BA Modern Languages

UCAS codeR900
Duration4 Years
Typical offerAAB–ABB; IB: 34–32; BTEC: DDD–DDM
DisciplineModern Languages
LocationTaught in Exeter Streatham (Exeter)


Why study Modern Languages at Exeter?

Current students tell us what they enjoy most about studying Modern Languages at Exeter. View full size.

The University of Exeter has one of the leading and most respected centres for Modern Languages in the UK, ranked in the top 10 in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 and The Complete University Guide 2020 and ranked 4th for overall satisfaction in the National Student Survey 2017. The course structure is extremely flexible allowing you to study one, two or three languages and tailor the programme to suit your interests. Depending on your current level and preference, you can weight your studies towards more practical language training or theoretical learning to better understand the rich cultural, social and historical backdrop of your chosen language. You can even decide to study a language alongside a separate subject like Sociology or Politics as part of our Flexible Combined Honours programme.

As part of the four-year Modern Languages course, you will choose from one of seven languages taught at Exeter. These are French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Chinese and Russian. You will develop fundamental language skills such as reading, speaking, translating and writing, learning to perfect the delicate nuances of intonation, tone and inflection in your voice to become a skilled linguist. Open modules on linguistics, literature, medieval history, visual arts, film and culture will offer you the chance to further customise your programme to suit you. Exeter has a wealth of expertise in covering the cultures of the major European nations and China as well as those in the postcolonial nations where our core languages are spoken, particularly Latin America, Francophone and Portuguese speaking Africa.

A key part of your development will be spending time in a country where your chosen language is spoken natively. There are opportunities to study at one of our renowned partner universities, teach English as part of a British Council placement or gain valuable employment experience and practical applied learning by working abroad. Recent graduates worked at a number of prestigious firms, commercial organisations and within the administration offices of charities.

Modern Language degrees offer a broad range of career paths in translation, linguistics, teaching and across multiple other industries. Recent graduates are now working in areas such as marketing and communications, project co-ordination, journalism and finance. Watch this video to hear from some of our past students about what they enjoyed most.

The principal languages you can choose to study at Exeter are:

Programme structure

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

The Modern Languages degree programme is made up of compulsory (core) and optional modules, which are worth 15 or 30 credits each. Full-time undergraduate students need to complete modules worth a total of 120 credits each year.

Depending on your programme you can take up to 30 credits each year in another subject, for instance a business module, to develop career-related skills or just widen your intellectual horizons.

Degree pathways

The exact languages you study can be tailored to your interests and needs once you get here. You might, for example:

  • enter studying one language and decide to take up a second from your second year;
  • enter studying two languages and either drop one, or even take up a third in your second year. You can still make the shift from two languages to one as late as your final year;
  • enter studying two languages, but place more emphasis on the language you prefer;
  • enter studying one or two languages and decide to take up a subsidiary subject outside Modern Languages, such as Sociology or Psychology (subject to the approval of the relevant department).

Find out more about the various pathways you can take.

Your degree title

Your final degree title will fully reflect the choices you make and clearly represent your expertise in a particular language eg, BA French, BA German and Italian, BA Spanish with Portuguese, or BA Italian, Russian and Chinese.

Year abroad

Your third year will be spent abroad, and you can choose from a range of options depending whether you want to teach, study at another institution or undertake a work placement.

Your first year doesn’t count towards your final degree classification, but you do have to pass it in order to progress. For four-year programmes the assessments in the second, third and fourth years all contribute to your final degree classification.

For more details about the year abroad, see the Study abroad section.

Year 1

Year 2

In the second year you will advance your language training. Optional modules enable you to develop specialist knowledge on a range of topics.

Year 3

Your third year will be spent abroad, and you can choose from a range of options depending whether you want to teach, study at another institution or undertake a work placement.

Your first year doesn’t count towards your final degree classification, but you do have to pass it in order to progress. For four-year programmes the assessments in the second, third and fourth years all contribute to your final degree classification.

Final year

Full module descriptions

For full module descriptions from previous years, please visit our Humanities student website.

Entry requirements 2020

Typical offer


Completing your UCAS form

When completing your UCAS form for R900 indicate your proposed subjects under ‘Further details’ in the ‘choices’ section of the application using the abbreviations, separated by a space as below. It may be possible to study further languages to a lower level of proficiency than degree level in the Foreign Language Centre, subject to demand: this is arranged on registration at Exeter. For further information on completing your UCAS form, please visit the UCAS website.

French Fren
Chinese (Mandarin) Chin
German Germ
Italian Ital
Portuguese Port
Russian Russ
Spanish Span

When applying to a Combined Honours degree with a modern language you will need to indicate, under ‘further details’ in the ‘choices’ section of the application, the language and route you wish to study using the codes above. Please note that you may choose only one language. For further information on completing your UCAS form, please visit the UCAS site. For more information on language requirements for our Combined Honours degrees, visit the individual pages for these programmes in the degrees list on the Modern Languages page.

Advanced route requirement

Grade B at A Level is required in any language you intend to study from A Level.

