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. So in your first year in particular, we will help you to adapt to new ways of working and to gain confidence in approaching unfamiliar topics. As you progress, you will be able to follow up a range of topics in greater detail, culminating in your final-year dissertation.
The African continent is humankind's original home. It is a continent of vast cultural and natural resources. The range of African societies today and in the past are 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; successful local exploitation of Africa’s massive pools of biodiversity contrasts with the famines we are all too familiar with in the news.
What is indisputable is the creativity of the continent. Whether in coping with massive urbanisation, in developing new kinds of politics, or in inventing original literary and theatrical genres, Africans have been active and resilient makers of their own fortunes. The Department of African Studies and Anthropology teaching programmes are grounded in Africans’ own views of the continent and the world.
Why study this course
Why study African Studies at Birmingham?
The Department of African Studies and Anthropology (incorporating the Centre for West African Studies) at the University of Birmingham has built up 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.
We house the Danford Collection; a nationally important collection of West African art and artefacts.
Student satisfaction scores for African Studies at Birmingham are very high, with 96% of students reporting that they are satisfied with the quality of the course.
Our BA African Studies graduates also enjoy a high average rate of employability for the subject, 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…"
Sarah Nwafor (BA African Studies, third year)
African Studies, Anthropology and Development at Birmingham
June 2013 open day talk given by Dr Maxim Bolt
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.
Optional modules include:
Introduction to African culture
Introduction to African history
Introduction to African societies
Introduction to African politics
Introduction to geography and Africa
Detailed descriptions of first year modules
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; 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)
Aid, NGOs and Development
The African Canon
African new writing
African popular culture
African religion and ritual
Atlantic slavery: West Africa and the Caribbean
Gender and development in Africa
Ghana: state and society
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 an 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 DASA modules, or, 60 credits of DASA modules and a 20 credit MOMD (examples listed above).
Fees and funding
Number of A levels required: 3
Typical offer: BBB
General Studies: accepted
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.
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
Joint Honours combinations
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