Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) - Distance Learning with optional specialism (MSc/PGDip/PGCert)

September 2023 entry

These courses provide the opportunity to integrate the theory and practice of teaching English to speakers of other languages. They are designed to be useful to both experienced teachers and those considering a career in English language teaching.

As a distance learning course, you will have the flexibility to select modules of interest and of benefit to your future career, as well as interact online with students in St Andrews and around the world.

Students who have an interest in a particular field of TESOL can also choose one of five specialisms to focus their studies on, and graduate with a TESOL degree in that specialism. 

Apply nowRegister your interest

Choose your course

These flexible courses allow you to choose the path that best suits your ambitions. You can:

  • Achieve either an MSc, PGDip or PGCert qualification (see information below).
  • Study 'on campus' in St Andrews or online through distance learning.
  • Start in either September or January.
  • Choose an optional specialism. 

MSc, PGDip or PGCert

You can enrol for one of three different types of qualifications: 

Master of Science (MSc)

The MSc requires you to take eight modules and complete a 15,000-word dissertation. This is a part-time course that you can complete between two and five years.

Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip)

The PGDip requires you to take eight modules. Those on the PGDip do not undertake a dissertation. This is a part-time course that you can complete between two and four years.

Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert)

The PGCert requires you to take four modules of your choosing. Those on the PGCert do not undertake a dissertation. This is a part-time course that you can complete between one and two years.

In-person or online distance learning

These programmes are delivered both in person at St Andrews and online through distance learning. If you are interested in in-person teaching, see:

September or January

There are two different start dates you can choose from. This page has information for September entry; if you are interested in starting in January, see:

Optional specialism

You can choose to focus your studies in a particular area of interest by taking TESOL with a specialism. Specialisms available are:

  • Assessment and Evaluation
  • English for Academic Purposes
  • English Medium Instruction
  • Teaching Young Learners
  • Technology for Teaching. 


Course dates

  • Start date: September 2023

Entry requirements

Typically, you should have one of the following:

  • A 2.1 Honours degree or 3.3/4.0 Grade Point Average (GPA) is in any discipline. Applications are welcomed from all education systems. If you studied your first degree outside the UK, see the international entry requirements.
  • Significant professional or other relevant experience alongside evidence of prior alternative learning (such as professional qualifications or certifications). 

If you require further information about our academic entrance requirements in relation to the education system you studied in, please contact ie@st-andrews.ac.uk.

Recognition of prior learning

Some students may be eligible for recognition of prior learning (RPL) based on their previous studies, such as DELTA. The International Education Institute considers applications for RPL on a case-by-case basis in line with the University's recognition of prior learning policy. To confirm the exact amount of credit you could be awarded, please forward your relevant transcript to ie@st-andrews.ac.uk.

English language requirements

You will need to be proficient in the English language. Information about English language entry requirements for these programmes is available on the postgraduate English language requirements page.

Applicants who have not met English language entry requirements at the point of application may be made offers that are conditional on these requirements being met before enrolment. Offer-holders may then use the University’s Academic English Pre-sessional courses to meet English language requirements.

The qualifications listed are indicative minimum requirements for entry. Obtaining the listed entry requirements will not guarantee you a place, as the University considers all aspects of every application including, where applicable, the personal statement, and supporting documents.

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Tuition fees

  • MSc: £11,120
  • PGDip: £7,410
  • PGCert: £3,465

Application deadline

Thursday 10 August 2023. Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes.

Application requirements

  • CV, this should include your personal details with a history of your education and employment (paid or voluntary) to date
  • personal statement, see personal statement guidance for TESOL courses.
  • two original signed references (these may be professional or academic)
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates
  • evidence of English language proficiency (required if English is not your first language). If you have not yet taken an English language test, this can be submitted at a later date. Any offer of a place would then be conditional on attaining evidence of your English language competence.

For more guidance, see supporting documents and references for postgraduate taught programmes.

Course information

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) programmes are run by the International Education Institute.


  • The programme allows for flexible part-time study while working, but also provides plenty of opportunities for you to interact with both TESOL students in St Andrews and other distance learning students.
  • Integrate theory and practice – discuss theoretical concepts and frameworks in small groups and in online written forums and apply these through practical assessments.
  • Interact with a global cohort of students, studying both in St Andrews and by distance learning around the world, through module learning activities.
  • Access an optional and supplementary resource bank of material in parallel with your PGT programme to support both your learning and the development of your professional identity. 
  • Join experienced practitioners and scholars in the English language teaching community, with opportunities to be involved in ongoing professional development events and the annual English for Academic Purposes (EAP) conference.

