About the course
What holds societies together? Do people pull together because they have to or because they want to? What motivates so many people to migrate from their own societies to others? How does society change over time? Why do we have many different cultures? Why are some cultures so different from each other?
BA Sociology and Social Anthropology combines sociological and anthropological approaches to the study of society, looking at how humans understand their social worlds in different ways. You will investigate and analyse a range of social issues, such as the construction of racial and ethnic difference, the different ways people understand their bodies, how people understand sexuality and sexual difference around the world, and the meanings of dreams, myth and magic.
Your first year modules include Introduction to Social Anthropology, Researching Social Life, and Sociology and the Modern World. During your second year you will take Continuity and Controversy in Sociology, Anthropology: Birth, Sex and Death, and Researching Social Life 2 in which you will further develop your research skills. In your final year you will take Anthropology: Anthropology of Latin America. You will also write a supervised dissertation on a topic of your choice; this is a great opportunity to study an area which interests you but also to evidence the skills you have developed to future employers or prepare for postgraduate study.
Why study BA Sociology with Social Anthropology at Essex?
As a student of sociology at Essex, you will experience a lively, informal environment with many possibilities to pursue your own interests. One such opportunity is provided by the students’ Sociology Society, a forum for the exchange of ideas, for arranging talks by visiting speakers, for introducing you to various career pathways and for organising debates on topical subjects. We consistently receive strong student satisfaction scores and in 2012 we received 92 percent overall student satisfaction in Sociology and in Criminology we received 90 percent overall student satisfaction.
You will also have an exciting opportunity to partake in a two-week field trip to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. If you choose to attend, your first week will be spent lodging with a local family in the picturesque town of Merida. Day excursions will include visits to Maya pyramids and nature reserves, and you will participate in seminars on local language and culture. Your second week will be spent again with a local family, in a traditional Maya village. Here, you will undertake a small ethnographic research project, which will be an assessed component of your course, and will contribute towards your final degree (a dedicated module in the spring term of your Second Year, with a focus on anthropological research methods will thoroughly prepare you for this).
The course has also been specifically tailored to include language provision for those who need it, so you will not be excluded if you do not currently speak Spanish. This ensures that you will complete your course with a good level of Spanish and first-hand experience of anthropological research.
While the Department of Sociology heavily subsidise the trip, if you wish to you will have to contribute towards the total cost.
Dr Andrew Canessa will be leading the field trip, and you will be able to make use of his considerable knowledge of the indigenous Latin American people.”
Our Department of Sociology was placed joint first in the UK in the last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE, December 2008), meaning our students are taught, supported and supervised by world-class scholars. We are a large and friendly department, offering a range and diversity of research interests, with staff members who are committed to teaching, research and publication that covers a broad geographical spectrum. Our staff have worked at local, national and international level with bodies like local councils, the Home Office, Amnesty International and the United Nations.
Why study this subject?
Our course is for you if you are interested in understanding how the wider society functions and changes, but also how a small community may change over a much longer period of time. As a graduate of this course you may work across many fields, from media industries, consumer research, gender relations, globalisations and psychosocial dynamics to social policy, crime, education, health and inequality. You will gain employability skills including research methods and design, interviewing, statistical analysis, essay writing and ethnographic methods.
We offer excellent physical and online resources in terms of libraries, computer labs, datasets, archives and other research materials. You can take advantage of our links with the Institute of Social and Economic Research, which conducts large-scale survey projects, many for government, EU and other public agencies, and has its own library. The UK Data Archive is also based at our Colchester Campus and stores national research data, like the British Crime Survey.
Within our Department, we have set up the Centre for Research in Economic Sociology and Innovation to bring together experts working on socio-economic transformations. Your access to these bodies while studying with us is immensely helpful in terms of resources for study and offers a working insight into the realities of careers in social research. We have our own dedicated resource centre; where you can gain advice on study skills, help with using the internet as an advanced research tool, and hold your own discussion and support groups.
Study abroad/placement opportunities
Within our Department of Sociology, we offer year abroad variants for all courses, which enable you to broaden your understanding of the subject by studying at a partner institution in the EU or in the rest of the world, as the third year of a four-year course. We also offer students the opportunity to study abroad for one term as part of their three-year degree.
Hear what our students have to say
Faye Savage, BA Sociology ’09, United Kingdom
“Prior to coming to Essex, I did my research and discovered how highly ranked the Department of Sociology was for student satisfaction and research. I attended an open day and discovered for myself what Essex could offer me – I knew then this was a place I could see myself studying at.
