BA African Studies with Development

African Studies is a distinctive subject that really helps you to stand out from the crowd, making you an Africa expert as the role of African countries shift - politically, economically and culturally - in a globalised world.

The Department of African Studies and Anthropology is a small, friendly community of staff, undergraduates, postgraduates and visiting scholars, with a very active student society. African Studies with Development is a broad-based, multidisciplinary degree and has been designed to offer you a detailed insight into the African continent and its peoples. The programme aims to promote a detailed understanding of a vast and often misrepresented continent, and the ways in which societal change can be influenced.    

African Studies at Birmingham is ranked within the Top 5 in the Complete University Guide 2019.

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“The best thing about my course is the inter-disciplinary approach, which widens my horizons and gives me a better overall perspective on issues. It also allows me to objectively analyse various narratives. ”

This programme offers you a detailed insight into the diverse continent of Africa in a globalising world, and the varying assessments of development prospects into the 21st century. 

The programme aims to promote a detailed understanding of a vast and often misrepresented continent.  Throughout, we highlight the need for an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Africa, and open up opportunity for you to engage with historical and anthropology approaches to social, political and economic developments on the continent.

After a thorough grounding of modules in the first year, we offer a wide range of African Studies optional modules in years two and three, along with a core Development module.  In the third year, you will develop a dissertation topic based on your interests in consultation with a supervisor with relevant expertise.

Why study this course

  • Outstanding student experience - The Department of African Studies and Anthropology has over 50 years of expertise in teaching and research in this fascinating area. Here, you will find a commitment to excellence in teaching and students from all parts of Africa, Europe, America and the Caribbean working together in a friendly community. 
  • Excellent reputation - Times Higher Education ranked the Department 2nd in the country for its performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise. We are also ranked in the Top 5 in the Complete University Guide 2019. The department offers a distinctive inter-disciplinary learning experience taught by staff from a wide range of academic fields: Anthropology, History, Geography, Politics and Literature, among others.
  • Strong employability - 90% of our graduates enter work or further study within six months of graduation (DLHE 2017).
  • Experienced staff - We have a core of expertise in Africa. Our staff have lived and taught in Africa, and continue to carry out research there.
  • Great resources - We house the Danford Collection of West African Art and Artefacts in the department which celebrates the extensive cultural traditions and artistic expression of countries in West Africa. The collection ranges from domestic and ceremonial utensils to contemporary fine art, with particular strength in Yoruba and Hausa objects and is considered one of the finest collections of its kind in Europe. It is an active teaching resource in the University, comprising over 1000 objects, including woodcarving, metalwork, pottery, textiles, painting and domestic and votive objects.


Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. Unless indicated otherwise, the modules listed for this programme are for students starting in 2019. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.

First year

For African Studies with Development students, the first year provides foundation courses in the sociology, history, development, politics and cultures of Africa. Focus on Studying Societies (20 credits) is concerned with core study skills, taking you through all the steps of researching, planning and editing an essay, and enabling you to pursue a group investigation and present your findings orally.  Introduction to African Geography and Development (20 credits) introduces development principles, concepts and terminology as tools for a) studying Africa's integration into a global political-economy and assessing its changing place within a globalising world, b) explaining disparities in material conditions in Africa, and between Africa and other parts of the world, particularly the Global South, and c) examining regional and local patterns and processes of planned socio-economic and environmental change. Your understanding of what 'development' might mean and how it might be undertaken in the African context will be built up through your remaining core modules, which introduce you to the politics, environments and societies of Africa.  In addition to your 60 credits of compulsory modules, you take either 60 credits of optional modules in African Studies, or 40 credits of African Studies modules plus a 20 credit Widening Horizons module.

Compulsory modules

  • Introduction to African Geography and Development (20 credits)
  • Focus on Studying Societies (20 credits)
  • Anthropology of Africa (20 credits)

Example African Studies Optional modules

  • Introduction to African Culture (20 credits)
  • Introduction to African Development (20 credits)
  • Introduction to African History and Politics (20 credits)
  • Thinking Anthropologically (20 credits)
  • Widening Horizons module (20 credits)

Second year

In your second year, you will study the theory and practice of development, considering real life examples of development projects and agencies in Africa and beyond. In addition to Aid, NGO's and Development (20 credits), you will also take Perspectives on Africa (20 credits), which is concerned with issues of immediate importance in contemporary African societies, and which develops your skills in researching, planning and presenting your own projects. You can then choose 80 credits of African Studies optional modules (students may take up to 20 credits of these 80 credits of modules from other departments outside African Studies and Anthropology, provided the choice has been approved by the programme lead).

