 

Where an applicant does not have such qualifications, we invite them to set out in their personal statement why they are ready to engage with an academically rigorous programme.

If you have a qualification in an unrelated subject or an unconventional career path with diverse work experience, we will consider your application on its own merits.

Find equivalent qualifications where you live.

English Language requirements

If your first degree was not taught in English, you will need to provide evidence of language ability as tested by the British Council or another registered body. This is equivalent to an overall score of 7.0 overall in the iELTS test, with at least 7.0 in both reading and writing.

Computer requirements

We set minimum basic computer requirements because your study resources are accessed via the Student Portal and it is vital that you can access this regularly. Certain courses may have additional requirements, such as software to manage spreadsheets and run macros.

See more about computer requirements.

If you have any queries about academic content, or your eligibility in terms of qualifications or experience, you are welcome to contact the UCL team.

The fees below apply if you begin during the 2019-2020 session. These may be increased by up to 5% per year.

Academic year


Registration fee

£ 1,265

Module fee

£ 2,155

Dissertation (MA only)

£ 2,705

Total MA

£ 12,590

Total PGDip

£ 9,885

Total PGCert

£ 5,575

Total per standalone module

£ 2,520

Disclaimer: Currency conversion tool.

Additional Costs

You will also need to budget for exam centre fees, which are paid directly to the venues where you sit your exams.

How to pay your fees.

Please note: All student fees are net of any local VAT, Goods and Services Tax (GST) or any other sales tax payable by the student in their country of residence. Where the University is required to add VAT, GST or any other sales tax at the local statutory rate, this will be added to the fees shown during the payment process. For students resident in the UK, our fees are exempt from VAT.

This programme is ideal both for those currently working in school leadership positions looking to advance their career, and in the wider field of education to pursue managerial, policy or consultancy roles.

The AEL programme has gained recognition for the International Baccalaureate advanced certificate in leadership research.

In some countries, qualifications earned by distance and flexible learning may not be recognised by certain authorities or regulators for the purposes of public sector employment or further study. We advise you to explore the local recognition status before you register, even if you plan to receive support from a local teaching institution.

The University of London collaborates with member institutions to bring distance and flexible learning to students worldwide. Students are registered with the University of London, which handles the practical elements of running the programmes, such as processing fees, administering registration, organising your examinations, and awarding your degree. 

The AEL programme is designed and developed by UCL Institute of Education, which provides the academic direction, including developing and maintaining the syllabi, preparing learning resources, providing tutorial support, and marking the assessments.

The UCL Institute of Education is the largest institution in the UK devoted to the study of education. Founded in 1902, the Institute is a world-class centre of excellence for teacher training, higher degrees, research and consultancy in education and related areas of professional practice and the social sciences.

Programme Director

Rupert Higham is a Lecturer in Educational Leadership at the UCL Institute of Education. His research focuses on values-led school improvement, responsible leadership and educational dialogue. He has worked for some years with the Index for Inclusion Network, and more recently conducted a study into embedding democratic values within a network of international schools. He also writes on the philosophy of democratic agency.

Tutor team

The AEL tutors all have outstanding backgrounds in educational leadership and management. This includes previous and current roles as headteachers, school inspectors, education ministry research leaders and senior university roles.

Without the cost of moving to London, studying for your University of London degree anywhere in the world represents excellent value for money. However, there are additional sources of support depending on where you live and how you choose to study.

More on funding your study.

Lori Moores-Hagedorn MA Education, Germany

Lori Moores-Hagedorn - MA Education

"My experience of the programme has truly been impressive and memorable. I enjoyed working with a diverse cohort of MA colleagues spread across the globe."