BA African Studies

Africa is humankind’s original home; a continent of vast cultural and natural resources.

Whether coping with massive urbanisation, developing new kinds of politics, or inventing original literary and theatrical genres, Africans have been active and resilient makers of their own fortunes. The range of African societies today and in the past is enormous: from egalitarian communities to elaborately hierarchical empires. There are extremes of wealth and poverty; ancient oral cultures exist side-by-side with old traditions of literacy and state-of-the-art electronic media.

African Studies and Anthropology has been ranked second among all Area Studies departments in the country in the Research Excellence Framework 2014. The department’s teaching programmes are grounded in Africans’ own views of the continent and the world.

Sarah Nwafor

Sarah Nwafor

“I wanted an environment where I could question the status quo, where I could speak to lecturers and challenge their ideas… I love the breadth of courses and modules offered… You are being trained as a robust individual to have a very robust knowledge of the continent in a way that then shapes you to decide on which routes you want to pursue.”

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.

Why study this course

Why study African Studies at Birmingham?

  • African Studies and Anthropology has been ranked second among all Area Studies departments in the country in the Research Excellence Framework 2014
  • High quality learning experience - at the University of 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. 
  • We offer a semester abroad in our Single Honours African Studies programmes. Students choose a host university approved by the University of Birmingham’s International Office and go in either Semester 1 or 2 of the second year. 
  • We have a core of expertise in Africa: all our staff have lived and taught in Africa, and continue to carry out research there. 
  • We house the Danford Collection; a nationally important collection of West African art and artefacts. 

Open day talk


The optional modules listed on the website for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.

First year

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.

Compulsory modules

  • Focus on Studying Societies

Optional modules 

  • 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

Second year

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.

Compulsory modules

  • Perspectives on Africa

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.

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 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.

  • Dissertation
  • 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.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17 are as follows:

  • Home / EU: £9,000
  • Overseas: £13,860

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

For further information on tuition fees, living costs and available financial support, please see our pages on undergraduate fees and funding.

Tuition fees when studying abroad

For those spending a whole academic year abroad (where available):

  • Students who are classed as home/EU for fees purposes are required to pay 15% of their normal annual tuition fee; for 2016/17 this will be £1,350
  • Students who are classed as overseas for fee purposes are required to pay 50% of their normal annual tuition fee; for 2016/17 this will be £6,930

For those studying abroad for just one semester (where available), normal annual tuition fees apply.

Note - Study abroad opportunities vary between courses; please see the course description for details of study abroad options offered.

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required:
Typical offer:
General Studies:

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.

Additional information:

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 one of our foundation pathways, which offer specially structured programmes for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on Birmingham International Academy web pages.

How to apply

Joint Honours combinations

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.

University of Birmingham students are part of an academic elite and learn from world-leading experts. We will challenge you to become an independent and self-motivated learner, qualities that are highly sought after by employers.

You will have a diverse learning experience, including:

  • lectures
  • small group tutorials
  • independent study
  • and peer group learning, such as delivering presentations with your classmates


You will have access to a comprehensive support system to help you make the transition to Higher Education.

  • Personal tutors - You will be assigned your own personal tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies. They will provide academic support and welfare advice to enable you to make the most of your time here at Birmingham.
  • Transition review - you will undergo a formal transition review during your first year with an academic member of staff. They will see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you need support.
  • Academic Skills Centre - the centre aims to help you become a more effective and independent learner through a range of high-quality support services. The centre offers workshops on a range of topics, such as note-taking, reading, academic writing and presentation skills.
  • Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) - the AWAS team will provide guidance on writing essays and dissertations at University-level. You will receive individual support from an academic writing advisor and meet with postgraduate tutors who specialise in particular subjects. Support is given in a variety of ways, such as small-group workshops, online activities, tutorials and email correspondence.
  • Student experience - our Student Experience Team will help you get the most out of your academic experience. They will offer research opportunities, study skills support and help you prepare for your post-university careers. They will also organise social events, such as field trips, to help you meet fellow students from your course.

