My Career-changing MA in Translation Studies at the University of Portsmouth

MA PortsmouthI had spent twenty years teaching French, German and beginner’s Italian in comprehensive schools in the South of England and had also worked for CILT and CfBT.

I then was fortunate enough in early 2014 to have been able to pay my mortgage and all loans off and thought if I wanted to change my life, then was the time.

For a few years I had been toying with the idea of doing the MA in Translation Studies as a 3-year online correspondence course. However, being a full-time teacher I really had no time spare to devote to studying for a Master’s Degree over and above the demands of the general teaching workload. Now, however, I was able to seriously consider a career change for the better to my mind, at least on the work/life balance front.

I made arrangements and attended an open evening about the course in February 2014. I met some of the course leaders and they discussed what the course entailed and how it would be assessed. It all seemed perfectly achievable to me, so I went ahead and applied. I was accepted on the course and handed in my notice to end my teaching career after 20 years in July 2014.

The course began in September 2014. I was really nervous, once again being a student and meeting a lot of new people. There were around 25 people on the course, apparently a new record for them that year. They were mostly women, which is something I am used to throughout my studies and career.

The languages represented were French, German Spanish and Polish, which had enough participants to enable the Specialist Translation (Spectrans) to run on campus. Other languages Portuguese, Italian, Chinese and Arabic were also represented. Those participants were able to study their Spectrans by joining the many students around the world who were studying via distance learning. Russian and Japanese are also offered by the faculty and were taken up via distance learners.

The Core Modules were: The Theory and Practice of Translation (now known as Critical Approaches to Specialised Translation), which included one Spectrans course in one foreign language with English and a 15,000-word dissertation on a translation related topic or an extended translation and a commentary. I chose to do the the extended translation and commentary, translating a book, which is now available on Amazon.

There are then two optional courses to choose from:

Translation Technologies (including subtitling, CAT Tools and Corpora software)

Technical Communication

Translation Project

Professional Portfolio

Professional Aspects of Translation

Second Specialist Translation Course

There are three possible qualifications from following this course:

MA in Translation Studies

Postgraduate Diploma in Translation Studies

Postgraduate Certificate in Translation Studies

The lecturers on the course were all specialist translators themselves, many still working as translators along with teaching on the course. The specialist translation classes had less than 10 people in them and you worked on a project together, learning from each other as well as the lecturers. For these courses translations were done to and from English and the other language. All classes were a mixture of native English and native speakers of the other language.

There were many opportunities to attend extra classes and workshops held by the University for students outside of the MA itself. There was also a course run for Academic Writing in English, which for many overseas students was essential, but for me too was vital as the last time I had written academic essays was over 20 years beforehand.

The academic course finished in June. The time then was dedicated to writing the dissertation. This was submitted in September. Results were published in December; I was pleased to find I had been awarded the MA with merit.

Now I work from home as a freelancer. Many of the more interesting jobs I have done are on my Facebook business page or my website news blog. I have not yet decided on any particular specialism as I am starting out and trying many new things to see what fits best.

It was a major change for me to leave my job and return to University to begin again, but I am very happy so far with everything I have done since I made that big decision.

If you are thinking about doing something similar and you are able to do so, I would thoroughly recommend this course.

AStarrA graduate in French Studies with German in 1993 from the University of Portsmouth, Andrew Starr took a PGCE in Modern Foreign Languages and spent 20 years teaching in comprehensive schools in Hampshire and West Sussex. He worked first with CILT (Centre for Information for Language Teachers) developing and assessing NVQ National Language Units and latterly the CfBT (now the Education Development Trust) both on NVQ Language units and the training of teachers to deliver these units. He then took a Master’s Degree in Translation Studies at the University of Portsmouth and began a career as a Freelance Translator and Interpreter, working on projects as diverse as “World War II – Everyday Life Under German Occupation” with the University of Marburg, to the translation into English of the French singer Desireless’ (famous for ‘Voyage Voyage’ in 1987-88) website. 

For more details, please visit Andrew Starr’s website, LinkedIn profile, his Facebook page AJ Starr Translation and the Southern Translators Network.

For more information on MA courses and links to other reviews, see the European MA and the non-European MA pages on this blog.

Please get in touch if you completed your MA recently and would like to take part in this series. You’ll find more information about writing for this blog here. 

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4 thoughts on “My Career-changing MA in Translation Studies at the University of Portsmouth

  1. Thanks a lot for the great post.
    I thinking in this MA as well.

    Just small question,
    You mentioned that the course is 3-years distance learning and you have started in 2014.
    In 2016, you have been a warded your MA, how?

    Thanks again.


    1. Hi Sherif,
      Andrew was thinking of doing the longer distance-learning course but then changed his mind and gave up his job to attend in person. I’ll notify him of this comment and hopefully he can explain further.
      For a review of the distance-learning course at Portsmouth, please see Louise Souter’s post:


  2. Indeed. It can be done over 3 years as distance learning. Or 2 Years Part Time on campus, or 1 year full time on Campus.

    I opted in the end for one year full time on campus, as I live in Portsmouth and was able to give up my job to study full time, it seemed the best option for me.

    With the one year course I began studying in September 2014. The course was nearly completed by June 2015. There was then the dissertation project between June and September 2015. I was awarded the Masters in December 2015. The graduation ceremony took place in July 2016.

    Liked by 1 person

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