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New courses advance opportunities for British Sign Language/English interpreters

Posted: 16th March 2017

Ben Matthews-9343Academics at QMU have launched two new modules in British Sign Language/English interpreting which will significantly advance the skills and understanding of experienced interpreters.

These modules are a stepping stone to the development of a fully online Masters programme in Advanced BSL/English interpreting, and represent an important advancement in the post-registration provision for BSL/English interpreters in the UK. For the first time, this will allow interpreters to get accreditation for work in specialist fields such as healthcare, education, legal services, and mental health provision.

Interpreters typically work across a broad range of areas. Projected modules will allow practitioners to ratify existing skills already acquired in crucial areas, such as interpreting in the health service or education, as well as helping interpreters extend their practice into new specialisms. This will allow individuals to develop their profiles as specialists in key sectors.

There is high demand for BSL/English interpreters across the UK, but training and development opportunities are not always easily accessible and can be very costly. These modules are unique, as they will be delivered entirely online, ensuring they are equally accessible regardless of geographic location.

Dr Ben Matthews, Lecturer in Deaf studies at QMU, explained: “The introductory two modules will focus on enhancing interpreters’ reflective practice and the theoretical foundations of their work. Further opportunities will be available in the future to develop their research skills and undertake a project in an area of personal interest, should students choose to complete the Masters award.”

Dr Rachel Mapson, Lecturer in BSL/English interpreting at QMU, said: “Continued Professional Development (CPD) is a requirement for registered interpreters. However, there is currently a gap in the market for academically accredited training that is both accessible and relevant to the everyday practice of BSL/English interpreters. The key benefit for interpreters will be the convenience of these modules – the fact that they are delivered entirely online. Our students will also be able to use their study to evidence annual CPD requirements.”

In 2017, the Scottish Government will publish the first national action plan in relation to the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015. This Act imposes a duty on public bodies to promote use of BSL and it is anticipated that the initial plan will include a particular focus on education and healthcare. The new QMU modules will help ensure interpreters have an enhanced skillset for work in these priority areas, and we hope to develop a MSc in BSL in the near future.

Professor Fiona Coutts, Dean of Health Sciences at QMU, said: “The development of this provision demonstrates that QMU is leading the way in addressing the actions that are likely to result from the BSL (Scotland) Act. Ultimately, it will enhance the quality of life of the Deaf community in Scotland and beyond.”

*full Masters course is subject to validation

Course information can be found at

Pictured above; Ben Matthews, Lecturer in Deaf Studies at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

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