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A Liberal Arts and Sciences lecture at the University of Birmingham

As you progress through the core modules, you will learn the values and practise the skills that are central to a Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences education.

Core and optional modules for Liberal Arts and Sciences
Liberal Arts and Sciences: Core and Optional Modules

These modules will help you get the most out of your degree and enable you to turn it from a multidisciplinary degree into an interdisciplinary one.  All our core and optional modules will help you practise the skills that employers most look for in graduates.  Please note, the modules on this page are LANS-owned modules, which you would take alongside your selection of modules from across the university.

First Year

20 credits multidisciplinary core, plus 100 credits of other subjects, typically including a Major.

From Research to Policy I: Multidisciplinary Research (10 credits, semester 1)

How can we change the world? Before we can change it, we must understand it. While it is necessary to study topics through the prism of different disciplines, they necessarily change with each perspective (e.g., as a political problem, as a biological problem). However, bringing these different disciplinary perspectives together produces a rich, holistic understanding that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is not surprising, therefore, that multidisciplinary research is becoming increasingly important and popular as we face more complex and messy problems.

On this module, you will work as part of a group, carrying out multidisciplinary research into a social issue, and producing your findings in the form of a multimedia e-portfolio. You will practise an advanced set of skills utilised in multidisciplinary research, such as critically reflecting on a chosen discipline and, in the absence of a common language, communicating the value and knowledge contribution of your disciplinary perspective to people who may have no prior experience of it. You will also carry out interviews. In addition, you will practice reflective writing, which is one of the most important skills in your education.

From Research to Policy II: Civic Engagement (10 credits, semester 2)

Having explored and determined parameters for the problem, you now carry out the equally challenging task of campaigning for a solution. Working within the same multidisciplinary team, you will turn your social issue into a social campaign, advocating for action to bring about real change.

In the first half of the semester, you will collaboratively identify the audience for your campaign and design a strategy for reaching them. You will be supported by specialist lectures in a range of fundamental campaigning skills and by weekly seminars, in which you will have the opportunity to develop your ideas.

Half-way through the semester, you will pitch your campaign strategy to a panel comprised of academic staff and experienced campaigners and gain their feedback.

In the second half of the semester, you will carry out your campaigns for change, supported again in seminars, which will be aimed at helping you evaluate your activity.

The module concludes with a report on your campaign, which encourages you to reflect on your achievements and propose suggestions for future activity.

Second Year

20 credits interdisciplinary core, plus 100 credits of other subjects, typically including a Major.

Interdisciplinarity I (10 credits, semester 1)

Interdisciplinarity is an advanced method of research that requires a unique set of skills. Unlike multidisciplinarity, this kind of research integrates different methodologies in a way that blurs the lines between disciplines in order to create new, interdisciplinary insights.

In 2020-2021, this module used plastic as a theme for students to develop two key skills required for interdisciplinarity – firstly, the ability to research in depth in different disciplines and, secondly, to be able to synthesize and present this information to others.

The module is predominantly composed of independent research with guidance from small group teaching sessions and online lectures to help students develop their ideas.

The interdisciplinary practice you engage with in this module prepares you for the research group work next term. However, it also gives you training in the academic processes expected in your final year dissertation projects where reading at the edge of what we know and consolidating that information will be a key part of you work.

Interdisciplinarity II (10 credits, semester 2, plus a summer term study visit – e.g., Interdisciplinary Summer School)

This marks the culmination of your training on the core modules. Having practised interdisciplinarity on your own in semester 1, in this semester you will collaborate as part of a group. Each group will choose what topic they wish to study throughout the module and will carry out interdisciplinary research into it. In 2020-2021, topics include:

  • The migrant crisis in Calais
  • Cancel culture
  • Blue light glasses

Like other LANS core modules this is a student-centred module, meaning that instead of lectures, students teach and learn from each other. This is formalised, in the middle of the module, when each student leads a seminar for their research group, setting the reading and facilitating discussion. There are many opportunities for practising integration and creating new, interdisciplinary insights.