“I was taught by internationally recognised academics, with expertise in a huge range of areas. As a result, the choice of modules is diverse which enabled me to develop core sociology skills whilst complementing this with options in other areas I enjoyed. There were two modules which really stuck out for me: British Social History, because it focused on the ‘everyday’, and Social Anthropology, which totally challenged the way I thought of the social world and my understanding of the things we accept as ‘fact’.
“I now work for the registered charity, ecdp, as a lived experience officer. My role is to ensure that policy and decisions made affecting disabled people reflect their lived experience. Every day I feel like I can help people in my job and use the skills gained throughout my degree.”
The special characteristics of our course are flexibility and choice. In your first year you will have 90 credits of compulsory modules and 30 credits of optional modules. During your second year you will have 90 credits of compulsory modules and 30 credits of optional modules. In your final year you will have 60 credits of compulsory modules and 60 credits of optional, where 30 credits must be taken in the form of a dissertation. For BA Sociology and Humanities your optional module can be chosen from across our Faculty of Social Science in first year and from within our Department of Sociology in your second and third year. There is a great deal of choice for these modules.
With a small number of exceptions, if you successfully complete the first year of your BA, then you are qualified to enter the second year of that course and a range of other courses: for example, if you take economics, politics, philosophy and sociology, then you have a choice of at least nine possible single or joint honours courses at the end of your first year. This means you can change your course, providing you have taken the appropriate pre-requisites and places are available.
We operate a credit framework for our awards, which is based on principles widely used across the UK university sector. Each module has a credit rating attached and our standard three-year course consists of 360 credits (120 credits in your first year, and 240 credits across your second and final years).
Please note that module information on our course finder provides a guide to course content and may be subject to review on an annual basis.
Year 1 core and optional modules
Introduction to Social Anthropology;
Researching Social Life I;
Sociology and the Modern World; and
one optional module
Year 2 core and optional modules
Continuity and Controversy in Sociology;
Researching Social Life 2;
Social Anthropology: Birth, Sex and Death; and
one sociology option
Year 3 core and optional modules
Anthropology: Anthropology of Latin American;
one from Japanese Culture and Society: A Global Perspective, American Society: Ethnic Encounters in the Making of the USA, or The Body in Modern Society; and
one sociology option
As a new undergraduate, you may find university-level learning, assessment and studying differs to school or college. Here at Essex, we understand and recognise this by having support in place within our departments, schools and centres, particularly during your first year when you may notice the change more.
Your teaching mainly takes the form of lectures and classes, the latter involving about 20 students. Your modules will either take the form of a two-hour seminar or one-hour lecture and one-hour class. In research modules such as Researching Social Life 2 you will also have computer lab classes.
Only the second and third years count towards your degree classification, however you must pass your first year in order to progress into your second year. If you do fail any of your first-year modules, then you are often allowed to re-sit exams in September.
Teaching methods and styles
Within our Department of Sociology and for our sociology modules the modules you take employ a variety of teaching methods with lectures that inform you of the most important topics, classes which allow you to consolidate your learning through discussion and problem solving. Your lab sessions will improve your technical skills. You will also give presentations and report back on a given research task, this interactive learning activity gives you the opportunity to teach class and at the same time improve your own knowledge and skills. A number of your modules have their own accompanying websites where you can download relevant readings, power-points, podcasts and YouTube clips, and contribute to online discussions. This online approach extends your learning beyond the class room and forms an integral part of your teaching.
In your final year, one of your tasks will be to design and complete a research project. You will work on a one-to-one basis with a tutor who supervises your progress. In the build-up to this project, you complete research design modules and attend a special day in the Essex iLab, an interactive multi-media workspace. Recent topics have included boys’ GSCE achievements, teenage gangs and ethnicity, fashion and identity, families after divorce, and the social impacts of Facebook.
Methods of assessment
Within our Department of Sociology and for our sociology modules, we aim to assess your subject knowledge but also the practical and critical skills you have developed. Written work can take the form of essays, reports, evaluations, basic statistical analysis, short tests and exams. However, we also value verbal and observational work. For example, students taking our module Crime, Policy and Social Justice, observe local community safety projects and then share their evaluations of these at a mini-conference where they can gain feedback from local community managers, as well as from academic staff. For our modules we weight coursework 50 percent and examination 50 percent. All our students complete a project in their third year which can open further opportunities for those wishing to develop a working contact with criminal justice or community agencies. Recent topics have included investigations into the workings of ASBOs at local level, media representations of terrorism and teenagers’ perceptions of knife-crime.
