Browser does not support script.

Undergraduate course

British Sign Language & Deaf Studies BA (Hons)

Interested in the complexities and subtleties of sign language and how identity and language are linked?

A student doing British Sign Language

Study the culture, history and language of deaf communities in the UK. Engage with deaf people and communities in a range of contexts, whilst gaining the highly-respected Signature qualifications in British Sign Language (BSL) – the preferred language of over 87,000 people in the UK.

  • Available in Clearing

York campus

  • UCAS Code – Q1L9
  • Duration – 3 years full-time
  • Start date – September 2020
  • School – School of Education, Language and Psychology

Minimum Entry Requirements

    96 UCAS Tariff points

    3 GCSEs at grade C/4 (or equivalent) including English Language

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2020-21 £9,250 per year

    International 2020-21 £12,750 per year

Discover why York St John is The One

Course overview

At York St John University we have an active and welcoming community of BSL speakers. As your language skills improve you will also gain an increasingly deep understanding of the socio-linguistic context of BSL. You will consider how BSL has developed, its relationship to other world sign languages and investigate the translation process between BSL and English.

The place of deaf people in modern society is constantly changing. You will draw on current research to explore the experiences of deaf people and communities in both historical and contemporary contexts. We will consider the tensions between Deafhood philosophies and the perception of deafness as a disability and the changing foundations of UK deaf communities. In your second year you will have the opportunity to explore issues and challenges faced by BSL users in real workplaces through a work-based module.

While you specialise in the study of British Sign language and its use, you will also gain a broader understanding of how languages in general are structured, learnt and used. You will explore attitudes to language, learn about multilingualism and consider how language is related to identity, society and culture.

The School of Languages & Linguistics has an active research community, a regular guest lecture series and specialist spaces for you to study in, including The Languages Workshop and the Linguistics Lab which all our students are encouraged to make use of.

Course Structure

Year 1


Accelerated British Sign Language 1 (20 credits)

We have designed this module for beginners in British Sign Language (BSL) so if you have little or no experience, you will take this module. You will study BSL at level A1/A2 on the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR). You will learn to give a simple description of people, living or working conditions, daily routines and more. By the end of the module you will be able to use simple everyday greetings, respond to invitations and learn to explain your likes and dislikes using BSL.

Enhanced British Sign Language 1 (20 credits)

We have designed this module for those who have prior experience of British Sign Language (BSL), so if you have studied it before, this is the module you will take. You will study BSL at level A2/B1 of the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR). Using various video materials, you will develop your receptive skills, learning to understand signed communication and answer questions. You will learn key BSL grammatical features and practice your ability to sign short BSL narratives.

Deaf History (20 credits)

On this module you will study the history of Deaf people and Deaf communities. It introduces key terms and concepts such as post-colonialism, the Milan Congress 1880 and the Deaf Resurgence. You will be able to apply what you learn on this module to all areas of your degree. You will also consider what the future may hold for Deaf people and communities, discussing it with your peers and tutors in seminars.

Language and Society (20 credits)

This module explores key aspects of language variation and the relationship between language and society. You will learn about language as a social phenomenon and explore how social and cultural contexts play a role in language variation.

Accelerated British Sign Language 2 (20 credits)

This module continues your learning from Accelerated British Sign Language 1. You will study BSL at level B1 of the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR). You will learn to use more sophisticated everyday greetings and understand signed communication to respond and answer simple questions. By the end of the module you will be able to take part in unstructured social conversations in BSL and understand key BLS grammatical features.

Enhanced British Sign Language 2 (20 credits)

This module continues your learning from Accelerated British Sign Language 1. You will study BSL at level B1 of the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR). You will focus on developing your receptive and productive skills. By watching more complex video material you will also enhance your BSL receptive skills. At the end of the module you will have an in depth understanding of BSL grammatical features and be able to communicate on a theme of your choice.

Deaf Cultures (20 credits)

The knowledge gained on this module will underpin the Deaf Studies aspects of your degree. You will explore the traditional foundations of Deaf communities and contemporary debates. You will look at a range of topics to gain vital information. These include: Deaf vs. deaf, Deaf or disabled?, the roots of Deaf Culture in the UK and USA and more. 

Multilingualism (20 credits)

On this module, you will address the worlds linguistic diversity and variation. The module situates the English language within the context of our multilingual world. You will consider Language variation and multilingualism from linguistic, psychological, sociocultural and educational perspectives.