Students in the Danford Room

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

Assessments - you will be assessed in a variety of ways to help you transition to a new style of learning. At the beginning of each module, you will be given information on how and when you will be assessed. Assessments methods will vary with each module and could include:

  • coursework, such as essays
  • group and individual presentations
  • and formal exams

Feedback - you will receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so you can learn from each assignment. You will also be given feedback on any exams that you take. If you should fail an exam, we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is provided to help you prepare for future exams.

As a student of African Studies, you will have an excellent opportunity to develop skills that are highly prized by employers.

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.  You will have an excellent opportunity to develop skills that are attractive to employers, including:

  • Strong communication skills
  • A deep understanding of Africa and its peoples
  • The ability to research, analyse and interpret complex information
  • Independence and experience of living abroad (if semester abroad chosen)
  • Leadership and teamwork
  • Handling complex information
  • The ability to form concise and articulate arguments
  • Managing your time and prioritising your workload

These are key skills that will enable you to pursue either further study in African Studies disciplines or move into employment in a wide range of other careers. 

95% of African Studies students are in work/study six months after finishing their degree.  Our graduates have gone on to careers in: 

  • Bank Management
  • Teaching
  • Civil Service (admin grades)
  • Foreign Office
  • Retail management
  • Aid work with Save the Children
  • Probation work
  • Welfare rights worker
  • Computer programmer
  • NGO work in Kurdistan
  • Work with adults who have learning disabilities
  • Research with Amnesty International
  • Officer in the Parachute Regiment
  • EFL teaching
  • BBC Radio producer
  • BBC World Service correspondent
  • Postgraduate study

 You will benefit from organised events in the Department whereby our graduates return to campus to talk to current students about their careers, how to find opportunities and the variety of roles available.  Many careers-orientated events are arranged in the Department over the course of your time at Birmingham to enable you to gain skills so that you join the working world with confidence in your abilities.

Developing your career

Employers target University of Birmingham students for their diverse skill-set and our graduate employment statistics have continued to climb at a rate well above national trends. If you make the most of our wide range of opportunities you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.

  • Careers events - we hold events covering careers in teaching, event management, marketing and working with charities to help you meet potential employers and learn more about these sectors.
  • Global Challenge - you can apply to work overseas on an expenses-paid placement during your summer vacation through our Global Challenge initiative.
  • Work experience bursary - we encourage you to apply your skills in the workplace by undertaking internships in the summer. Our work experience bursaries allow you to apply for funding to support you during unpaid internships.
  • 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 will give you professional experience to set you apart in a competitive graduate market. Our current partners include Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Birmingham REP, Birmingham Royal Ballet, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust, Library of Birmingham.

There are also internships available at our own cultural assets, such as Winterbourne House, the Lapworth Museum, and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

Extra-curricular activities

To enhance your career prospects even further, you will need to think about engaging in some extra-curricular activities to broaden your skills and network of contacts.

  • Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme - 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 our 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.
  • Personal Skills Award - 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.
  • Guild of Students - there is a vast number of student groups and volunteering opportunities offered by the Guild of Students, which cover a wide variety of interests.

Birmingham has transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Clubs and societies

The Guild has over 200 Societies, community volunteering groups and associations for you to join; they cover every topic and activity that you can think of - there really is something for everyone.

Student Experience Officers

Our Student Experience Officers will help you get the most out of your academic experience. They will offer research opportunities, study skills support and help you prepare for your post-university careers. They will also organise social events, such as field trips, to help you meet fellow students from your course.


Coming to Birmingham might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and culture, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work.

Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.

International students

The University of Birmingham has been welcoming international students onto our campus since 1900.

We have one of the largest and most vibrant international student communities in the UK, with 5,000 international students from more than 150 different countries and 31% of our academic staff from overseas.

If you would like further information about entry requirements, how to apply and funding options, then you can visit our international students webpage. You may also wish to take a virtual tour of our campus and watch the video below to hear our international students say their favourite thing about the University of Birmingham.