Course overview

What are the best approaches to support learners who are struggling with learning? What are the complexities of inclusive education in a rapidly changing world? How do we address the current barriers to inclusivity?

Our MA Special and Inclusive Education (Online) course is designed to provide flexibility for professionals who want to increase their knowledge and skills in the field of special and inclusive education. Flexible learning allows you to fit your studies around other commitments, giving you the freedom to learn at your own pace.

Throughout the course, you’ll explore the educational needs of children with labels of learning difficulties, intellectual impairment, physical and sensory disabilities, communication impairments, literacy difficulties/dyslexia, autism and SEBD/ADHD. You’ll critically analyse contemporary debates, theory, and research in the field to help you develop effective approaches and structures for supporting your pupils. You'll learn how to work collaboratively with teachers, parents/carers and different agencies, enabling you to make a significant impact on the lives of children.

This programme is ideal for graduates, teachers, or other professionals who are interested in enhancing their knowledge and skills in special and inclusive education. If you have completed the National Award SEN Coordination, you can select modules from this programme to advance to a full MA qualification.

Our online course offers a flexible and convenient way to enhance your knowledge and skills in special and inclusive education. It provides you with the tools and expertise to make a positive difference in the lives of children with a range of learning difficulties and disabilities.

We also offer a face-to-face version of this course, studying in Nottingham – MA Special and Inclusive Education.

Alumni profile

View our alumni profiles to see what they say about their experience of the course.

Why choose this course?

Study fully online

Learn in an interactive digital learning environment and study when it suit you

Top 50

in the world for education

Learn from experts

who are internationally recognised for their research in this area

Over 100 years

of experience in the field of education

Excellent research

The majority of our research outputs are assessed as internationally excellent.

Course content

The taught element of this course is made up of four 30-credit modules, plus a 60-credit dissertation. It can be completed over two years part-time plus an eight-month dissertation. 

Course leader

Elizabeth Walton (contact for academic enquiries)


Core modules

Debating Special and Inclusive Education

This module will explore key issues concerning the field of special and inclusive education:

  • Definitions of special needs and inclusion
  • Global perspectives on diversity and access to equality of educational opportunities
  • Understanding theoretical approaches to special needs/inclusion and models of disability
  • Understanding prevalence of need and issues concerning classification and assessment
  • Exploring the impact of policy on practice and equality of opportunity
  • Examining the evidence on effectiveness of different types of educational settings eg mainstream, resource base and special provision
  • Pedagogy and creativity
  • Balancing equity and choice through collaborative and ethical problem solving
Practice-Based Inquiry

The content will involve you in active critical consideration of participating in and leadership of practitioner inquiry in relation to professional context mapping and workplace learning.

These processes will be achieved through:

  • conceptualising different kinds of practitioner inquiry relevant to work-based understanding and development (purposes, processes, contexts, dilemmas, outcomes)
  • examining a range of approaches to educational inquiry, with an emphasis on action research
  • developing an inquiry into your professional context



This involves the researching and writing of a substantive piece of scholarship within the field of the course.

You will choose a topic in consultation with your course leader and an appropriate supervisor. The topic will normally be based on interests and skills you have developed in the course of the modules already studied.

Optional modules

Responding Mindfully to Challenging Behaviour

This module considers:

  • experiential learning and its relationship to reflective practice and reflexivity: exploration via a learning journal genre
  • world views and models of human behaviour
  • theoretical perspectives on behaviour: behaviourist, humanistic and postmodern approaches
  • social and emotional aspects of behaviour: mental well-being, shame, self-esteem
  • punitive and restorative justice: responding to bullying and challenging behaviour, conflict resolution and peer mediation
  • the intensity/functionality of behaviour: escalation/de-escalation, communication and crisis intervention
  • controversial issues: for example, restraint, exclusion from school, sex and relationship education
  • supporting students with ADHD
  • the role of self-awareness and mindful practice s an essential classroom management
  • workforce issues: self-care, partnership working
Communication and Literacy

This module considers:

  • typical and atypical development of communication by looking at means, opportunities and reasons for communicating, along with the influence of expectations
  • typical and atypical development of cognition and literacy including specific learning difficulties/dyslexia
  • communication and literacy/learning assessments and interventions
  • understanding autism and Autistic Spectrum Disorder
  • communication and literacy/learning for children with learning disabilities including autism, Down's syndrome and dyslexia
  • effective teaching and learning environments
Education for Students on the Autism Spectrum

This module will explore key issues related to the education of students on the autism spectrum. These include: 

  • what you need to know to teach and support individuals on the autism spectrum and their families
  • insider perspectives; the spectrum; neurodiversity; and gender
  • identification and core difficulties of autism
  • whole school approaches to planning for students on the autism spectrum
  • environmental issues; working with families and community; outside agencies
  • education theories associated with autism: theory of mind; central coherence; and executive function
  • communication
  • sensory sensitivities and accommodations
  • links between sensory and motor functions and difficulties associated with autism
  • social and emotional challenges and supports
  • educational interventions for children on the autism spectrum
  • value of interventions to support learning of all children in a mainstream class
  • transitions; small and large scale
  • focusing on strengths and interests
The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Monday 22 January 2024.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Tutorials
  • Independent study
  • Distance learning materials

We hope that you will enjoy the flexibility of studying online, enabling you to attend to modules and engage with materials at times to fit around your other commitments. Online modules on our courses are managed through the Moodle virtual learning environment (VLE) and combine module content, reading lists and materials, online activities, discussion forums and access to tutors.