On the Advanced route choose one, two or three languages from French, German, Italian, Russian or Spanish.

Find out more about the various pathways you can take.

If you are studying just one language (French, German or Spanish) at A Level/IB, you will continue to study this language at Exeter and may, if you wish, study a new language. If you are studying more than one of these languages at A Level/IB you must continue to study at least one of these languages at Exeter for the Advanced route and may, if you wish, study a new language.

French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish can be studied either from A Level or from Beginners’ level, with both cohorts reaching degree level in final year. Due to the number of credits available, Advanced Italian and Advanced Russian must be studied alongside another language. Portuguese and Chinese can only be studied from Beginners’ level, with students attaining degree level in the final year.

If you wish to study three languages, grade A at A level will be required in two of the three languages. No student may study more than three languages.

Please note that a Beginners’ level language cannot be studied alone, and you may not take two languages at Beginners’ level at the same time. [Students wishing to pursue language study on the basis of a GCSE in that language are normally classed as beginners].

We are only able to guarantee a place on the relevant language programme(s) if this information is included on your UCAS form. However, we understand that you may change your mind about the languages you want to continue with or take up, so if you wish to change the choice of language(s) given on your UCAS application at any stage please contact either our Admissions Office who will be able to confirm whether or not you are eligible for consideration for a different combination of languages. If you do wish to be considered for an alternative language combination please make your request as early as possible, as capacity and planning constraints may limit our ability to allow late changes to language combinations.

International students

International students should check details of our English language requirements, and may be interested in our Foundation programmes and English Language programmes offered by the INTO University of Exeter centre.

Further information

Please read the important information about our Typical offer.

For full and up-to-date information on applying to Exeter and entry requirements, including requirements for other types of qualification, please see the Applying section.

Learning and teaching

Our language teaching aims not just to improve your production and comprehension of the language but also to help you develop your language-learning skills. These will enable you to take responsibility for your language learning, to continue learning the language(s) after graduation and to pick up new languages in the future.

Written language is taught through weekly classes, with teams of tutors, including native speakers who contribute to a programme aimed at grammar improvement and the development of advanced writing and translating skills. You’ll also have weekly oral practice in classes of eight to ten students with native speakers of the language(s) that you are studying.

All language students have access to the language-learning facilities provided by the Foreign Language Centre.

Teaching on our culture modules is varied: a class about linguistics takes a rather different form than a class about theatre or film, for instance. Most cultural modules involve a combination of lectures and seminars, backed up by smaller group work and webbased learning via the University’s online learning environment. Between classes you prepare material, evidence and arguments, individually or in groups. Seminars are your chance to try out ideas, present material to other members of the group, and respond to new material on the basis of the critical skills you’ve been taught.

Because our culture modules are taught by experts you will have access to the latest research ideas and methods, especially in final year modules. In practice this might mean studying an author who was previously ignored and who you are helping to ‘discover’; studying a new film or museum exhibition that nobody has had a chance to write about yet; or it might mean studying a facsimile of a manuscript that only a few researchers have seen. This research-inspired teaching will give you an insight into how universities create new knowledge and you will be taught by people with immense enthusiasm for subjects that they know inside out.

Research-led teaching

Teaching that is inspired by research means that you’ll be taught by staff who are acknowledged experts in their fields, and that you’ll have access to the latest knowledge and innovation. The research skills you acquire will enable you to fine-tune your skills in selecting, assessing and presenting material. All staff teach options which are linked to their own interests which include:

Russian – literature including poetry; Soviet History

Italian – 19th–20th-century literature; linguistics; gender studies; film

German – literature and culture of the early modern period; the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries; cultural memory; museums; urban cultures

Spanish – romance linguistics; the Golden Age; Spanish Romanticism; modern literature and film; Latin American culture; women’s literature; translation studies

French – linguistic variation and change; Medieval, early modern and modern literature; thought, culture and society; film studies

Chinese – translation history; art history; encounters between China and the West

Portuguese – linguistics; women’s writing; language and literature of the Lusophone world, including Africa and Brazil

Academic support

All students have a personal tutor who is available for advice and support throughout your studies. Within Modern Languages, a schedule of group and individual meetings for each year of study ensures that you have different kinds of advice and discussion with your personal tutor at the times when you need it most. There are also a number of services on campus where you can get advice and information, including the Students’ Guild Advice Unit. You can find further information about all the services in the University’s undergraduate prospectus or online at Assessment You will be assessed by a combination of formative and summative assessments, exams and coursework (which includes essays, dissertation, projects and other written tasks). Your first year doesn’t count towards your final degree classification, but you do have to pass it in order to progress. For four-year programmes the assessments in the second, third and fourth years all contribute to your final degree classification.

Year abroad

As an undergraduate student in the Department of Modern Languages, you will spend your third year abroad as an integral part of your degree. Students who study Modern Languages and Arabic, however, are required to spend their Year Abroad in their second year. 

 The Year Abroad can be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of a modern languages degree. It is also one of the major factors that makes languages graduates attractive to employers: negotiating the challenges of a year abroad is seen by employers as proof of adaptability, independence and resourcefulness. Students usually spend 7-15 months abroad working, studying or teaching. 

