BA African Studies and Geography

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This degree has been designed to offer you a detailed insight into the African continent and its peoples, alongside Geography modules where you can choose modules on both Human and Physical Geography. There are a wide variety of modules available to you so that you can build a degree that suits your interests.  Students from African Studies and Geography have given us a satisfaction rating of over 95%.  As a BA African Studies and Geography student, you will develop skills from both subject areas and this distinctive degree programme will help you to stand out to future employers. 

Course fact file

UCAS code: LT75

Duration: 3 Years

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

Start date: September

Details

In this programme, you study half of your modules (60 credits) in African Studies and half in Geography (60 credits)

First year

African Studies: You will explore a wide range of issues relating to the African subcontinent from different academic perspectives. In the first year you are introduced to the history, cultures, environments, societies and contemporary political situations of Africa.

Geography: The modular structure allows you maximum flexibility in developing your own interests without channeling you into decisive choices too early. In the first year you will be exposed to the main principles of human and physical geography, to global environmental issues, and various practical skills. You will also explore contemporary urban issues using Birmingham as a real-world laboratory. The first semester includes residential fieldwork in human and physical geography.

Second year

African Studies: In your second year you take Perspectives on Africa, which covers breaking news stories on Africa and provides dissertation preparation. You also choose two other modules from African Studies modules.

Geography: You are now introduced to specialist techniques such as computer cartography and the use of databases and spreadsheets. You learn how to develop a research proposal, which may be the starting point for your dissertation in the final year. Training in more advanced fieldwork skills is provided by courses held in European centres. You also choose from optional modules in many different branches of Geography.

Third year 

African Studies: In your third year, you may write a Dissertation (10,000 words, 40 credits) or take an Independent Study (5,000 words, 20 credits).  If you are undertaking independent research on the other side of your degree programme, however, we allow you to choose mainly taught modules in African Studies, so as to guarantee a reasonable amount of contact time. 

Geography: In your final year you select from a wide range of modules that provide the more specialised knowledge and skills in the areas of Geography that appeal to you.

Why study this course

African Studies is a broad degree programme which combines arts and social science approaches. The Centre of West African Studies is a small, friendly community of undergraduates, postgraduates, visiting scholars and staff.

  •  The Department of African studies and Anthropology (incorporating the Centre for West African Studies) at the University of Birmingham is the only one of its kind in the world.
  •  All staff have lived and worked in Africa, so you get the benefit of their invaluable first-hand experience.
  •  Teaching programmes are grounded in the African people's own view of the continent and the world.
  • Student satisfaction scores for African Studies at Birmingham are very high, with 93% of students reporting that they are satisfied with the quality of the course.
  •  The University of Birmingham is first for employability nationally for all African Studies degree courses. 86% of African Studies graduates who graduated in 2011 were in graduate-level jobs or further study six months after graduating.
  •  The Danford Collection is a nationally important collection of African Art and Artefacts that celebrates and showcases the extensive array of cultural traditions and artistic expression from the countries in Africa. 
  •  CWASSOC is very active in organising social events, for example the biannual Afrika Jam. It also arranges excursions to places and events of interest (for example the Slavery Gallery at the Maritime Museum in Liverpool). 

Sarah Nwafor (BA African Studies, third year)

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

Geography at Birmingham combines a sound academic training with an insight into practical, social, economic and environmental issues. You refine perspectives and develop skills in a degree programme that encourages the use of imagination and observation to resolve real problems affecting people and environments.

Joint honours open day talk

Dr Craig Blunt delivers an undergraduate open day talk about studying Joint Honours at the university.

Fees and funding

Standard fees apply 
Learn more about fees and funding
 
Scholarships
Learn more about our scholarships and awards

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required: 3

Typical offer: ABB

Required subjects and grades: A level Geography grade A

Additional information: Other qualifications are considered - learn more about entry requirements

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 www.ucas.com

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).

Support

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.

As a student in the Geography department your degree will have a modular structure. In each year learning is delivered over two teaching semesters of eleven weeks and a third summer term of eight weeks for revision, examinations and progress review. Your learning will take place in a range of different settings, including lectures, small group tutorials, seminars, laboratory classes and through supplementary IT-based materials, as well as the more traditional use of books and journals in the University Library. Particular course modules in Geography may involve individual or group project work, preparing oral presentations, and library or web-based research. One of the advantages of a larger, long-established university such as Birmingham is the breadth and size of the library resources. With approaching four million books and fast-growing electronic resources, the University Library and Information Services is something we are proud of.

Fieldwork is an important aspect of studies in both human and physical geography. These experiences are embedded in courses to enable you to develop your transferable skills and to demonstrate your ability to work on your own initiative and as part of a team. This is invaluable in equipping you for future employment. As your degree progresses the modular structure allows you increasing choice so that you can follow the subject themes in Geography that most interest you.

You will have access to a comprehensive support system throughout your studies that will assist and encourage you, including personal tutors and welfare tutors. You will be assigned to a Personal Tutor for the whole three years, who can help you with any questions you may have while you study. You will also have your own Dissertation Supervisor in Year 2 and Year 3, to help guide you through the exciting process of designing and carrying out your dissertation project in an area of your choice.

Studying with us you will benefit from cutting edge equipment and facilities in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, including our state-of-the-art Earth imaging and visualisation laboratory for teaching.

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.

Employability

African Studies

[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.

Geography

Geography graduates have an excellent employment record after University. Past evidence shows that you will be highly regarded by employers because you will be flexible, able to write and analyse well and have a broad range of transferable skills relevant to the challenges of today and tomorrow.

If you use your time at university well, when you graduate you will be literate and able to write well in a number of different styles, and structure an argument fully. You will also be able to use a wide range of IT programmes and be familiar with industry-standard software packages, as well as proficient in the use of maps, visual media and images to effectively support your proposals. You will have developed personal transferable skills such as communication, presentation, and teamwork, and be able to use your own initiative, solve problems and manage your own time. This combination of skills will set you in good stead for a wide range of different careers upon graduation.

Many Geography graduates use their skills to get jobs directly related to geography, including nature conservation, environmental consultancy, tourism development, and town planning. A significant proportion also go on to pursue careers in teaching. A number of students get jobs in the public services, the commercial sector and industry, including financial and professional services, personnel management, retail, and local government. Around a quarter of graduates tend to go on to further study before entering employment including PGCE's (for teaching), one-year taught Masters courses (such as those for town planning), or a doctoral research programme.

With a degree in Geography the opportunities are plentiful, and only you know which career path you would like to take. Our unique careers guidance service is tailored to your academic subject area, offering a specialised team within the College who can give you expert advice. Our team source exclusive work experience opportunities to help you stand out amongst the competition, with mentoring, global internships and placements available to you. Once you have a career in your sights, one-to-one support with CVs and job applications will help give you the edge. If you make the most of the wide range of services you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive at Birmingham.

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 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.