The number of taught modules you will take depends on whether you are studying for the MSc, PGDip or PGCert degree. Those on the MSc and PGDip will take five compulsory modules plus three optional modules. If you decide to take TESOL with a specialism, you must take one of your optional modules in that specialism. Those on the PGCert will take four modules of their choice. 

In each module, you interact online in a weekly written discussion forum (or similar activity) with TESOL students in St Andrews and around the world, providing the opportunity to learn from peers living and working in a wide variety of contexts.

While the programme does not include a teaching placement or practicum, it supports students in exploring how theory can be applied to real-word situations, through:

  • practical learning and assessment tasks
  • materials development activities.

Teaching format

You will take a variety of taught modules over the length of the programme. The modules are delivered in a variety of ways such as:

  • recorded lectures
  • recorded mini-lectures
  • online chatrooms
  • podcasts
  • guided writing
  • webinars
  • intensive feedback sessions on your work.

In these modules, you will integrate theory and practice by discussing and critiquing theoretical concepts and frameworks, and then applying them through a range of practical assessments. Assessments include:

  • a variety of different types of written assignments
  • presentations
  • development of teaching plans
  • group work with students resident in other parts of the world.


The modules in this programme have varying methods of delivery and assessment. For more details about each module, including weekly contact hours, teaching methods and assessment, please see the latest module catalogue, which is for the 2022-2023 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2023 entry. 

The following modules are compulsory for those on the MSc and PGDip programmes. If you are studying for the PGCert, you can choose any four modules from this list or from the optional module list (if you are taking the PGCert with a specialism, one of your modules must be related to the specialism).

  • Action Research for Teachers: provides a learning experience in which you can reflect on concepts and theories you are studying in other modules and connect them with classroom practice. The module explores the combined value of reflection and action research for classroom practitioners, providing a means for language teachers to understand their classroom contexts and to plan responses to challenges in these contexts.
  • Language Teaching Methodology: explores the theories that inform teaching practice and analyses the implications these have in terms of ways of learning, material used, the teacher role and the learning spaces. This is essential for all those seeking to understand teaching environments more clearly and for those who have a chance to influence teaching environments. 
  • Linguistics for Language Teachers: equips you with the skills required to describe and analyse language. It does not assume prior knowledge of Linguistics and seeks to introduce you to selected fundamental concepts, relevant to English language teaching. You acquire appropriate terminology and techniques in the analysis and description of grammatical terms and structures.
  • Second Language Acquisition: How do we learn languages? Does it make any difference what age we start at? Why do some learners seem to do better than others? Answers to these questions, and many more would be very useful to inform language teachers, and to guide learners. This module explores theories of second language acquisition to gain some understanding of what learners actually do, how learners differ, and the strategies they can use. This knowledge and understanding is evaluated in order to apply theory to practice.
  • Teaching and Researching: teachers are increasingly expected to be evidence-informed or even evidence-led; consuming, creating, and sharing research. This module addresses how we evaluate the quality of research to decide what is rigorous and informative for our practice, how we can build on existing research when planning our own interventions, and how to design, pilot and reflect on the effectiveness of different data collection instruments. We consider a range of research contexts and values to help you actively engage with pedagogical research.

Those on the MSc and PGDip programmes will choose three modules from the following list. If you are studying for the PGCert, you can choose any four modules from this list or from the compulsory module list.

If you are taking TESOL with a specialism, one of these must be related to the specialism.

  • Assessment and Evaluation: brings together the study of language testing with the theory and practice of assessment in pedagogy. You will learn key concepts in both, how to design and improve tests for different purposes, and how to make productive use of assessment within teaching. We also consider some of the broader social impacts of assessment and testing and how teachers navigate tensions when promoting student learning within a measurement culture. The module also acts as an example of learning through assessment, giving you opportunities to reflect on how different approaches such as mastery learning or active learning are reflected in assessment design, as well as critiquing aspects of assessment such as the use of time limits, group tasks, multiple-choice questions, and gamification.
  • English Medium Instruction: In recent years there has been a rapid increase in the teaching of academic subjects through English in countries where the majority of the population do not use English as a first language. This module explores this global trend from the standpoint of content and language teachers, as well as students. It considers the wide variety of English medium instruction contexts, evaluating theory in the fields of teaching and learning, language acquisition and intercultural communication in an attempt to address some of the practical challenges involved.
  • English for Academic Purposes: preparing and supporting students who come to study for undergraduate or postgraduate degrees through the medium of English is one of the most challenging but rewarding jobs in the field of language teaching. To do this well, an EAP teacher needs to understand the higher education context; the key principles underpinning learning in a university; text and discourse in the communities of the different disciplines, theories and practice of assessment; and the most effective methods and materials to motivate students and help them into a discourse community. 
  • Teaching Young Learnersexplores theories of child development and learning which are fundamental to the understanding of child second language acquisition, namely children aged 4 to 7, 8 to 11, and 12 to 18. Child psychology has to be taken into account in the development of teaching materials, teaching styles and classroom management. There is also a practical element to the module, in the form of tasks requiring you to create lesson plans and materials to share with your peers, to apply theory to practice.
  • Technology for Teaching: introduces you to the principle theories, concepts and practices of technology in language education. You will be able to critically consider the role and purpose of various modes of technology in education in a wide range of settings to identify and conceptualise problems within your own professional contexts.

