History and Political Science are two complementary subjects that can be studied alongside each other at degree level. If you want to understand the past to prepare for your future in a changing world, studying History is the way forward.
A knowledge of politics helps you to understand what governments do, shedding light on how some of history’s pivotal events were motivated by the political leaders of the day. Both fields of study help you to acquire important analytical and research skills. You will be investigating unfamiliar territory questioning some of the prevailing myths, preconceptions and prejudices that surround history from the Middle Ages to the present day as well as learning about campaigns, elections, protest movements, policy issues and political ideas.
The Department of History has been ranked first in the country in the Research Excellence Framework 2014 and Politics and International Studies was ranked the 6th best in the power rankings of the Research Excellence Framework 2014. As a research-led University, this means that you will be taught by academic staff world-renowned for their teaching and research.
We are one of the largest Departments of History in the country with 30+ full time academic staff operating on an international level.
Whatever your interests - whether cultural, social, military, political, economic or religious history - there is someone in the department teaching your kind of history. Moreover, historians in other departments in the University expand the range of courses on offer, notably in the fields of Byzantine and African history.
The Department of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS) is one of the largest and best of its type in the UK. It consistently scores high in the National Student Survey and has consistently been viewed as one of the best departments in the country since the Guardian started publishing their League Tables in 2000.
Our expertise covers all areas of Political Science allowing you to learn from true specialists, with long-established strengths in the fields of political theory, European politics, international relations theory, security studies, diplomatic studies, political sociology, political economy, environmental politics, Pacific Asian politics and British politics.
- 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.
- Access to a wide variety of resources from the University's Main Library (which is situated next to the History department) and the Hilton and Styles Libraries in the Arts Building itself.
- You can choose to study for a year abroad in History
- As well as benefiting from our world-leading expertise in Political Science, you’ll also get the chance to take part in a range of in-house activities that vary by year and are designed to complement your curriculum and enrich your time at Birmingham.
- 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.
Open day talks
Full videos on YouTube of recent open day talks relevant to this course:
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 the first year of a Joint Honours degree programme study is split equally between the two disciplines. Following this you have the option to alter the balance of your study, meaning that you could change to a major-minor weighting. In your final year you have the option to maintain your second-year balance, switch your major subject to your other discipline or revert to an equal balance. If you wish, you can maintain an equal balance throughout your degree. This flexibility allows you to tailor the course throughout your degree programme, once you have had the time and experience to consider where your strengths and interests lie. The list of modules below are based on studying half of your modules (60 credits) in History and half in Political Science (60 credits).
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 and be provided with the basic knowledge and skills to study politics. Within the choice of Politics modules, you have the opportunity to take other introductory social science courses.
You can choose two out of five introductory survey modules which 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 term) and Practising History (B): Approaches to History (Spring term), which look more closely at the techniques of the historian and at the nature and evolution of key historical debates.
- Practising History A: Skills in History
- Practising History B: Approaches to History
- Classical Political Thought
- Introduction to International Relations Theory
- Understanding Politics
Choose two out of these five modules, one in the Autumn term and one in the Spring term
- Discovering the Middle Ages
- Living in the Middle Ages
- The Making of the Modern World 1500-1815
- The Making of the Contemporary World 1815-2000
- War and Society
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 term and Option B in the Spring. You have the opportunity to develop specialised knowledge in areas that you find of greatest interest, such as political theory and analysis, European integration, British politics, American politics, comparative European politics, and political economy.
- Group Research
- Option A
- Option B
- Analysing Political Worlds
- Modern Political Thought
Political Science Options:
- Contemporary Russian and East European Politics
- The Cultural Politics of Russia and Eastern Europe
- British Politics
- Comparative European Politics
- Institutions, Politics and Policies of the European Union
- International Political Economy
- International Politics and Security in Russia and Eurasia
- International Relations Theory
- International Security
- Introduction to American Politics
- The International Politics of East Asia
This four year route offers you the additional educational benefit of a year of study in an approved University in Europe or in English speaking countries. Students with grades of 2.1 or above in their first year will be asked to apply for the Year Abroad in the first term of their second year and if successful, will go abroad in their third year. In addition to the tutor support given from the host University, students who choose to take a Year Abroad will be allocated a member of staff from the Department of History who will monitor their progress while overseas through regular contact.
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 (20 credits) and you also undertake an in-depth Special Subject module (20+20 credits), which is chosen from a variety of available subjects. Joint Honours students can choose to substitute one 20 credit Advanced Option with a Joint Honours History Dissertation (20 credits). In Political Science, in addition to choosing modules from a wide range of options, students undertake an independent research project on a topic of their own choosing.
