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

Applied Educational Leadership

MA, PGDip and PGCert

Available to study anywhere in the world

If you are in a leadership or management role in education and are looking to further your career - whether in schools, higher education, consultancy or edu-business - this may be 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

Programme structure, modules and specification

  • 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

Key dates

Application and registration deadlines

Start studying September January
Application deadline 20 July 2020 02 November 2020
Application decision date* 17 August 2020 30 November 2020
Registration deadline 31 August 2020 14 December 2020
Exams May/June May/June

* 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 02 March 2020 then you will receive a decision on 30 March 2020. Meaning if successful you will then have 5 months to arrange finances before the registration deadline date of 31 August 2020.

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:

Year September modules January modules
Year 1 [Core modules] Leading and managing educational change and improvement Leadership for the learning community
Year 2 [Optional modules] Finance and resource management or Developing personal leadership skills Exploring 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

How you study

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 subject matter experts based in the Institute of Education, a world-leading school for education and social science. Academics specialised in educational leadership have developed core materials specific to the Applied Educational Leadership programme. 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.
  • Access to dedicated discussion forums; allowing you to keep in contact with the programme director and fellow students.
  • Assessment preparation materials, including past examination papers, examiner’s commentaries, and sample scripts.
  • 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.

Student Support

We are committed to delivering an exceptional student experience for all of our students, regardless of which of our programmes you are studying and whether you are studying independently or with a Recognised Teaching Centre.

You will have access to support through:

  • The Student Advice Centre – provides support for application and Student Portal queries.
  • TalkCampus – a peer support service that offers a safe and confidential way to talk about whatever is on your mind at any time of day or night.

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.

Entry requirements

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. 

Reference letters will be requested when your application is processed by the Admissions Office.  Alternatively, you can upload signed letters of reference to your application when you apply.

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.

Automatic recognition of prior learning

There are certain qualifications for which we recognise prior learning automatically.

If you satisfy the conditions, complete the relevant section of the online application form, and supply the necessary evidence, we will accredit your prior learning as detailed below. No fees are charged for this service.

You must have passed the relevant listed qualification(s) in full within the five years preceding your request for accreditation. If your qualification was obtained more than five years ago, you may be considered for discretionary APL. Please contact the Admissions Office for clarification.

Awarding body Qualification Recognition for:
National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) Developing Personal Leadership Skills (30 credits)

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 2020-2021 session. These may be increased by up to 5% per year.

Academic year 2020-2021
Registration fee £1290
Module fee £2200
Dissertation (MA only) £2760
Total MA £12850
Total PGDip £10090
Total PGCert £5690
Total per standalone module £2570

Disclaimer: Currency conversion tool.

More about programme fees

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.

Further information on GST

Career opportunities

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.

Academic leadership

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.

Funding your study

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.

Apply online

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."