African Studies is a broad degree programme which combines arts and social science approaches. Most of our students enter the degree programme with an enthusiasm for, and interest in, either Africa or Anthropology, but few have studied these subjects at school or college. We have a wide range of visiting scholars and a cultural events and seminar programme. The student society is very lively and provides a full programme of activities, from sport to music.
This degree aims to promote an interdisciplinary understanding of Africa, its history, cultures and societies, but also to focus critically and analytically on the unique contribution anthropology has made to the study of Africa and its peoples. The Department of African Studies and Anthropology is a small department, whose strong sense of community and support among its undergraduates, postgraduates and staff is well known in the University.
African Studies and Anthropology has been ranked second among all Area Studies departments in the country in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
Please be aware that the following information is intended to provide prospective students with an indicative guide of the modules offered by the School. However, our research is constantly exploring new areas and directions of study, therefore some modules may be dropped and new ones offered in their place.
In your first year you take three compulsory modules. Focus on Studying Societies (20 credits) is concerned with core study skills, taking you through all the steps of researching, planning and editing an essay, and enabling you to pursue a group investigation and present your findings orally. Thinking Anthropologically (20 credits) takes a series of core questions (e.g. What is work? What is dirt?) and shows how anthropologists study societies around the world, explaining how people can think very differently about questions that might initially appear simple or obvious. African Societies (20 credits) allows students to see how core anthropological terms have been applied to specific societies in order to explain social structures, behaviours and beliefs. In addition to these three compulsory modules, you should also take either 60 credits of African Studies options, or 40 credits of African Studies options and a 20 credit Module Outside the Main Discipline.
- African Societies
- Focus on Studying Societies
- Thinking Anthropologically
- Doing Development
- Introduction to African History
- Introduction to African Culture
- Introduction to African Politics
- Introduction to Geography and Africa
- Module Outside the Main Discipline
In the second year you take the core skills course, Perspectives on Africa (20 credits) which includes a substantial section on dissertation preparation for your final year.
Students must take either Theory and Ethnography (20 credits), which introduces them to the history of social anthropology and its major theories, or Theory, Ethnography and Research (40 credits). The latter covers the same material but includes an ethnographic project, in which students behave like anthropologists, and engage in close observation and analysis of the social behaviour around them.
Options (Second and Third year, NB not all are offered every year)
- African Popular Culture
- African Religion and Ritual
- Aid, NGOs and Development
- Caribbean Poetry
- Gender and Development in Africa
- Caribbean Challenges to the Modern World
- Independent Study
- Rural Livelihoods and Development Interventions in West Africa
- From Colony to Nation: Ghana 1874-1966
- South Africa in the 19th century
- South Africa in the 20th century
- South Africa since Apartheid: Politics and Culture
- Trajectories of Emancipation
The option to study for a semester abroad
You will have the option to study abroad in the either the first or second semester of your second year, so you will still be able to complete your degree in three years. Credits are gained in your subject area at the institution you choose. There is a wide variety of universities to choose from which are approved by the University of Birmingham's International Office with the Study Abroad and Exchanges Scheme.
In your final year, you can choose modules from a list available within the department. Students will be taught in a combination of lectures and seminars and will be able to develop more specialised knowledge and analytical skills, often drawing on the first-hand research experience of their tutors. Final-year students take either 80 credits of Department of African Studies and Anthropology options (examples shown above), or 60 credits of Department of African Studies and Anthropology options and a 20 credit Module Outside the Main Discipline and a Dissertation.
The Dissertation (40 credits) is the culmination of the enquiry-based learning that students have been working towards throughout their degree programme. With the guidance of an academic supervisor in a series of one-to-one meetings, you will have the opportunity to identify a topic that is of particular interest to you, formulate relevant and interesting questions, search for and evaluate different sources of information, and present your findings and conclusions in a 10,000 word dissertation. In order to support you through this potentially daunting task, we arrange a series of workshops in which students present their work-in-progress, and receive useful feedback from members of the academic staff and their fellow students. Your supervisor will also read and comment on your draft in order to help you produce a well-organised and well-presented piece of work. Successful completion of a dissertation enables students to demonstrate a wide range of skills that are transferable to employment and to further study.
Number of A levels required: 3
Typical offer: BBB
General Studies: accepted
International baccalaureate update
Please note that we have reviewed our policy on the IB Diploma for 2016 entry and our offers will now focus on performance in Higher Level subjects. For more information and details please read our 2016 IB Diploma requirements.
Other qualifications are considered - learn more about entry requirements.
We expect applicants to have an interest in Africa rather than a detailed knowledge of the continent.
We welcome applications from mature and Access students.
We welcome applications from international students and invite you to join our vibrant community of over 4500 international students who represent 150 different countries. We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.
Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in the Birmingham Foundation Academy, a specially structured programme for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on the foundation academy web pages.
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