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Finding UK History Courses

By Laura, published on 19/12/2018 Blog > Academia > History > Where To Study History In The UK

Are you due to take your final A-Level exams in 2020? Are your educators beginning to drill in the fact that universities are waiting to hear from you soon? As a History buff, you may already know which establishments offer the best History courses, however, if you aren’t 100% sure on which subject you want to study at the next stage of your higher education, then let us guide you towards some of the best History degrees across the country, including courses in the capital.

History courses can be studied in London, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham. Which city will you choose for your university course? Photo on Foter.com

Types of History Courses

History is not just about memorising facts about historical events, History degrees actually cover a wide range of content. For example, will you opt for a History degree or will you pursue an Art History course, which focuses far more on the artistic movements of times past?

Furthermore, all types of further education History courses offer a diverse range of career paths for you to benefit from after you graduate. Some of the most famous figures of our time who studied History and were then awarded very different, yet equally successful careers are George W. Bush, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Louis Theroux. These three celebrities alone tell us that History can open a path to journalism, comedy, and acting, as well as leadership at the highest level.

Regardless of the type of History course you enroll on or the specification you choose, any academic History degree will offer a wide range of transferable skills. For instance, lectures, debates, and assignments will encourage you to broaden your professional communication skills (both written and spoken), while the researching demands of the course will require you to gain general IT skills.

On the subject of research, you will no doubt acquire in-depth academic research skills and will improve on your ability to critique and analyse historical texts and sources in terms of reliability and other aspects. Along with your newfound cross-referencing capabilities, you’ll also be a strong defender and debater and will be in a position to use all of your knowledge to inform your answers.

With all of the above in mind, some sectors that are well-suited to History postgraduates are:

  • Jobs in Research and Heritage
  • Jobs at museums (curators, education officers, exhibition officers)
  • Jobs in Media and Journalism
  • Jobs in Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations

Other professional sectors that might appeal to historians include Law, Business and Finance, Politics and the Public Sector.

History Degree

Undergraduate history courses in the UK are three or four years long, usually offering foundation modules in the first year followed by more specialised options thereafter. This enables you to get a feel for the type of content you wish to spend more time on during the latter part of your course.

As we’ve already stated, studying History is not just a case of memorising facts from historical events, it also involves analysing the overall impact of these occurrences, trends, and artefacts on the world. For example, as an undergraduate History student, you won’t just be concerned with what happened during the many revolutions and civil wars, you’ll also be investigating how these situations have shaped particular countries’ governments into what they are now, and how contemporary civilizations have been moulded into what we now know as normal life.

The relevant exam board will assess your progression on the course with various written assignments, which your tutor may mark in line with the curriculum’s requirements, whilst your course leaders will also assess your understanding of the topics throughout the degree. During your final year, you will write a dissertation focusing on your chosen area of History, in which the assessors will be looking out for an in-depth discussion and a solid understanding and analysis of the topic you are so interested in.

You will usually be provided with a personal tutor who will help guide you through the planning stages of your dissertation and who will be able to offer you feedback on queries you may have regarding submission.

There is no end to the possible specialisations to choose from in a History degree and for the dissertation that will conclude your studies, due to the span of possible periods and locations.

Some examples include Art History (also available as a stand-alone degree, as you now know), Ancient History, Military History, European History, American History and more. Depending on your interests, you may find yourself crossing over to other closely related subjects such as Politics, International Relations, Gender or Social Studies. Remember that, some of these may be offered as singular degrees and most will be listed as specialist postgraduate Masters degree options for History graduates.

Art History Degree

You can learn about art movements and History in general by studying art throughout the ages. An Art History course offers the opportunity to study works of art and architecture in their historical contexts. Photo credit: fusion-of-horizons on Foter.com / CC BY

If you have a passion for Art and want to study works of art in their historical context, then an Art History degree is perfect as it involves analysing and writing about Art and Architecture from a range of periods, looking at key themes and movements from classical times to the contemporary world. In addition, pupils will learn about the different techniques and materials that artists used across the ages meaning that they will be able to dip into the creative side of History as well as the academic research side.

Similarly to the professions mentioned above, careers after this course include working as an art gallery or museum curator or researcher, working in auction houses or moving into Law or Teaching.

Unsure what type of content you will cover on an Art History degree? Here are some example course modules:

  • From medieval to early modern art
  • Histories and theories of art
  • Ideas of renaissance
  • Arts and the industrial revolution
  • Elements of visual culture

Much like the above, since this course is more of an academic one than an artistic one, you will be marked in a very similar way, including written assignments to be handed in at intervals during the three or four-year course as well as a dissertation at the end of the programme.

How To Study?

There are different ways that you can study a History degree, namely at a university or by going down the route of an Open University type course whereby you follow a flexible study programme (sometimes from home) that spans a longer period of time.

Regardless of the method of teaching you choose, which will usually depend on your age and circumstances, the entry requirements for any History degree will remain the same.

The A Level subjects that are useful to have in order to apply for a History degree are:

  • History
  • Art
  • English Literature
  • Religious Studies
  • Modern Foreign Language(s)

Now, let’s consider your study options in more detail.

University Campus

Studying History at university, as you might expect, involves vast amounts of reading. However, there are no set texts that will offer you all of the answers you need to be awarded a first class degree. You must use the texts provided and then read around the subjects too.

This might sound a bit obvious but lots of applicants don’t realise just how much time they will spend with their noses in books! If you enjoy the surprises that learning about History throws up and the thrill of discovering new things about this world, then it could be the start of a fascinating three years of study for you.