 The Year Abroad is an assessed year and the marks obtained count towards your final degree classification. If you are a beginner in any language and you intend to take that language in final year, we strongly recommend you spend the majority of the assessed part of your Year Abroad in the country where that language is spoken. You may arrange the year differently, subject to approval.

The Year Abroad tuition fees is currently capped at 15-20% of a student’s annual tuition fee. 

Ways to spend the Year Abroad

Study abroad

Studying abroad offers a range of possibilities, with over 40 different partner universities worldwide available to Modern Languages students. This can provide you with the opportunity to experience a different academic environment with local and other international students. At Exeter University's partner institutions you will study courses relevant to your degree.

Work abroad

Internships are very rewarding in that they give a student a valuable experience in the work place. Exeter has a number of regular partners that usually advertise the placements via the Career Zone. However, you may also source your own placement which will need to be approved by the Global Employability team. Some of our students have spent their Year Abroad working in translation, tourism, marketing, fashion, commerce, museums and many other sectors.

British Council English Language Assistantship

Becoming an English Language Assistant with the British Council is a brilliant opportunity to explore both the world of working and, more specifically, the idea of working as a teacher.An academic year is spent teaching in a primary or secondary school in the country of the language you are studying. A school will be allocated to you by the Ministry of Education of the country to which you apply via the British Council.

The options above are available for most of the languages. However, if you study Chinese or Russian, currently the only option available is studying. If you study Portuguese, the only options available are study or work abroad (not British Council assistantship). If you choose to study or work, you can even split your Year Abroad between two or more work placements, or two universities. In addition you can also study for a semester and work in the other semester. 

During your time abroad, you will still be registered as an Exeter student and you will be supported in a number of ways. You will retain your personal tutor and will be expected to keep in contact with her/him. You will also have the support of the Study Abroad and Global Employability teams for advice on any matter. 

You will need to decide how you will spend your Year Abroad during the first half of your second year. We will help you in the process. During our first year you will be invited to an introductory presentation about your Year Abroad options. In your second year, there is an extensive orientation programme to help you prepare for your Year Abroad.

Contact us

For any enquiries about Year Abroad support please contact the Humanities Study Abroad team:


Modern Languages graduates from the University of Exeter have an excellent reputation with graduate recruiters and compete very successfully in the employment market.

Studying Modern Languages at the University of Exeter provides you with skills that are attractive to employers and relevant for a wide range of careers. Alongside written and verbal fluency in your chosen language(s), you’ll develop skills in:

  • Managing and analysing information
  • Articulating ideas and arguments
  • Problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Cultural awareness and adaptability

Recent Modern Languages graduates have pursued careers in sectors such as translation and teaching, working for organisations such as UNICEF, Just Education, the British Council, and Amazon EU.

Other recent graduates have progressed to postgraduate courses in:

  • MA European Politics
  • Graduate Diploma in Law
  • PGCE Secondary French
  • MA International Relations
  • MSc Globalisation and Latin American Development
  • MA Translation and Professional Language Skills

A degree in Modern Languages also provides good opportunities to develop skills that are attractive to employers in a broad range of sectors. In an increasingly globalised world, language skills are highly sought after by employers, and can help job applicants to stand out from the crowd. Our recent Modern Languages graduates have pursued careers in:

  • Journalism
  • Digital Marketing
  • Communications
  • Education
  • The Civil Service
  • Charities
  • Finance and Accounting


The services offered by the Humanities careers and employability team are complementary to the services offered by our central Career Zone, where you can participate in practical sessions to develop your skills; access paid internships and volunteering opportunities; explore postgraduate study options; meet prospective employers; get one-to-one advice and learn how to secure the right job for you.

Find out more about careers in Modern Languages

My role as CEO is to drive the business forward and manage everything from investor relations, operations, partnership building and hiring. Since founding the business during my time at Exeter, we successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign, achieving 350% of our target. We have also partnered with the Spanish Embassy, Goethe-Institut and the Association of Language Learning and received investment from private investors. We now have six-figure revenues with customers in 49 countries. I absolutely loved my time at Exeter, particularly my Year Abroad. I spent the first two months studying at the Copenhagen Business School, before working at Armani in Modena, studying in Venice and volunteering in Brazil. I genuinely met people who changed my life in each country, and none of it would have had happened if I hadn’t learnt other languages and developed a multicultural understanding.

Alex Somervell, International Relations with Italian and Portuguese (with study and work abroad) (July 2015)

Contact us


For general Modern Languages enquiries:

WebEnquire online 
Phone: +44 (0)1392 724202
Visit the Department of Modern Languages website

Contacts for each individual language are provided with the details for each programme.

Open Days and
visiting us
How to apply Get a prospectus Ask a question Visit subject website  

Flexible degree pathways

The high level of choice offered on our BA in Modern Languages means you can build your degree around a number of different pathways. See our Pathways page for examples of possible routes and how your choices are reflected in your final degree title.