Forensic Linguistics and Speech Science

MSc

  • Entry year 2024
  • Duration Full time 1 Year, Part time 2 Years

Overview

Why Lancaster?

  • Join a world-leading department with links to intelligence, investigative, and evidential research centres and projects
  • Learn from experts in the two fields of forensic linguistics and forensic speech science, and benefit from their practical experience
  • Focus your degree on the topics that interest you the most
  • Use your degree to enter or enhance your career in the security, protection, or intelligence sectors
  • Gain hands-on experience using our outstanding resources including tools and labs equipped for eye-tracking, phonetics, and corpus linguistics
  • Join events hosted by FACTOR (Forensic Linguistics, Cybersecurity, and Technology Research) with activities and talks that complement and enhance your course

How easy is it to fool a voice authentication system? Can we identify cybercriminals from their words? Are those texts really from a long-lost friend … or is this a sophisticated AI-powered phishing scam?

In an era of state-sponsored disinformation operations, organised cyber-terrorism, and rapidly evolving AI technology, the advanced knowledge and skills this Master’s offers puts you ahead of the game for an exciting and fulfilling specialist career.

Prevent, protect, prepare, pursue
There has never been more information at our fingertips, but this mass of spoken and written data poses new challenges.

How do we establish the authenticity of a recording when AI-generated deepfakes are increasingly convincing? How do we find a few credible threats among millions of ordinary posts? Can we track whether a series of fraudulent communications came from a single criminal or a decentralised crime syndicate?

The challenges faced by security, protection, and intelligence roles are evolving at an unprecedented pace. Specialists working in these fields might analyse voices from noisy surveillance recordings to identify a prime suspect, or assess emerging disinformation campaigns to establish their potential origins.

This MSc offers a distinct opportunity to bring together analyses of both written and spoken language. With this grounding, you can take a deep dive into many of the most critical issues of our time, from spoofing and deception to anonymous threats and organised crime.

Security at scale
The Department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University has a world-leading reputation in corpus linguistics and phonetics – foundational components in forensic linguistics and forensic speech science. On this programme, you’ll learn about state-of-the-art tools, methods, and frameworks, and you’ll have opportunities to use our fully equipped labs.

We’re a thriving hub of cutting-edge intelligence, investigative, and evidential research, and Lancaster University is further strengthening this with a £19m investment in Security & Protection Sciences.

Alongside the arrival of the National Cyber Force in Lancashire, we’re part of the North West Cyber Corridor that links us to GCHQ in Manchester. During your studies you’ll have the opportunity to learn about some of the flagship work being carried out at, and in collaboration with Lancaster University, including:

  • The Security Lancaster Institute (SL)
  • The Security, Privacy, Identity and Trust Engagement NetworkPlus (SPRITE+)
  • The Cyber Security Research Centre (CSRC), an NCSC/EPSRC Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research (ACE-CSR)
  • The Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST)
  • The N8 Policing Research Partnership (N8PRP)

You’ll have the chance to learn the core analytical components that contribute to forensic language analyses, such as corpus linguistics, sociolinguistics, phonetics, and speech technology. You’ll be encouraged to critique, test, validate, and apply what you’ve learned on a range of challenging cases and datasets.

You’ll consider pressing issues and sensitivities in the field, including ethical considerations and regulatory matters. You’ll have the opportunity to work on research projects that materially move forensic linguistics and forensic speech science forward.

From our close collaborations with security organisations and practitioners, you’ll be at the centre of the conversations taking place among those actively working in the field, and as a result, you’ll get a glimpse of what it takes to work at the forefront of one of the most critical, high-stakes fields of our time.

Careers

Though relatively young fields within linguistics, forensic linguistics and forensic speech science are already in demand. In recent years, the UK's intelligence, security and cyber agency (GCHQ), Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), and National Crime Agency (NCA) have all advertised roles in these areas.

This programme will be especially relevant to those working in fast moving spaces such as cybersecurity and online analysis.

Graduates in forensic linguistics and forensic speech science have career opportunities in the following:

  • Intelligence organisations and security sectors
  • Language technology and voice biometrics
  • Law enforcement and emergency services
  • Negotiation and compliance
  • Dispute resolution and crisis communications
  • Political and corporate intelligence analysis
  • Corporate and private investigative sectors
  • Brand, media, and marketing consultancy
  • Government, legal, and private consultancy
  • Language policy and legislation
  • Data analysis and data science

This programme also works to build highly desirable, transferable skills, such as the ability to carry out investigations, master complex and technical documents, handle sensitive information, synthesise evidence and research, innovate under pressure, interpret results and statistics meaningfully, critique approaches and conclusions, ask difficult questions, present findings appropriately, and embrace the highest standards of integrity and discretion – qualities that are sought after in any field.

Entry requirements

Academic Requirements

2:1 degree in a related subject is normally required. We will also consider applications where you have a degree in other subjects, have a 2:2 or equivalent result and/or extensive relevant experience. In these cases, you should clearly demonstrate how your experience and skills have prepared you for postgraduate study.

If you have studied outside of the UK, we would advise you to check our list of international qualifications before submitting your application.

English Language Requirements

We may ask you to provide a recognised English language qualification, dependent upon your nationality and where you have studied previously.

We normally require an IELTS (Academic) Test with an overall score of at least 6.5 and a minimum of 6.5 in reading and writing and 6.0 in listening and speaking. We also consider other English language qualifications.

If your score is below our requirements, you may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language programmes.

Contact: Admissions Team +44 (0) 1524 592032 or email pgadmissions@lancaster.ac.uk

Course structure

You will study a range of modules as part of your course, some examples of which are listed below.

Information contained on the website with respect to modules is correct at the time of publication, but changes may be necessary, for example as a result of student feedback, Professional Statutory and Regulatory Bodies' (PSRB) requirements, staff changes, and new research. Not all optional modules are available every year.

Core

Optional

Fees and funding

Location Full Time (per year) Part Time (per year)
Home £11,500 £5,750
International £23,875 £11,935

General fees and funding information

Scholarships and bursaries

You may be eligible for the following funding opportunities, depending on your fee status and course. You will be automatically considered for our main scholarships and bursaries when you apply, so there's nothing extra that you need to do.

Unfortunately no scholarships and bursaries match your selection, but there are more listed on scholarships and bursaries page.

If you're considering postgraduate research you should look at our funded PhD opportunities.

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We also have other, more specialised scholarships and bursaries - such as those for students from specific countries.

Browse Lancaster University's scholarships and bursaries.

Important Information

The information on this site relates primarily to 2024/2025 entry to the University and every effort has been taken to ensure the information is correct at the time of publication.

The University will use all reasonable effort to deliver the courses as described, but the University reserves the right to make changes to advertised courses. In exceptional circumstances that are beyond the University’s reasonable control (Force Majeure Events), we may need to amend the programmes and provision advertised. In this event, the University will take reasonable steps to minimise the disruption to your studies. If a course is withdrawn or if there are any fundamental changes to your course, we will give you reasonable notice and you will be entitled to request that you are considered for an alternative course or withdraw your application. You are advised to revisit our website for up-to-date course information before you submit your application.

More information on limits to the University’s liability can be found in our legal information.

Our Students’ Charter

We believe in the importance of a strong and productive partnership between our students and staff. In order to ensure your time at Lancaster is a positive experience we have worked with the Students’ Union to articulate this relationship and the standards to which the University and its students aspire. View our Charter and other policies.