Our interactive virtual learning environment includes text, audio and video materials, online discussions and reflective tasks. The programme is designed so that you can work at your own pace in an asynchronous way, within the study plan and assignment timetable for each module.

For each module, you will have an academic tutor who will be active online. They contribute to discussions as well as supporting you through the assessment process. There is an online masters-level toolkit to support all aspects of academic study, a dissertation preparation module available to you from the beginning of the course, and one-to-one dissertation support from your supervisor, usually via Microsoft Teams.

To ensure you have the appropriate computer requirements to enable you to study online, please view our computer specification guidance notes (PDF).

How you will be assessed

  • Coursework
  • Dissertation
  • Presentation
  • Debates

Each 30-credit module is assessed by one of the following:

  • 6,000-word reflective essay
  • research design
  • literature-based debate
  • presentation accompanied by a 1,000-word commentary, or an individual education plan

To complete the masters, you must achieve a pass of 50% on each assignment.

The 15,000-word dissertation is a substantial piece of original work that should be related to one of the selected modules on an approved topic

Contact time and study hours

You will need to commit 12-15 hours per week for modules. In addition, you will need to complete related reading, research, reflection and contribute to discussion forums.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2024 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:2 (or international equivalent) or a relevant professional qualification in education, psychology, teacher training or a caring-related discipline
Work experience

Applicants with a degree in any other discipline must have relevant work experience

Additional information

Other requirements

A personal statement is required that demonstrates both a clear understanding of the course and relevant motivation for pursuing studies in special and inclusive education. Please include details of any personal experience of disability yourself or experience that has brought you into contact with other people experiencing support needs for disability or learning where you can demonstrate awareness of issues relevant to educational and social inclusion.


This online course will be studied part-time. You can choose to begin your studies in September or February. When applying please make sure you use the correct course code, you will then be able to select your start date:

  • MA Special and Inclusive Education (online, part-time): U7PSPIEDT
Course start date Application deadline
2 September 2024  1 August 2024
10 February 2025  13 January 2025

Recognition of other Learning (ROL)

If you have prior learning or experience at an appropriate level, you may apply for exemption from some of the credit requirements of the course. Applications for ROL should be made at the time of application for admission to the university and at least four weeks before the start of the course. Applications for ROL are processed free of charge. Late applications will not be considered. Please visit the School of Education ROL pages for full information and how to apply.

Our step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know about applying.

How to apply


Qualification MA
Home / UK £9,700
International £14,700

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you may be asked to complete a fee status questionnaire and your answers will be assessed using guidance issued by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) .

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).

Additional costs

All students will need at least one device to approve security access requests via Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). We also recommend students have a suitable laptop to work both on and off-campus. For more information, please check the equipment advice.

As a student on this course, we do not anticipate any extra significant costs, alongside your tuition fees.

You should be able to access most of the books you’ll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies which you would need to factor into your budget.



We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students.

Expert staff can help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.

Each year 1,100 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

Graduate destinations

This course provides a solid grounding for a career in a diverse range of areas including classroom/learning support, special education, coordinating provision for children with special needs, leadership within special education and policy/administration.

It supports career progression through:

  • evaluating effective approaches to supporting disabled children and young people including those with moderate to severe and complex learning difficulties and/or personal, social, emotional and behaviour difficulties
  • exploring values and beliefs, policy, legislation, multi-agency working and involvement of families and disabled children and young people
  • building confidence in your professional practice skills
  • promoting personal development through reflection and critical analysis of your own beliefs and practices

Increasing your academic and research skills will support future doctorate level study including, for example, a doctorate in education or educational psychology or PhD in special educational needs.

Career progression

87.8% of postgraduates from the School of Education secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £26,130.*

* HESA Graduate Outcomes 2019/20 data published in 2022. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on graduates working full-time, postgraduate, home graduates within the UK.

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates
" Countries across the world are being challenged to provide quality, inclusive education for all. Like many of the students and colleagues I work with, I believe that ‘all’ really does mean all. It is exciting to be part of a course that takes up the challenge of identifying ways in which some students are marginalised or excluded from education, and finds ways to promote access, belonging, participation, and success for all. "
Professor Elizabeth Walton, Course Leader

Related courses

This content was last updated on Monday 22 January 2024. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur given the interval between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.