Research Methods Made Easy (20 credits, semester 1)

The importance of research methods cannot be overstated: they are essential to getting into post-graduate programmes (masters) and in delivering a high-quality research project. They are highly sought-after by employers and the easiest skills to transfer to any job role. In a world of increasing information, they are essential to making sense of it as many of the controversial issues of today stand or fall on problems of methodology.

This module offers a crash course into the basics of research methods in the humanities, social sciences and evidence-based sciences. It goes to the heart of interdisciplin-arity by enabling functional reading, evaluation, and integration of knowledge from all these areas.

Topics that will be covered are:

  • Running opinion polls
  • Doing interviews and participant observation
  • Performing statistical analyses
  • Discourse analysis
  • The historian’s craft
  • Presenting quantitative data for maximum impact

These techniques are all illustrated through real-world applications, and the focus in 2020-2021 has been on the Coronavirus crisis.

Fourth Year

Your independent study typically represents 40/120 credits in your final year, and we offer three optional modules to help you to fulfil this requirement within Liberal Arts and Sciences (you are also free to base your independent study project wholly within a named Major). Typically, the remaining 80 credits of your final year will see you deepening your expertise in your Major and/or strengthening your portfolio of other subjects. 

Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences Independent Research Project

This project option develops focused engagement with the interdisciplinarity which is at the heart of the Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences approach to learning. The end product will reflect your unique pathway through your LANS degree and express your experience of working across disciplinary boundaries, demonstrating your ability to contemplate thought-provoking questions, engage in innovative approaches to knowledge, and to seek creative solutions to a range of debates.

Your research focuses on a topic or problem rooted in interdisciplinary study and, generally, it will be one you define yourself. The exception will be if you wish to conduct research wholly within and across the natural sciences, where projects are typically first articulated by academic staff. Once you have generated your idea you will consult with a supervisor to define its parameters with reference to current scholarship and knowledge. Once this stage is completed you will design the project and conclude by producing a substantial portfolio of independent research.

You can take a 40-credit or 20-credit LANS independent research project. If you choose the latter, then you will be required to take an additional 20 credits of independent study work. This might be fulfilled through your Major area, or by taking both of the LANS Entrepreneurial Skills modules.

Learning Entrepreneurial Skills (20 credits, semester 1)

An enterprising and entrepreneurial mindset and skills are highly prized by employers globally, and ensure that you are able to compete at a high level within the graduate labour market. This module will help you to become enterprising in your approach to problems by enabling you to develop abilities, behaviours and qualities to ‘make things happen’. Through engagement with a range of experts and hands-on activities you will strengthen your skills in approaching challenges in a creative and resourceful way.

Working in teams, and through research, business-plan creation, and a pitch of the business plan, this module supports your development as a:

  • Creative, enterprising and transformative thinker
  • Skilful and technologically astute problem solver
  • Persuasive communicator
  • Globally and locally aware citizen
  • Confident, flexible lifelong learner
  • Resilient and dynamic leader

Entrepreneurial Start-up (20 credits, semester 2)

Your business plan has successfully been pitched, what next? Students now explore product viability through to launch. The actual product launch is not embedded in the module, but you can of course pursue this outside of your studies.

You receive initial practical training in Website design, Social Media marketing, Finances for Start-ups, Intellectual Property law and engage in independent guided learning as part of a team, collaborating on the design, planning, and viability-testing phases. Your progress through this module is supported and guided by the University’s outstanding Careers Network team.

Throughout your learning journey on these modules, you will benefit from the expertise and guidance of our external partners, which in 2019/2020 included: international technology companies (IBM, Google), local Start-up accelerators (BizzInn), Accountancy firms (Jerroms Accountants & Business Advisors), and Law firms (HGF Intellectual Property Specialists).

This document was written in advance of the start of the academic year. It is intended to provide prospective students with a general picture of the programmes, courses, and modules offered by the department, and describes the modules taking place in 2020-2021. Please note that not all programmes, courses, or modules are offered every year. Our research is constantly exploring new areas and directions of study, therefore some courses or modules may be amended or withdrawn, and new ones offered in their place.