BA Anthropology and African Studies

The African continent is humankind’s original home. It is a continent of vast cultural and natural resources.

The range of African societies today and in the past are enormous: from egalitarian communities to elaborately hierarchical empires. There are extremes of wealth and poverty; ancient oral cultures exist side by side with old traditions of literacy and state-of-the-art electronic media; successful local exploitation of Africa’s massive pools of biodiversity contrasts with the famines we are all too familiar from the news. What is indisputable is the creativity of the continent. Whether in coping with massive urbanisation, in developing new kinds of politics, or in inventing original literary and theatrical genres, Africans have been active and resilient makers of their own fortunes. The Department of African Studies and Anthropology teaching programmes are grounded in Africans’ own views of the continent and the world.

Studying Anthropology will enable you to develop a distinctive set of skills and attributes. You will learn how to search for, select from and evaluate sources of information, weigh up arguments, and present your findings effectively. As an anthropologist however, you will also become sensitive to the assumptions and beliefs that underlie behaviour in a range of social and cultural contexts, and this gives you a critical edge. 

We are ranked 3rd for Anthropology in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019, whilst we are ranked 5th for African Studies in the Complete University Guide 2019.

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“Anthropology is the perfect combination of human geography, literature and history… Right now I am doing a research and theory module… There is so much freedom, you can literally do anything. I am doing mine on the reintroduction of wolves into Scotland, which you might think has nothing to do with anthropology but actually, whenever you start researching, you realise everything is to do with anthropology!”

Our Joint Honours Anthropology and African Studies degree programme develops an interdisciplinary understanding of Africa, its history, cultures and societies, alongside the critical, comparative perspective offered by Anthropology.

After a thorough grounding of modules in the first year, we offer a wide range of African Studies and Anthropology optional modules in years two and three.  In the third year, you will develop a dissertation on an anthropological topic based on your interests, in consultation with a supervisor with relevant expertise. This degree has the advantage of being distinctive, which will really help you to stand out from the crowd. 

Times Higher Education ranked the Department of African Studies and Anthropology 2nd in the country for its performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise. The staff who teach Anthropology and African Studies have lived and taught in countries beyond Western Europe, and have a range of language skills acquired through intensive ethnographic field work.

Why study this course

  • Excellent student experience - Our students gave Anthropology an overall satisfaction rating of 100% in the National Student Survey 2017.
  • We will introduce you to the discipline of studies in Africa and social and cultural Anthropology.  We will help you to adapt to new ways of working and you will gain confidence in approaching unfamiliar topics.  As you progress in your studies, you will be able to follow up a range of topics in greater detail, culminating in your final-year dissertation. 
  • Great resources - We house the Danford Collection of West African Art and Artefacts.
  • Accomplished staff - Our staff have lived and worked in Africa, so you get the benefit of their invaluable first-hand experience. 
  • Strong employability - 90% of our students enter work or further study within six months of graduation (DLHE 2017).

Open day talks

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


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.

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 Anthropology and half in African Studies (60 credits). 

First year

The first year provides a broad introduction to anthropological ideas and you will explore a wide range of issues relating to the African subcontinent from different academic perspectives.  

Compulsory modules

  • Focus on Studying Societies (20 credits)
  • Thinking Anthropologically (20 credits)
  • Anthropology of Africa (20 credits)

 Examples of African Studies and Anthropology Optional modules (60 credits to be chosen)

  • Introduction to African Cultures (20 credits)
  • Introduction to African History and Politics (20 credits)
  • Introduction to African Development (20 credits)
  • Introduction to Geography and Africa (20 credits)

Second year

In this year you take Theory, Ethnography and Research (40 credits), Perspectives on Africa (20 credits) which provides dissertation preparation, as well as 20 credits of optional modules that have an anthropological focus and two further optional modules available from the Department of African Studies and Anthropology.  

Compulsory modules 

  • Theory, Ethnography and Research (40 credits)
  • Perspectives on Africa (20 credits)

Examples of optional modules (choose 60 credits)

  • Rural Livelihoods and Development Interventions in West Africa (20 credits)
  • South Africa in the 20th Century (20 credits)
  • Kinship, Gender and Sexuality (20 credits)
  • Ethnographies of the Marginalised (20 credits)
  • From Colony to Nation: Ghana 1874-1966 (20 credits)
  • Caribbean Challenges to the Modern World (20 credits)
  • Theory and Ethnography (20 credits)
  • Aid, NGOs and Development (20 credits)
  • New African Writing (20 credits)
  • Trajectories of Emancipation: Slavery, Labour, and Migration in Twentieth Century West African Societies (20 credits)
  • Africa, the Arts and Social Change (20 credits)
  • Independent Study (20 credits)

Year abroad

You can apply to study abroad for a year in an approved university around the world. If you achieve a grade of 2.1 or above in your first year then you will be invited to apply for a Year Abroad in your second year. If your application is successful, you will go abroad in your third year and return to us for your final year. Find out more.

Third/Final year

In your final year you will write a Dissertation on an anthropological topic (10,000 words, 40 credits).  You will be supported in a series of one-to-one meetings with your supervisor, and will present your research to other students and members of staff during a series of workshops.  In addition, you will take 80 credits of taught modules from a list of options.  

Compulsory modules 

  • Dissertation 

Examples of optional modules in African Studies and Anthropology (80 credits – Choose four modules)

      • Rural Livelihoods and Development Interventions in West Africa (20 credits)
      • South Africa in the 20th Century (20 credits)
      • Kinship, Gender and Sexuality (20 credits)
      • Ethnographies of the Marginalised (20 credits)
      • From Colony to Nation: Ghana 1874-1966 (20 credits)
      • Caribbean Challenges to the Modern World (20 credits)
      • Theory and Ethnography (20 credits)
      • Aid, NGOs and Development (20 credits)
      • New African Writing (20 credits)
      • Trajectories of Emancipation: Slavery, Labour, and Migration in Twentieth Century West African Societies (20 credits)
      • Africa, the Arts and Social Change (20 credits)

Joint Honours Flexibility

Every degree programme at the University is divided into 120 credits of study for each year of the programme. In the first year of a Joint Honours programme, you will study 60 credits in each subject as you learn the core elements of the disciplines. We recognise that students on Joint Honours programmes might come to favour one subject slightly more than another. To account for this, we have added more flexibility into the second and final years of our programmes. In the second year, you can stick with the 60-60 split between the two subjects or shift to a 80-40 credit weighting, effectively a major/ minor combination. You can either go back to 60-60 in the final year, maintain the same 80-40 split or reverse the major and the minor and go to a 40-80 weighting.

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.

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 

Contact hours

In your first year, 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. As before, these will consist of a mixture of lectures, small-group teaching, and supervision. There are also many additional activities that are 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.

90% of our students enter work or further study within six months of graduation (DLHE 2017).

As an Anthropology and African Studies student you will have an excellent opportunity to develop skills that are attractive to employers, including: 

  • Strong communication skills
  • 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 or Anthropology disciplines or move into employment in a wide range of other careers.  

Our African Studies and Anthropology graduates have gone on to careers such as:  

  • 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.