Most universities offer some kind of History course. Some courses are very specialist, whilst others cover a more broad overview of History. However, they are all different so be sure to pick a university that offers the best resources for the specialism you are most interested in, rather than just going by the league tables.

Open University

With numerous History courses to choose from, the Open University offers degree programmes that will allow you to:

  • Explore a wide range of historical topics, periods and places
  • Find out what it means to be a historian
  • Have the opportunity to develop a project based on an independent study
  • Study using custom-made teaching materials
  • Develop skills in research, analysis and communication that are beneficial to a wide range of careers

Visit the Open University website to discover your possible options.

Where To Study?

As we now know, History is offered by most universities in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales however not all degrees are the same.

Here, we will pick out just a few of the universities offering History education and provide further details on what you might learn if you chose to enroll on a course with them.

In London

London has many universities offering History degrees. Will you choose to study in the capital city of England? Photo on Foter.com

King’s College London

“The History BA is designed to develop your critical thinking and independence of thought through an extraordinary breadth of periods and places. We encourage you to adopt a comparative approach to your studies, looking at the connections and contrasts between different eras of history from around the globe. You will explore topics covered at school as well as many that aren’t, such as the history of Contemporary Africa or friendship in Medieval Europe. Our range of modules ensures that you can choose a programme of study to match your interests whilst studying in the heart of London. History at King’s has a world-class reputation, offering graduates excellent career prospects.

Key benefits:

  • One of the best history departments in the world, currently ranked 7th in Europe (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018).

  • Students have the option to study abroad at one of our partner institutions for the second semester of the second year. Current options include University of Sydney, Hong Kong University, University of Auckland and Toronto University.

  • Graduates get top jobs in a wide range of sectors, including law, business, government, heritage, finance and teaching.

  • A wider range of periods and places than most history degrees, from medieval Europe to modern India.

  • Students are taught in a friendly and supportive environment by expert historians.

  • Most teaching takes place in small seminar groups providing the opportunity for students to hone their discussion and presentation skills.

  • Studying in a central London location, you will have easy access to world-class museums, collections and libraries.”

In Leeds

Leeds Trinity University

“Our students gain an awareness of continuity and change over extended time-spans and across different societies and cultures, recognise different approaches to history and have confidence and flexibility in evaluating them, question the scope of historical scholarship, and the ways in which the past has been presented and re-presented.

You will learn the professionally relevant skills of managing projects; collecting and collating information; sifting, selecting, organizing and synthesizing large quantities of data; evaluating and interpreting evidence; and team work. You will make informed choices ethical behaviour, social responsibility, issues of environment, access and cultural diversity as they apply to history.

Key benefits:

  • In addition to lectures and seminars, teaching includes field visits, workshops, one-to-one supervision, role-play, student-led group work, and digital workshops.
  • Active and ethically-minded learning is key, and our ‘hands-on’ approach has led to 100% satisfaction in the NSS (2016).
  • Professional experience: students undertake a placement at Level 4 and one at Level 5, with the opportunity in History to take a third placement at Level 6.
  • Single Honours History Students gain both a breadth of knowledge of a wide range of periods and themes through an in-depth understanding of case studies covering British and World history.”

For more details on Leeds courses, click here.

In Birmingham

University of Birmingham

“If you want to study History from both the medieval and modern periods with a global reach and experience a range of historical approaches, then our History programme could be for you.

History at Birmingham is one of the largest and most diverse departments in Britain, with over 30 full-time academic staff operating on an international level. Whatever your interests – whether global, cultural, social, diplomatic, military, political, economic, military 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 modules on offer, notably in the fields of Byzantine and African history, which broaden your learning opportunities even further.

Much of your first year will consist of the foundational study of core subjects. Choice increases as your studies progress in to the second and third/final year and we encourage you to tailor your studies to suit your own historical interests. You are also able to choose a subject for your final year dissertation in consultation with a member of our teaching staff.

Times Higher Education ranked the Department 1st in the country for its performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise. We are also ranked in the Top 100 in the QS World University Rankings 2018. We offer a wide choice of specialist courses taught by academic staff world-renowned for their teaching and research. 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.”

For more information on Birmingham History courses, click here.

In Manchester

University of Manchester

“Our BA History course will give you the opportunity to tailor your degree to suit your own interests while learning from one of the largest concentrations of historians in Britain.

You will be able to choose course units covering a wide range of periods and topics, including ancient, medieval, modern and economic and social history, as well as the history of science, technology and medicine.

In Years 1 and 2, you can also take course units in other disciplines, including languages, the humanities and the social sciences. There are also opportunities for you to spend part of your degree studying abroad.

Students will have the option to specialise in a particular area of interest or continue to study a broad range of areas in their final year, when you have a choice of units covering topics such as British, European, American, African and Asian history at different periods, culminating in a 12,000-word thesis.

You will receive expert training in analysis and critical reasoning while developing important transferable skills in communication and presentation, argument and debate, teamwork, research, and time management, all of which will help prepare you for life after university.”

See more Manchester History courses here.

In Glasgow

University of Strathclyde Glasgow

“Studying history – the story of humanity through the ages – develops your knowledge of the past and gives you a better understanding of the present.

Throughout your studies, you’ll receive excellent training in areas such as problem-solving, communication, research methods and interpretation.

Our classes cover some of the most important and interesting historical periods at home and abroad, including Scotland’s ‘Highland Problem’ in the 16th century, Slavery in World History and Cold War Europe, 1945-1991.”

You can explore more History courses in Glasgow here.

So there you have it: just five of the possible History degrees you could enroll on over the next couple of years!

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