British Sign Language and Applied Language Studies

Heriot-Watt University


Edinburgh Campus


The MA BSL and Applied Language Studies prepares students to become professionals working with deaf communities who use British Sign Language. It is designed to lead students from a beginners level of BSL to achieving professional competence in signed interactions and is taught by a deaf and hearing team.

In Levels 1, 2, and 4, students follow a mixture of mandatory and optional courses that develop their BSL language skills and explore different aspects of deaf history and culture. In level 3, students will develop their employment-related skills through work placements within the deaf community in the UK.

Level 1:
Students take two intensive, practice-oriented courses in BSL and mandatory courses that increase their intercultural awareness and understanding of deaf history and culture. They also have the opportunity to choose from a range of elective courses.

Level 2:
Students take two intensive, practice-oriented courses in advanced BSL (one per semester), as well as mandatory courses that explore the nature of signed and spoken languages and further their knowledge and appreciation of current debates surrounding the deaf community and issues in the wider deaf world, based on world-leading research at Signs@HWU. Two courses can be chosen from a range of elective courses.

Level 3:
Year 3 is usually spent in two placements, where students work in the signing community with organisations in the field, further developing their language skills and cultural awareness. This placement is self-financed.

Level 4:
At this level, students will further develop their BSL competence and their understanding of current deaf political studies. Through a selection of optional courses, students can tailor their programme of study to meet their interests and career aspirations with a view to postgraduate specialisation in another field (such as teaching, social work, language therapy, etc). Level 4 also includes an Honours Dissertation, which is completed in the course of the year.

Entry Requirements

2023 entry requirements:
Standard entry: 4 Highers at AABB plus English at National 5.

For entry to year 2 you would require 2 Advanced Highers at AB plus Highers at AABB.

Start Date





MA Hons

Study Method

Full time



Course Length

4 years


School of Social Sciences


Languages and Intercultural Studies

SCQF Level