Year 2 


British Sign Language for Education (20 credits)

Study how to use British Sign Language (BSL) for educational purposes. You will address appropriate registers for teaching children, young people and adults. You will also study vocabulary relevant to primary, secondary, further and higher education and cover lifelong learning too. The module gives you the chance to learn and practice teaching skills, applying your knowledge in a 10 minute micro-teaching session as part of your assessment. By the end of the module you will be communicating at level B2 on the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR).

Sociolinguistics of British Sign Language (20 credits) 

On this module you will focus on the sociolinguistic elements of British Sign Language (BSL). The module provides a link between your practical and theoretical modules and gives you the change to undertake small research tasks. You will study:

  • The history of BSL
  • The visual-spatial nature of the language
  • The Deaf community,
  • Culture and language learning
  • Interpreting. 
Analysing Texts (20 credits)

Develop advanced skills in reading and analysing texts. You will explore how to apply genre, ideology structure, critical reading and discourse when reading. Your broad linguistic perspective will provide insights into how we create and debate meaning in texts.

British Sign Language for Employment (20 credits)

Learn how to use British Sign Language (BSL) for employment and consider how Deaf people interact with their work environment. You will address Deaf people’s rights in the workplace by looking at the Access to Work and the Equalities act. You will also study vocabulary relating to different careers and jobs and practice translation skills. You will also consider how communication technology, such as Skype can be used effectively by and for Deaf people.

Deaf Visual Experience (20 credits)

On this module, you will investigate the visual experience of Deaf people. We will introduce you to the concept of Deaf visucentrism and encourage you to explore its theoretical and practical background. We will encourage you to use visual research methods to explore deaf ways of being in the world. You will also consider visual ways you can present and disseminate your research in ways most accessible to Deaf people.

Language at Work (20 credits)

On this module you will focus on your career. You will embark on a work placement for 10 days. 5 days will be completed in a graduate level role, the other 5 can be completed in a role of your choice. You will consider the role of language in different workplace issues. This might include looking at advertising, language and power and clinical communication. We will also help you to enhance your employability by providing training in:

  • Personal branding
  • Presentation skills
  • Interview and application writing skills.

Year 3


British Sign Language for Recreational Activities (20 credits)

On this module you will study how to use British Sign Language (BSL) in the context of recreational activities and consider Deaf people’s access to mainstream activities. You will learn how to use filming technology in informal environments and develop your vocabulary relating to social interactions and leisure activities.

Deaf Social Theory (20 credits)

On this module, we will introduce you to different social theories you can use to analyse the experiences of Deaf people and Deaf communities. These will include Boudieusian and Foucaultian theories, Deaf geographies and theories of Deaf pedagogy. You will think about why we need social theory and what it is. You will also deepen your understanding of Deaf history and Deaf culture.

Attitudes to Language (20 credits)

On this module you will examine publicly held views of language covering topics such as Standard English and correctness. With reference to education you will investigate the social, political and ideological issues associated with these views.

Language, Identities and Cultures (20 credits)

This module explores how language can function as an indicator of a range of social and cultural identities. You will examine how language plays an active role in constructing identities. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, you will analyse the relationship between language, identity and culture.

British Sign Language for Mental and Physical Health (20 credits)

On this module, you will study how to use British Sign Language (BSL) to communicate on topics relating to mental and physical health. You will develop your vocabulary to include words and phrases about mental health and common physical diseases. By learning to describe body parts, you will be able to communicate ailments in more detail. You will also enhance your translation skills and apply these in a translation task as part of your assessment.

Dissertation (40 credits)

Your dissertation is the moment where you really take responsibility for your learning and conduct a piece of linguistic research on a topic of your choosing. Your tutors will help you to refine your idea, encouraging you to choose a topic that you enjoy and excel in. You will then attend 1 to 1 supervision where they will support you as you design and conduct your research and write up your findings.

Teaching & Assessment


British Sign Language classes are delivered in small groups of up to 25 students. Deaf studies modules are delivered using a mixture of lectures, workshops and seminars. Seminar groups have up to 30 students.

Academic and research skills are embedded in modules, for example, academic writing and referencing, peer review, use of web based resources for document sharing and the use of wikis and blogs.

Contact Hours

You will take three modules per semester (except for your final semester when you will take a 40-credit dissertation module and one other module). Each module has 2-4 hours of contact time. The taught sessions could be spread across all five days of the week, or could be concentrated into fewer days. Taught sessions are scheduled between 9.00am-8.00pm Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 9.00am-1.00pm Wednesday, and 9.00am-6.00pm Friday.