Compulsory modules

  • Aid, NGO's and Development (20 credits)
  • Perspectives on Africa  (20 credits)

Example African Studies Optional modules (second and third year)

  • From Colony to Nation: Ghana 1874-1966 (20 credits)
  • African popular culture (20 credits)
  • New African writing (20 credits)
  • Caribbean Challenges to the Modern World (20 credits)
  • Kinship, Gender and Sexuality (20 credits)
  • Ethnographies of the Marginalised (20 credits)
  • Independent study (20 credits)
  • African, the Arts and Social Change (20 credits)
  • Rural livelihoods and development interventions in West Africa (20 credits)
  • South Africa in the 20th century (20 credits)
  • Theory, Ethnography and Research (40 credits)
  • Trajectories of Emancipation: Slavery, Labour, and Migration in Twentieth Century West African Societies (20 credits)

The option to study for a semester abroad

As an African Studies with Development student in the Department of African Studies and Anthropology, you can also apply to spend a semester abroad in your second year at one of our carefully selected partner universities, where we have close personal ties with academic staff. If your application is successful, during your time abroad you will be able to study modules in African Studies and related subjects, including topics specific to the place of study. It is possible to attend universities where all the modules offered will be taught in English.  If students successfully apply for a Semester Abroad, they take a 60 credit Placement module at an African University in one term and 60 credits of modules in the Department of African Studies and Anthropology at Birmingham in the other term. 

Third year

In your final year, you can choose your taught modules from a list available within the department.  Students 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 4 optional modules of 20 credits each (students may take up to 20 credits of these 80 credits of modules from other departments outside African Studies and Anthropology, provided the choice has been approved by the programme lead). 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 programme.  With the guidance of an academic supervisor, 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.  Your supervisor will 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. 

Compulsory modules 

  • Dissertation 

African Studies Optional modules 

  • Four optional modules offered within the Department of African Studies and Anthropology (examples listed above in second year)

Fees and funding

For UK students beginning their studies in September 2019, the University of Birmingham will charge the maximum approved tuition fee per year. The fees for your first year of study will therefore be £9,250. Visit our tuition fees page for more information.

Fees for 2019/20 are as follows:

  • Home / EU: £9,250
  • Overseas: £17,640

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

For further information on tuition fees, living costs and available financial support, please see our pages on undergraduate fees and funding.

Tuition fees when studying abroad

For those spending a whole academic year abroad (where available):

  • Students who are classed as home/EU for fees purposes are required to pay 15% of their normal annual tuition fee
  • Students who are classed as overseas for fee purposes are required to pay 50% of their normal annual tuition fee

For those studying abroad for just one semester (where available), normal annual tuition fees apply.

Note - Study abroad opportunities vary between courses; please see the course description for details of study abroad options offered.

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required:
Typical offer:
General Studies:

Additional information:

IB Diploma:
5,5,5 in Higher level subjects plus 32 points overall.

BTEC qualifications:

  • BTEC Extended Diploma: DMM plus B at A-level.
  • BTEC Diploma: DM, plus B at A-level.
  • BTEC Subsidiary Diploma: D, plus BB at A-level.

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.

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 one of our foundation pathways, which offer specially structured programmes for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on Birmingham International Academy web pages.

How to apply

 Students in the Danford Room

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


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 advice to enable you to make the most of your time here at Birmingham.
  • Wellbeing officers - We have dedicated wellbeing officers who provide professional support, advice and guidance to students across a range of issues. They can meet with you to discuss extensions, disabilities, reasonable adjustments, extenuating circumstances, or talk through any problems you might be experiencing, and help you access wider support on campus and beyond.
  • 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.

During your first year it is important that you have a smooth transition into university. You will be able to talk to your tutors about this and discuss if there are particular areas where you need support.

Teaching staff

Students at the University of Birmingham are taught by a mixture of professors, senior lecturers, lecturers and doctoral researchers, thereby receiving a rich diversity of academic knowledge and experience. Many of our teaching staff have published important works about their areas of expertise, whilst others have taught at international institutions and can offer unique perspectives of their subjects.

You can find out more about the members of staff (including their qualifications, publication history and specific areas of interest) in their academic profiles linked below.

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.

Contact hours

In your first year on our programmes in African Studies and Anthropology you can expect to have 9-12 contact hours, depending on your module choices. These will consist of a mixture of lectures and small-group teaching. 

In your second year you can expect to have 8-12 contact hours, depending on your module choices. These will consist of a mixture of lectures, small-group teaching, and supervision.

In your third year you can expect to have 8.5-9.5 contact hours, depending on your module choices. These will consist of a mixture of lectures, small-group teaching, and supervision. There are also many additional activities that are also available to students.

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.


As a student of African Studies with Development, you will have an excellent opportunity to develop skills that are highly prized by employers.

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. For this reason, 90% of our graduates enter work or further study within six months of graduation (DLHE 2017).

You will have an excellent opportunity to develop skills that are attractive to employers, including:

  • Strong communication skills;
  • A deep understanding of Africa and its peoples;
  • The ability to research, analyse and interpret complex information;
  • 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 African Studies disciplines or move into employment in a wide range of other careers. 

  • Adjudicator
  • Graduate Research Executive
  • Pensions Administrator
  • Teacher
  • Graduate Intern
  • Compliance Executive
  • IT Project Management Trainee
  • Production Runner
  • Parliamentary Researcher
  • Business Adviser
  • Caseworker
  • Event Manager
  • Postgraduate study 

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.

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.

International students

The University of Birmingham has been welcoming international students onto our campus since 1900.

We have one of the largest and most vibrant international student communities in the UK, with 5,000 international students from more than 150 different countries and 31% of our academic staff from overseas.

If you would like further information about entry requirements, how to apply and funding options, then you can visit our international students webpage. You may also wish to take a virtual tour of our campus and watch the video below to hear our international students say their favourite thing about the University of Birmingham.