Optional modules are subject to change each year and require a minimum number of participants to be offered; some may only allow limited numbers of students (see the University’s position on curriculum development).

Only those on the MSc programme are required to submit a dissertation. 

For the 15,000-word dissertation, you will choose a topic of interest to you and to your future career. You will read related literature and conduct independent research on your topic.

Student dissertations will be supervised by IE staff members. Supervisors will provide guidance throughout the research process, helping you to formulate a suitable research hypothesis. They will offer advice on relevant literature and how to plan your time effectively.

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2022 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.

TESOL specialisms

You can take TESOL as a general course, or you can choose from one of the five TESOL specialisms below to focus your studies on. 

Meet us

Postgraduate virtual visiting days

We hold virtual visiting days throughout the year to offer prospective postgraduate students a chance to experience the University's unique atmosphere and see for themselves the quality of the teaching on offer. 

Virtual visiting days

TESOL virtual information sessions

If you are unable to visit St Andrews before you apply, the International Education Institute offers virtual information sessions to discuss the programmes.

TESOL virtual events

Awards and prizes

Members of TESOL staff and previous students have been awarded various awards and prizes including the following:

British Council ELT Masters Dissertation Award 

  • Allison Crum (MSc TESOL 2019-2020) was commended at the British Council ELT Masters Dissertation Awards 2020-2021 for her dissertation entitled "Introducing standards for evaluating enrichment materials (SEEM): Testing the modern framework with football-themed materials". 
  • Yin Lijun (MSc TESOL 2017-2018) was commended at the British Council ELT Masters Dissertation Awards 2018-2019 for her dissertation entitled "An investigation of experienced EAP teachers' marking processes". 
  • Mairi Canning (MSc TESOL 2020-2021) was commended for her dissertation entitled ‘The Value of Co-teaching in Teacher Agency: A Focus on ESL Teachers in South Korea’.

McCall MacBain Foundation Outstanding Contribution to Teaching Excellence Awards 2020

In 2020, the International Educational Institute was the recipient of two McCall MacBain Foundation Outstanding Contribution to Teaching Excellence Awards:

  • Mark Carver was awarded for his work on assessment and feedback scholarship. 
  • Janie Brooks and Kerith George Briant were awarded for a presentation entitled 'Developing Effective Online Engagement in the Context of Internationalisation' delivered at the British Council International Education Conference in 2019. 

University of St Andrews Golden Dandelion Awards

Kerry Tavakoli and Mark Carver were awarded a University of St Andrews Golden Dandelion Award for ET5524 and ET5624 English Medium Instruction in recognition of the considerable contribution to education for sustainable development that it makes.

University of St Andrews Teaching Excellence Awards 

  • Kerry Tavakoli was awarded one of four annual Teaching Excellence Awards in 2018. Kerry was recognised for the positive impact her work has had on students through her teaching.


Find out more about postgraduate scholarships. 


TESOL graduates are equipped with a range of skills and experiences which allow them to take on a variety of roles. The majority of TESOL students work within education, either as teachers or lecturers, as researchers, or as policymakers. Other graduates work in publishing, journalism and management.

See testimonials from TESOL students.

Lecturers within the International Education Institute have a wealth of both teaching and leadership experience in TESOL, in a range of locations globally. They are active in using their international networks and experience to support and advise students on future career development. Current teaching staff have taught or held educational leadership roles in Bulgaria, China, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Martinique, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, UK, USA and Vietnam.

The University Careers Centre also offers one-to-one advice to all students on a taught postgraduate course and provides a programme of events to assist students in building their employability skills.


International Education Institute
University of St Andrews
Kennedy Gardens
St Andrews
KY16 9DJ

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2255
Email: ie@st-andrews.ac.uk

International Education Institute


Admission to the University of St Andrews is governed by our admissions policy.

Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.

Curriculum development

As a research intensive institution, the University ensures that its teaching references the research interests of its staff, which may change from time to time. As a result, programmes are regularly reviewed with the aim of enhancing students' learning experience. Our approach to course revision is described online.

Tuition fees

The University will clarify compulsory fees and charges it requires any student to pay at the time of offer. The offer will also clarify conditions for any variation of fees. The University’s approach to fee setting is described online.

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