American and Canadian Studies and History BA

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This multidisciplinary degree explores both global history and the dynamic past of North America and Canada. You will get the chance to explore and inter-relate American and Canadian history, literature, politics and culture, whilst also investigating why and how our world emerged.

At the University of Birmingham, History is not a plain narrative of events and you will be encouraged to question some of the myths and preconceptions that surround the subject. Our course is distinctive in its consideration of Canada, as well as the United States, with a variety of topics including American film, book illustrations, modern American fiction, the workings of Washington, the War on Terror and the legacies of slavery. 

Course fact file

UCAS code: TV71

Duration: 3 Years

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

Start date: September

Details

This programme brings together the literature, history, culture and politics of North America, alongside the wider study of global history in all its rich diversity.

To truly read a novel like Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987), we need awareness of the historical moment in which it is set and written. To interpret a political speech such as ‘A More Perfect Union’ (2008), we must immerse ourselves in the resources of languages, storytelling and allusion on which Barack Obama draws. 

The History department has an equally broad set of expertise. Whatever your interests - whether cultural, social, military, political, economic or religious history - there is someone in the department teaching to your interests. The size and quality of the department enables us to offer you a wide range of options across the medieval, early modern and modern periods, and over a vast geographical span. Moreover, historians in other departments in the University share offer expertise in the fields of Byzantine and African history, which broaden your learning opportunities even further.

Furthermore, to give a sense of the breadth of study in American and Canadian Studies, our lecturers have recommended websites, films and books for anyone considering choosing this degree. 

Why study this course

  • Excellent teaching – our American and Canadian Studies department is ranked 2nd in the UK in Guardian League Tables 2015 and 5th in The Complete University Guide 2015.  Similarly, the History department is one of the largest and most diverse in Britain, with over 30 full-time academic staff operating on an international level.
  • High student satisfaction – our History degree is designed to provide both academic excellence and vocational development – a balance that is highly sought after by employers. Meanwhile, our American and Canadian Studies department consistently scores highly in the Student Satisfaction Survey with 93% overall satisfaction in 2014.
  • Strong research profile - American and Canadian Studies has a strong research profile and one of the most respected of its kind in the world. Dr Steve Hewitt offers his expert opinion for the BBC and other news organisations, and continues his analysis of current events in his foreign policy teaching. Furthermore, our History department was ranked first in the country in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
  • Innovative assessment - Alongside traditional written assignments, we offer a range of learning and assessment methods that develop our students' communication skills and enhance employability. These include the exciting opportunity to develop skills in media production using our state-of-the-art editing suite to produce a documentary film dissertation in the final year.
  • Access to a wide variety of resources from the University's Library (which is situated next to the History Department) and the Hilton and Styles Libraries in the Arts Building itself. The University Special Collections houses some 60,000 rare and early printed books and upwards of 2 million manuscript and archive items.

Hear from our students

Open day talks

Full videos on YouTube of recent open day talks relevant to this course:

Modules

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.

In this programme, you study half of your modules (60 credits) in American and Canadian Studies (ACS) and half in History (60 credits)

First year

ACS: You take three foundation courses:

  • American History to 1890, which includes examination of social, political and cultural themes
  • Literature up to 1890, which analyses literary, visual and film texts
  • An introduction to Canadian Studies

History: The first year is the foundational year in an academic process that will see you progress from being a dependent to an independent learner. You will study modules spanning the early medieval to late modern periods. You can choose either Discovering the Middle Ages and Living in the Middle Ages or The Making of the Modern World 1500-1815 and The Making of the Contemporary World 1815-2000 (20 credits per module). These explore fundamental themes and issues focused on key periods  and indicate the kinds of questions historians explore and some of the methods they employ in answering them. You will also study Practising History (A): Skills in History (Autumn semester) and Practising History (B): Approaches to History (Spring semester), which look more closely at the techniques of the historian and at the nature and evolution of key historical debates. 

Second year

ACS: You study history and culture from 1890 to the present and begin to develop your own interests, be these political, sociological, literary or multicultural, by selecting specialist options from a list that includes:

  • The African-American Experience
  • Musicals
  • The CIA and International History
  • Film-making practices (which can include some practical training)

History: The second year is an intermediate year that builds on the foundations laid in the first year of study. You engage in Group Research and extend your historical knowledge through two (20 + 20) subject-specific modules chosen from a wide range of available from Option A in the Autumn semester and Option B in the Spring.

Third year

ACS: Your final year courses are drawn from a wide range of options including Anti-Americanism, a variety of options exploring cross-cultural themes in American and Canadian History, and including courses in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Film. At the very centre of your studies is a year long project, entitled The Extended Essay, which gives you a chance to develop your own interests in depth. The extended essay differs from other modules and poses a greater challenge, and greater opportunity for personal development and originality. University taught courses provide a syllabus and bibliography, and the assessment generally explores a major theme of the course, sometimes by further recommended reading, or examines comprehensive understanding. The extended essay has quite different objectives. The final year project is the pinnacle of undergraduate education and illustrates skills acquired through years of university study in research conceived and executed independently.

History: The third year represents the culmination of undergraduate study and the final stage of your transition to an independent learner. You hone your historical skills in Advanced Option A or Advanced Option B and you also undertake an in-depth Special Subject module, which is chosen from a variety of available subjects. 

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: AAB

Required subjects and grades: A Level History, Medieval History or Ancient History at grade A

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.

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

 Dr Richard Langley giving a tutorial

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

Support

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.

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.

Employability

As a student of American and Canadian Studies and History, you will have an excellent opportunity to develop skills that are highly prized by employers, as well as benefitting from the diversity offered by this multidisciplinary degree. Your skill-set upon graduation will include:

  • Strong communication skills
  • A deep understanding of the past
  • The ability to research, analyse and interpret complex information
  • Leadership and teamwork
  • Respecting the views of others
  • Handling complex information
  • The ability to form concise and articulate arguments
  • Managing your time and prioritising your workload

 As a graduate of American and Canadian Studies and History, you have a vast potential to enter a wide range of careers, including government, the media, law, accountancy, international development, marketing, advertising, human resources and retail management, teaching, research and many other types of employment that offer graduate entry schemes.

Our graduates start careers with employers, including:

  • the BBC
  • Freud Communications
  • Maverick TV
  • the National Youth Theatre

Graduate roles are equally diverse:

  • Business Development Executive
  • Events Co-ordinator
  • Financial Analyst
  • Marketing Executive
  • Production Assistant
  • Research Assistant
  • Youth Mentor

Furthermore, about 25% of our graduates choose postgraduate study to extend their knowledge of American and Canadian Studies and History, or to prepare for careers such as law and teaching.

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.