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French Studies

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Durham is a leading centre for research and undergraduate and postgraduate study in French. We are ranked 5th in the UK (Complete University Guide 2025).

Postgraduate students can study French and Francophone topics on our MA courses and PhD programmes

See further our staff profiles on our research interests. 


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BA Modern Languages and Cultures

Find out how to apply, all course details and structure, entry requirements and more.

Visit BA Modern Languages and Cultures course page



Hear from our students

What’s it like studying Modern Languages and Cultures? (French and Spanish edition)

In his blog post Martin talks about what the degree can involve at Durham University, and the experiences he made during his year abroad.

Student testimonial Martin Endersby

What’s it like studying Modern Languages and Cultures? (French and German edition)

In Freya's blog post she talks about the year and a half of studying modern languages so far, the friends for life she met and some academic discussions she only ever had dreamed of having.

Student testimonial Freya Loveric Kemp

Year One

Our first-year core language module is practice-focussed, developing your skills in writing and speaking in French. Oral classes are led by Francophone speakers and you will have the opportunity to discuss contemporary topics like global South feminisms, bio-inspired technologies, and freedom of speech and cancel culture.

We also offer an ab initio (beginners) language module in French, which develops your reading, writing, speaking and listening skills from scratch. You will have five hours of French language class per week to rapidly develop your writing and speaking skills and introduce you to Francophone culture.

Both ab initio and post A-level students also take between one and three cultural modules, all of which work as introductions to studying French culture and which take into account students’ knowledge of French. Example modules include:

  • Reading French Literature: an introduction to French literature through the ages, focussing on race, gender and identities
  • Society and its Outsiders: an introduction to twentieth-century French culture through key texts and films, taught in French
  • The Invention of France: an introduction to France’s evolution as a geopolitical entity, its intellectual legacies and political traditions
University student
Before I came to Durham, I only knew a few very basic French phrases – the ab initio French course is great because it immerses you quickly in the language! After only a year of learning French, I feel confident in going to France on my year abroad next year.

Durham University languages student

Year Two

In our second-year core language module, the written class will enhance your ‘human’ translation skills, engaging critically with the challenge of machine translation in order to produce better-quality content in terms of creativity and readability. Work in oral classes is entirely in French and offers a wide range of topics relevant to student life and the Year Abroad.

In our second-year ab initio (beginners) language module, students develop their writing and speaking skills by discussing Francophone contemporary literature and film and current affairs in French.

You will take between one and three cultural modules, developing your knowledge of French and Francophone cinema, cultural history, political theory, literature and philosophy.

Example modules include:

  • The Canon in Context: French Theatre of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
  • The Francophone Imaginary: Legacies of Colonialism in Literature and Culture
  • Modernity and Disenchantment: Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century French Literature and Culture
  • Revolutionary Works in French Politics
  • Sex, Gender and Identity in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance


Year Three (study abroad)

Students in French follow one of these paths for their year abroad, often splitting their time between a Francophone country and a country speaking their other language of study. We help ab initio students find suitable Francophone study placements, where they can continue to take French language classes.

  • Study: we currently have exchange agreements with eight French and Belgian universities, including the prestigious Sorbonne Université and Sorbonne Nouvelle, allowing our students to study in a French-speaking environment. We also help students get places on courses at other Francophone universities 
  • Teach: we help students apply for the British Council scheme to become English language assistants in a school in a Francophone country 
  • Work: we have links with over fifty companies in France, Belgium and Luxembourg who have regularly employed Durham students, including posts in sales, marketing, recruitment, media, banking and tourism 

View from the Citadel, Besançon. Photo taken by our student Rosie Cooper on their year abroad.


University student
Interning at the Paris office of a British-Australian law firm during my year abroad was a win-win. It not only provided me with invaluable hands-on experience in the legal field but also allowed me to improve my language skills.

Durham University languages student
Elizabeth Balls Suriname

My French placement in Suriname

Read about Lizzy's placement in Suriname, South America, and the fascinating experiences she made.

Read Lizzy's blog post
University student
I worked at a chateau vineyard in the Bordeaux countryside doing visits around the wine cellar, tastings and translation to build the company’s ties with foreign markets. It was an amazing opportunity to meet people from across Europe.

Durham University languages student
Student Tom Mason

From Paris to Barcelona

Tom Mason recently graduated from Durham University's School of Modern Languages and Cultures after studying French and Spanish. In his blog post he talks about the unique and rewarding experiences during his year abroad.

Read Tom’s blog on his year abroad

Year Four

In the final-year core language module, you will build on the skills you have developed in first and second year, and during your year abroad. In the written language classes, you will fine tune your reading and writing skills, with material and exercises drawing on broad range of themes (French language, culture, sport, the francophone world, and social and environmental justice).

The teaching programme for this oral class is based on thought-provoking discussions of topical issues covering French/francophone current affairs, almost exclusively supported by audio-visual material (e.g. new masculinities, freedom of speech in higher education, the boundaries of humour).

The ab initio and post A-level streams merge at this level.

You will write a dissertation, which may be on a French topic, or one relating to your other main language of study. Dissertations are independent research projects, and students choose a topic growing out of their cultural modules they have taken at Durham. Recent dissertation topics in French have included:

  • Gen Z and Language Use in Morocco
  • Indigenous Languages and Identities in Québec
  • Marie-Antoinette, Pornography and the French Revolution
University student
Learning about languages is about learning new perspectives, which is partly why the cultural element is so important. I’ve been able to explore so many different perspectives in this course, and I feel like it’s enriching to study them in this way.

Durham University languages student

Depending on your module choices in your other language, you may also take further cultural modules in French, further developing your knowledge of French and Francophone politics, philosophy, film, literature or theatre. A different range of modules is available each year, inspired by the latest research of our staff.

Recent modules have included:

  • Framing Knowledge
  • Translations and Transformations
  • Sub-cultures
  • Visual Culture
  • Migrations
  • Interpreting

Discover more

Find out more about our members of staff responsible for French studies, other language courses, employability, study abroad and scholarships.


Find out more about our modules for French studies.
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See a complete list of all members of staff responsible for French studies.
Staff Meeting


Find out more about other language courses we offer.
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Study Abroad

Find out more about where and how to study abroad.
Study abroad


Find out more about job prospects and careers with a degree from MLaC.
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Find out more about scholarships for eligible undergraduate students.
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BA Modern Languages and Cultures Course Page

Find out how to apply, all course details and structure, entry requirements and more.
The Eiffel Tower framed by glass panels inscribed with writing in different languages