As well as the taught sessions, you will also have academic tutorials through the semester, you can set up tutorials with your module tutors, and you'll be able to attend events such as the Colloquium Lectures and Language Talks. 

Assessment Methods

British Sign Language modules are assessed with a combination of practical exams and videos. The assessment for Deaf Studies modules varies from module to module. Assessment methods include essays, presentations, data analysis, online tests, peer reviews, blog posts and research proposals and reports.

Self Study Time: 

If you are joining us from school, college or the workplace you will probably feel you have a very empty timetable. This is becuase a 20-credit module, which is equivalent to 200 hours of study, only has 2-4 hours a week of contact time - the rest is study you are expected to do yourself.

We support students in achieving this by giving lots of guidance on what to study, including weekly readings and preparation for assessments, and offering regular tutorials and drop-in sessions with module tutors so you can get feedback on your work. All modules are supported by materials hosted on Moodle, the University's Virtual Learning Environment.


Our British Sign Language & Deaf Studies academic staff are Amanda Smith and Dr Dai O'Brien.

You will be taught by other academic staff in the School. The School of Languages & Linguistics Head of School is Dr Rachel Wicaksono. The British Sign Language & Deaf Studies programme is managed by the Subject Director for Languages and TESOL Dr Becky Muradás-Taylor. University support staff are well intergrated into our programme, for example, a representative from the library contributes sessions on research and referencing over the course of the programme.

Entry Requirements


The minimum entry requirements for this course are:

  • 96 UCAS Tariff points
  • 3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above (or equivalent) including English Language

You can enter this programme as a beginner in British Sign Language. You can also enter if you already have Signature level 1.


This programme is not suitable if:

  • British Sign Language is your first language
  • You have Signature level 3 or above in British Sign Language


If you have Signature level 2, then you can enter the programme, but the British Sign Language modules in the first three semesters (British Sign Language Intermediate 1–3) will contain some element of revision.

International Students

If you are an international student you will need to show that your qualifications match our entry requirements. Information about international qualifications and entry requirements can be found on our international pages.

If your first language is not English you must show evidence of English language competence at IELTS level 6.0 (with no skill below 5.5) or equivalent.

International entry requirements

Personal Statement

Candidates can demonstrate a real enthusiasm for the subject that goes beyond achieving good grades in exams. Examples of this include:

  • Undertaking independent study of British Sign Language
  • A strong standard of written English
  • Discussion of future career plans in a relevant field
  • Demonstrating relevant transferable skills
  • Relevant extra-curricular activities or work experience
  • Becoming a member of appropriate societies
  • Subscribing to (or reading) relevant journals/magazines
  • Being involved in overseas exchange programmes

Terms and conditions

Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. These can be accessed through our Admissions webpages.

Fees and funding

To study for an undergraduate degree with us, you will need to pay tuition fees for your course. How much you pay depends on whether you live inside the UK or EU, or internationally (outside the UK/EU). Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

UK & EU 2020 entry

The tuition fee for 2020 entry onto this course is £9,250 per year for full time study.

This price applies to all UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

You can find out more about funding your degree by visiting our funding opportunities page.

Funding Opportunities

Placement year funding

If you choose to take a placement year, and your course offers it, you can apply for the Tuition Fee and Maintenance Loan for your placement year. How much you are awarded is based on the type of placement being undertaken and whether it is a paid or unpaid placement. The tuition fee for your placement year will be reduced.

International (non-EU) 2020 entry

The tuition fee for 2020 entry to this course is £12,750 per year for full time study.

This price applies to all students living outside the UK/EU.

Due to immigration laws, if you are an international student on a Tier 4 visa, you must study full time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.

Find out more about funding your degree.

International Fees and Funding 

Additional costs and financial support

There may also be some additional costs to take into account throughout your studies, including the cost of accommodation.

Course-related costs

While studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing personal equipment and stationery, books and optional field trips.

Study Abroad

For more information on tuition fee reductions and additional costs for studying abroad, please visit our study abroad pages.

Accommodation and living costs

View our accommodation pages for detailed information on accommodation and living costs.

Financial help and support

Our Funding Advice team are here to help you with your finances throughout your degree. They offer a personal service that can help you with funding your studies and budgeting for living expenses. 

All undergraduates receive financial support through the York St John Aspire card. Find out more about the Aspire scheme and how it can be used to help you purchase equipment you need for your course. 

Aspire Card

More to explore

Join us in 2020

Two female students smiling in York

What makes us different

Get in touch

Cookie Settings