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.
In your first year you will have a series of options which allow you to explore aspects of African History, Politics, Culture, Geography, Society and Development, giving you an awareness of the diversity of the continent. As you progress, you will be able to follow up a range of topics in greater detail, culminating in your final-year dissertation.
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.
All first-year students take our Focus on Studying Societies module, which involves working with a tutor in a small group and trying out all the basic steps in researching, planning and writing a university-level essay. After receiving detailed one-to-one feedback on this assignment, you will then choose your own topic, practising the same skills in researching and planning, and working as a group to prepare a presentation, developing your teamwork and oral communication skills.
You’ll also have a series of options which allow you to explore aspects of African History, Politics, Culture, Geography, Society and Development, giving you an awareness of the diversity of the continent.
- Focus on Studying Societies
- African Societies
- Doing Development
- Introduction to African Culture
- Introduction to African History
- Introduction to African Societies
- Introduction to African Politics
- Introduction to Geography and Africa
- Thinking Anthropologically
Most modules in year two encompass a mix of lectures, seminars or group work, and independent reading. We prefer project work and assessed essays to timed exams because we believe these forms of assessment develop the skills students need in employment or further study.
In this year, you will take the compulsory Perspectives on Africa module (20 credits) ; a student-led seminar course that takes on issues of immediate contemporary concern in Africa, focusing on the way they’re debated in Africa itself and situating these debates in their global context.
Options (second and third year, NB not all are offered every year)
- Aid, NGOs and Development
- The African Canon
- African New Writing
- African Popular Culture
- African Religion and Ritual
- Atlantic Slavery: West Africa and the Caribbean
- Caribbean Poetry
- Gender and Development in Africa
- Ghana: State and Society
- Independent Study
- Rural Livelihoods and Development Interventions in West Africa
- Social Life of the Economy
- South Africa in the 19th century
- South Africa in the 20th century
- South Africa since Apartheid: Politics and Culture
- Theory, Ethnography and Research
- Trajectories of Emancipation
Detailed descriptions of second and third year modules
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 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 four African Studies optional modules of 20 credits each, 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. 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.
- 80 credits of Department of African Studies and Anthropology modules, or, 60 credits of Department of African Studies and Anthropology modules and a 20 credit Module Outside the Main Discipline.
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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