A good sociology course, especially one from a recognised centre of excellence like Essex, opens many doors. As one of our graduates, you will leave with the specific skills that many employers now routinely demand. These include the ability to gather, process, analyse and present information from a variety of sources and, moreover, to do this to deadlines and often as part of a team. These skills can be supplemented by the excellent academic and employability training provided by our resource officer, and by taking the volunteering, study abroad and work placement opportunities offered within our Department.
Some of our recent graduates have gone on to work in local and central government, NGOs, social work, market research, project management, fundraising, auditing, marketing, case-work, youth and community work, voluntary sector management and lobbying. Others go on to take a further postgraduate qualification in teaching, journalism, law, counselling, health or accountancy.
You will also graduate with an invaluable understanding of the broad factors that drive social change in modern life – the factors that, for example, shape the socialisation of young children, that generate new kinds of politics (think Obama!), that create new markets or that influence consumers. Much of this will depend on which of our courses you choose, but answers to these kinds of questions are of major interest to many different kinds of employers.
Your employability and Essex
At Essex we take your employability seriously, helping you become a rounded individual with the ability to succeed, whatever your plans. You’ll find your department works with our Employability and Careers Centre to inform you about options to study or work overseas, your Faculty Employability Coordinator finds degree-related work placements, and our Students’ Unions ensures that, annually, over 700 students volunteer and more than 4,000 get involved in sports, clubs and societies.
At Essex you can gain new skills that look good on your CV, like paid placements through our frontrunners scheme, graduate-level paid internships, and opportunities to develop discipline-specific skills as part of your studies.
We help you understand your skills, and how to demonstrate these to an employer. You can get our extra-curricular employability award – the Big Essex Award – recorded on your transcript, receive one-to-one advice on careers, use our Essex CV guides on applying for work, learn from famous entrepreneurs and take part in workshops, and meet employers through on-campus events.
We develop your employability through fantastic opportunities, and give you the tools to explore the meaning of your unique experiences, so you are ready for your future.
Here at Essex, our students can undertake period of study or work abroad specifically tailored to his/her academic interests and future career plans. You are taught and assessed by your host university, so assessment may be in the form of written papers, oral or written exams, lab or project work, research, or work-based learning. All successfully completed pre-approved modules will be credited towards your Essex degree.
Study abroad is an excellent opportunity for personal development. It affords you the chance to become immersed in another culture over a sustained period, coming to know a country and its people in a way that you could not hope to as a tourist. It is also an opportunity to experience a different educational system and develop different skills. You learn to view the world (and your academic discipline) from another perspective, becoming more independent and confident.
Study abroad also enhances your employability. It helps your CV stand out from other candidates and signals to an employer that you have maturity, adaptability and organisational skills. As the world of business is becoming increasingly international, the experience of living abroad is, in itself, attractive to many employers. Depending upon your study abroad destination, you may also gain fluency in another language, which is a highly attractive skill to have as you enter the employment market.
If you are interested in learning another language then our Languages for All programme enables you to study a language, alongside your course, at no extra cost. You can take one of 50 taught language modules on a part-time day-time basis, or undertake flexible web-based learning, or opt for a language module taught in the evening. As employers can struggle to find graduates able to speak more than one language, Languages for All places Essex graduates in a very advantageous position.
Within our Department of Sociology, we offer taught Masters courses and research supervision for PhD, MPhil and Masters by dissertation. We have a global reputation for our research and teaching, which means that our students on our taught courses are placed at the cutting-edge of sociology and criminology. You will benefit by learning about the latest research findings from our staff who are amongst world leaders in their fields.
Within our research, we build upon the traditions of sociological analysis whilst exploring the contributions of cultural history, criminology, social psychology, social anthropology, social philosophy, feminism and cultural studies.
GCSE English: C
IB: 32-30 points (we consider IB certificates at the Higher Level on a case-by-case basis).
BTEC qualifications, in relevant disciplines, will be considered on an individual basis, depending on the units studied. The standard required is generally at Distinction level.
Achievement of the Access to HE Diploma with a minimum of 6 level three credits at distinction and the remainder at merit (or above) or achievement of the Access to HE Diploma with a minimum of 45 level three credits at merit (or above).
We accept a wide range of other qualifications from applicants studying in the UK, EU and other countries. For further details about the qualifications that we accept, please e-mail us with information about the high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.
Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: www.ucas.com. Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.
Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.
The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.