BA African Studies with Development

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This degree has been designed to offer you a detailed insight into the African continent and its peoples. The programme aims to promote a detailed understanding of a vast and often misrepresented continent, and the ways in which societal change can be influenced.

The Department of African Studies and Anthropology is a small, friendly community of staff, undergraduates, postgraduates and visiting scholars, with a very active student society.  Student satisfaction scores for African Studies with Development at Birmingham are very high, with 96% of students reporting that they are satisfied with the quality of the course.  Our BA African Studies with Development graduates also have a high employability rating, with 95% going into work or study within six months of graduation. 

Course fact file

UCAS code: T5L9

Duration: 3 years

Typical Offer: BBB (More detailed entry requirements and the international qualifications accepted can be found in the course details)

Start date: September


  • Download the programme brochure for BA African Studies with Development to find out more about the course structure

African Studies with Development is a broad-based, multidisciplinary degree.  Applicants are required to have an interest in-and curiosity about- Africa, rather than a detailed knowledge of the continent. 

Programme structure

For African Studies with Development students, the first year provides foundation courses in the sociology, history, development, politics and cultures of Africa.  In the second year students build their disciplinary expertise with a 20-credit course on history, theory and methods of development. The final year culminates in a dissertation, where you explore a specific area of Development, drawing on the knowledge and inter-disciplinary skills that you have built up over the degree programme.


Why study this course

The Department of African Studies and Anthropology (incorporating the Centre for West African Studies) at the University of Birmingham has over 50 years of expertise in teaching and research in this fascinating area. Here, students from all parts of Africa, Europe, America and the Caribbean, work together in a friendly community.  You'll find we offer exciting opportunities and a commitment to excellence in teaching. 

At Birmingham, you will benefit from an intellectually challenging and stimulating environment for your undergraduate studies, focused on ensuring you are a fully supported and active learner. Our unique degrees are designed to provide both academic excellence and vocational development; a balance that’s highly sought after by employers in today's intellectual and creative industries. The courses are also very flexible, allowing you to specialise more as you progress, culminating in a final-year dissertation that allows you to carry out in-depth, individually supervised research into topics of your choice. You will work with academic staff who are at the forefront of research in this wide-ranging subject.

Student satisfaction scores for African Studies with Development at Birmingham are very high, with 96% of students reporting that they are satisfied with the quality of the course. 

Our BA African Studies with Development graduates also have a high employability rating, with 95% going into work or study within six months of graduation. 

"There was never really one defining moment in my life when I decided that I was destined to study Africa, like most things it started as a vague possibility and gradually grew on me. When choosing my degree subject, I always knew that it would include some geographical element… African Studies seemed to be a sort of enhanced degree in that it was everything I loved about Geography but with a lot more focus. Also I loved the idea of contrasting lectures…" African Studies Graduate

Sarah Nwafor (BA African Studies, third year)

African Studies, Anthropology and Development at Birmingham
June 2013 open day talk given by Dr Maxim Bolt


First year

Focus on studying societies 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. You will receive detailed one-to-one feedback on your assignments, and this should help you with your other modules. Doing development introduces you to the history, theory and methods of development. Your understanding of what 'development' might mean and how it might be undertaken in the African context will be built up through your remaining core modules, which introduce you to the politics, environments and societies of Africa.  In addition to your 60 credits of compulsory modules, you take either 60 credits of optional modules in African Studies, or 40 credits of African Studies modules plus a 20 credit Module Outside the Main Discipline.

Compulsory modules

African options

Second year

In your second year, you will study the theory and practice of development, considering real life examples of development projects and agencies in Africa and beyond. In addition to Aid, NGO's and development, you will also take Perspectives on Africa, which is concerned with issues of immediate importance in contemporary African societies, and which develops your skills in researching, planning and presenting your own projects. You can then choose either 80 credits of African Studies optional modules, or 60 credits of African Studies modules plus a 20 credit Module Outside the Main Discipline.

Compulsory modules

Options (second and third year)

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.

Third year

In your final year, you can choose your taught 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 one 40 credit dissertation, plus 4 modules of 20 credits each from the list above, of which one may be a Module Outside the Main Discipline. The number of taught modules is slightly fewer in the final year because of the emphasis that we place on the Dissertation (40 credits).  This is the culmination of the enquiry-based learning that students have been working towards throughout their degree programmes.  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 drafts 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.

Fees and funding

Standard fees apply 
Learn more about fees and funding

Learn more about our scholarships and awards

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required: 3

Typical offer: BBB

General Studies: accepted

Additional information:

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 32 points

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.

International 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.

How to apply

Apply through UCAS at

Learn more about applying

Key Information Set (KIS)

Key Information Sets (KIS) are comparable sets of information about full- or part-time undergraduate courses and are designed to meet the information needs of prospective students.

All KIS information has been published on the Unistats website and can also be accessed via the small advert, or ‘widget’, below. On the Unistats website you are able to compare all the KIS data for each course with data for other courses.

The development of Key Information Sets (KIS) formed part of HEFCE’s work to enhance the information that is available about higher education. They give you access to reliable and comparable information in order to help you make informed decisions about what and where to study.

The KIS contains information which prospective students have identified as useful, such as student satisfaction, graduate outcomes, learning and teaching activities, assessment methods, tuition fees and student finance, accommodation and professional accreditation.

Learning and teaching

As a Birmingham student you are part of an academic elite and will learn from world-leading experts. At Birmingham we advocate an enquiry based learning approach, from the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner, qualities that are highly sought after by employers. We want you to be challenged and will encourage you to think for yourself.