- Advanced Option A or Advanced Option B
- Special Subject
Political Science options:
- "Returning to Europe": Nation, State and Europe in Post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe
- Advanced Cultural Politics of Russia and Eastern Europe
- Advanced Contemporary Russian and East European Politics
- Advanced International Politics & Security in Russia & Eurasia
- Advanced Modern Asia
- Contemporary International Political Economy
- Contemporary US Foreign and Security Policy
- Controversies in Contemporary Democracies
- Critical Approaches to Security
- Democracy and Democratization in Contemporary Europe
- Europe in a Globalized World
- European Security
- Global Capitalism and Migration
- Global Governance
- International Ethics
- Joint Honours Dissertation (Political Science)
- Left Parties and Protest Movements
- Political History of Central and Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century
- Power in Britain
- The Diplomacy of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
- The Political Economy of Energy and Energy Security
- Topics in British Politics
- War-Torn States and Post-Conflict Reconstruction in the South
- Number of A levels required:
- Typical offer:
- 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.
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.
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:
- 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.
Central to Learning and Teaching in the School of History and Cultures at the University of Birmingham is critical enquiry, debate and self-motivation, summed up by the term Enquiry Based Learning.
What does this mean for you?
Enquiry-based learning describes an environment in which learning is driven by the shared enquiry of students and tutors. Depending upon the level and the discipline, it can encompass problem-based learning, evidence-based learning, small scale investigations, field work, projects and research.
Enquiry-based learning places you at the centre of your own learning process so that you learn through involvement and ownership and not simply by being a passive recipient of information thrown at you. You will spend time developing comprehension and note-taking skills. History is a subtle and complex subject and the literature you need to master can be demanding and complex. To ‘get’ it, you need plenty of thinking time. Reading, thinking and analysing for yourself are the most important parts of your degree experience. This approach will enable you to take control of your own learning as you progress through your degree. Moreover, it will encourage you to acquire essential skills that are highly valued by employers: creativity, independence, team-working, goal-setting and problem-solving.
The overall approach we adopt is one of more heavily weighted contact hours in Year 1, but tapering off over years 2 and 3, as you begin to acquire greater confidence in discussion and writing. We are strongly committed to small-group seminar teaching, particularly in the final two years of your degree: you will find that most of your teaching happens not in large, anonymous lectures but in smaller groups of students where you can actively participate in discussion and have the benefit of personal contact with academic staff. In your final year, you will also have individual tuition to help you work on your dissertation. As you progress through the syllabus, you are offered an increasingly wide range of particular subject choices.
Year 1 is highly directed – much of it lies in helping you to acquire a general overview of the medieval, early modern and near contemporary past. The ‘Practising History’ module introduces you to the key skills needed to study History at degree level and enables you to study select historical episodes. All this will help you make more informed decisions about subject choices in Years 2 and 3. These topics are increasingly specialised and enable you to get to grips with them in real depth. During your first year you will undergo a formal 'transition' review to see how you are getting on and offer you help for any particular areas where you need support.
In Year 2, in each term, you have a choice of around 15 Options to study. You will start doing preparatory work for your final-year dissertation, selecting a topic, assessing its feasibility and engaging in preliminary discussions with potential supervisors. The module History in Theory and Practice provides an overview of the evolution of history writing and an introduction to key issues confronting historians today: you will find this helps you reflect on your own historical research. A notable feature of Year 2 is Group Research: about a dozen specialised historical topics for you to research, not, however, as individuals, but on a collective basis. You are divided into groups of 5-6 students, to work as a team, and to produce both individual essays and a group presentation on what you have researched. The capacity to work as part of a team, to know what it is like to have to accommodate yourself to the way others work, is a valuable asset for future employment.
In Year 3, there are some 20 Special Subjects for you to choose from, ranging from the early medieval period almost up to the present day, and covering a wide range of British, European and non-European areas. You approach the particular subject not only through reading but also by intensive study of original documents. In addition, there are around a further 14 Final Year Options to choose from in each of the autumn and spring terms. The real centre-piece of the Final Year, however, for most students is their dissertation – a piece of extended writing on a subject of your choice and which requires significant use of archival and other primary source materials. You will have done extensive preparatory work for this in Year 2. In Year 3, you will have a calibrated set of one-to-one consultation sessions with an academic supervisor, who will comment and advise on your drafts. This will be real academic writing and the results are often impressive.
As a Birmingham student you are part of an academic elite and will learn from world-leading experts. From the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner. 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).
To begin with you may find this way of working challenging, but rest assured that we?ll enable you to make this transition. You will have access to a comprehensive support system that will assist and encourage you, including 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.
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 History and Political Science student you will have an excellent opportunity to develop skills that are attractive to employers, including:
- Strong communication skills
- A deep understanding of the past
- The ability to research, analyse and interpret complex information
- Independence and experience of living abroad (if Year 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 History or Anthropology disciplines or move into employment in a wide range of other careers.
89% of History students are in work/study six months after finishing their degree. Our graduates have gone on to careers in:
- Charity work
- Human Resources
- International Development
- Retail Management
- Library and Archive work
- 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 to historians. 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.
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.