Your learning will take place in a range of different settings, from scheduled teaching in lectures and small group tutorials, to self-study and peer group learning (for example preparing and delivering presentations with your classmates).


To begin with you may find this way of working challenging, but rest assured that we will enable you to make this transition. You will have access to a comprehensive support system that will assist and encourage you, including personal tutors and welfare tutors who can help with both academic and welfare issues, and a formal transition review during your first year to check on your progress and offer you help for any particular areas where you need support.

Our Academic Skills Centre also offers you support with your learning. The centre is a place where you can develop your mathematical, academic writing and general academic skills. It is the centre's aim to help you to become a more effective and independent learner through the use of a range of high-quality and appropriate learning support services. These range from drop-in sessions to workshops on a range of topics including note taking, reading, writing and presentation skills.

From the outset, you will be assigned your own Personal Tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies, providing academic and welfare advice, encouraging you and offering assistance in any areas you may feel you need extra support to make the most of your potential and your time here at Birmingham.

The Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) will provide you with individual support from an academic writing advisor and postgraduate subject-specialist writing tutors. You will receive guidance on writing essays and dissertations at University-level which can be quite different from your previous experiences of writing. Support is given in a variety of ways, such as small-group workshops, online activities, feedback through email and tutorials.

Student experience

Supporting you throughout your transition to University, offering research opportunities and study skills support and helping you develop and prepare for your post-University careers - our Arts and Law Student Experience Team strive to help you get the most out of your academic experience.

Contact hours

These vary slightly according to your choice of modules. However, contact is timed carefully and we're very clear about what you should do during your independent study hours. During contact hours, you will have the opportunity to work in small groups, to build relationships with your tutors and fellow students, and to receive one-to-one feedback on your assignments.

Assessment methods

Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching. You will be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with the subject and find things out for yourself. We will enable you to make this transition to a new style of learning, and the way that you are assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time at Birmingham.

You will be assessed in a variety of ways, and these may be different with each module that you take. You will be assessed through coursework which may take the form of essays, group and individual presentations and formal exams (depending on your chosen degree).

During your first year you will undergo a formal 'transition' review to see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you need support. This is in addition to the personal tutor who is based in your school or department and can help with any academic issues you encounter.

At the beginning of each module, you will be given information on how and when you will be assessed for that particular programme of study. You will receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done. You will be given feedback on any exams that you take; if you should fail an exam we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is made available to enable you to learn for the future. 


[Video above - Dr Maxim Bolt discusses careers and employability in the African Studies open day presentation]

As a student of African Studies you will have an excellent opportunity to develop skills that are highly prized by employers. Our graduates have the ability to research and analyse complex information, work independently and as part of a team, and communicate judgments and arguments effectively. African Studies has the advantage of being a distinctive degree that really helps you to stand out from the crowd. It makes you an Africa expert, opening up an increasing range of career possibilities as Africa's economy grows and African countries become more influential in the world.

The University of Birmingham is ranked highly for employability for all African Studies degree courses. We are third in the 2014 Complete University Guide Middle Eastern and African Studies ranking. Recent graduates have gone into: bank management, teaching, the civil service and Foreign Office, Department of International Development graduate scheme, retail management, aid work, welfare rights, EFL teaching, computer programming and the media. We are proud that our former students have been involved in founding and supporting the NGO Challenge Africa.

Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal. This is a unique careers guidance service tailored to your academic subject area, offering a specialised team who can give you expert advice.

We also hold events covering careers in teaching, event management, marketing and working with charities. Our students are encouraged to apply their skills in the workplace by undertaking internships in the summer; the work experience bursary scheme enables students to apply for funding for those career areas where placements are often unpaid. You can even apply for our 'Global Challenge' to work overseas on an expenses paid placement during your summer vacation.

Extra-curricular activities

To enhance your career prospects even further, you will need to think about engaging in some extra-curricular activities while you're at university to broaden your skills and your network of contacts. This can include the many societies at the Guild of Students and also the many voluntary opportunities offered with local arts organisations. Our employer-endorsed award-winning Personal Skills Award (PSA) recognises your extra-curricular activities, and provides an accredited employability programme designed to improve your career prospects.

Our College of Arts and Law undergraduate research scholarship scheme enables interested students to work on a current academic research project being run by one of the College's academic researchers. Undergraduate research scholars gain work experience over the summer after their first or second year and have the chance to develop skills in both collaborative and independent research.

Cultural Internships

Our innovative Cultural Internships offer graduates the opportunity for a six month paid internship at a leading cultural institution in the West Midlands. These internships are a unique opportunity to learn fundamental, transferable business and interpersonal skills, through experience of real work in an established cultural institution. Our current partners include Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Birmingham REP, Birmingham Royal Ballet, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust and the Library of Birmingham. We have plans to expand the scheme to include our own major cultural assets, such as Winterbourne House, the Lapworth Museum, and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. This scheme will give you professional experience to set you apart in a competitive graduate market.

We also offer voluntary work which complements your studies by helping you gain practical experiences in occupational settings while contributing back to society. This can bring new skills that will be useful throughout your future and can make a positive impact on your learning whilst at university. Volunteering enables you to develop skills such as communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork, self-confidence and self-discipline all of which can be transferred into your studies.

Your Birmingham degree is evidence of your ability to succeed in a demanding academic environment. Employers target Birmingham students for their drive, diversity, communication and problem-solving skills, their team-working abilities and cultural awareness, and our graduate employment statistics have continued to climb at a rate well above national trends. If you make the most of the wide range of services you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.