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BA American Studies (United States)

Why we're great

  • You can study abroad at a wide range of excellent partner universities across the US.
  • You are taught by a team of experts who are internationally recognised in their fields.
  • Our teaching is underpinned by research - new ideas and theories are tested in the classroom.

Course options2017-18

UCAS code: T700
Duration: 3 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Philosophy and Art History (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: T708
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Philosophy and Art History (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666

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About the course

The complex and ever-changing American culture continues to fascinate. For well over a century, the US has been one of the most influential countries in the world, rising to be a world ‘superpower’ and dominating the world stage. Its commercial and cultural products are exported all over the world, from Silicon Valley and Hollywood, to jazz, blues and hip hop.

BA American Studies (United States) is for those with enthusiasm, passion and intellectual curiosity about all things American. At Essex, we offer you an opportunity to understand some of the diverse and paradoxical aspects of the US through interdisciplinary studies. The US – perhaps more than any other society – lends itself to interdisciplinary study; its literature and film are connected to its politics, its cultures are linked to its histories.

Crucially, you also spend either a term or a full academic year studying in the United States, so you can explore and become immersed in American culture.

The degree is built to be extremely flexible and student-led, and as you progress through the course you can choose from an enormous range of options from across the humanities and social sciences including:

  • Contemporary social issues, such as the struggles for racial justice
  • The legacies of slavery and the civil rights movement
  • Environmental protection of the ‘wilderness’ of the Far West
  • Native American histories and rights

Based within our Interdisciplinary Studies Centre (ISC), this course allows you to explore the many ways of understanding the American experience. You draw on multiple perspectives in order to reach a deeper understanding of the world we inhabit, opening up exciting possibilities to discover the American continent. The cities, vast open plains, mountains and deserts shape diverse and intriguing ways of life.

By encouraging you to think and operate across traditional boundaries, our American studies course has produced confident, assertive and intelligent graduates who have become successful in many professional fields.

“We have a broad range of lecturers who each add a different perspective. We're lucky to have such great minds at our disposal.”

Talia Burr, first-year BA American Studies (United States) student

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond our University campus. In your third year, you spend either one term or one year at one of the American universities with whom we have an exchange agreement, depending on whether you take the three- or four-year variant of this course.

The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend your third year studying abroad at no extra cost, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

We have exchange partners with fifteen excellent academic institutions across the United States, from New Mexico to Massachusetts, including upstate New York, the Deep South, Miami and California.

Studying abroad allows you to explore and become immersed in American culture, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.

Our expert staff

We are a team of internationally recognised writers and lecturers with expertise across the arts, humanities and social sciences. As well as being one of the UK’s leading universities for social science and the highest ranking institution for political science, Essex academics are world leaders in human rights and pioneers in the literature and arts of the Americas.

Our staff teach in departments across the university, and specialise in a wide range of topics including American history, law, literature, film, politics, and sociology.

Current research is exploring American politics and the electorate, cinematic images of the American Pacific, politics and land rights of the native Innu of Labrador in Canada, civil rights and African American history, and American crime fiction.

Specialist facilities

Your future

Our course offers you the chance to gain a wide-ranging knowledge of many aspects of American life and intimate acquaintance with the region in the United States where you have spent a period of study.

This provides excellent preparation for careers in media, education, politics, the Civil Service, international organisations such as the UN and NATO or non-governmental organisations, and many other fields.

Our recent graduates have gone on to work in a wide range of desirable roles including an events co-ordinator for Age UK, a business provision manager for BT, an accountant in London, and an account executive for Bluesky PR.

We also work with our Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.

Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

Certain ideas shape the way we see ourselves and the world around us—ideas like democracy, free speech, individualism, free markets, and humans rights. These ideas took their definitive modern form during a politically and intellectually revolutionary stretch of history known as the Enlightenment (1650-1800). This interdisciplinary module examines this period and thus serves as an essential prerequisite for students who want to understand the intellectual currents that run through the world they live in. Graduating students often rank it among the most useful modules they’ve taken.

What is US literature? What makes it different from other writing in the English language, particularly work from the UK? Study classic texts that have established US literature as a distinct tradition in itself and gain an understanding of the issues surrounding this.

Gain a firm grasp of US history by studying key historical events as well as important social movements. Topics covered range from the early settlements in Plimoth and Jamestown, through the American Revolution and expansion, Industrial Revolution, slavery and Civil War, up to the 1950s and 60s civil rights, women's and youth movements. Engage with novel and exciting debate about the history of the United States.

American politics have long dominated the global stage; these are crucial times for the study of the United States. Discuss policymaking and contemporary political events in order to gain a basic introduction to the politics and government of the United States.

Who were the key sociologists studying the United States? And how have issues like democracy, inequality, gender roles, poverty, gangs and guns become sources of enchantment and disenchantment in the US? Studying one sociologist per week, we explore important and exciting interpretations of American society.

Are you ready for graduate employment? Like to improve your core skills? Wish you had some relevant work or volunteering experience? Attend workshops, events and activities at the University and elsewhere to build your knowledge, abilities and experience. Polish your CV, while developing your employability, citizenship and life skills.

To whom do you say “¿Cómo estás?” And to whom do you say “¿Cómo están?” Gain the basic linguistic skills to enjoy a visit to Spain. Learn the dialogue, structures and tenses needed for everyday situations, and develop the writing skills required for short messages.

Year 2

From a variety of perspectives, including history, literature, politics, sociology, art and architecture, you will examine the structural relationships of America and American culture at its core and at its (geographic, cultural) edges. Lectures cover topics including the USA's political, cultural and subcultural relationships with its Native communities and with Mexico, Puerto Rico and Latin America more broadly; various subcultural movements including gay rights, the Harlem Renaissance and activist art movements; race relations; the politics of war; the architectural fabric of American cities; and more.

Got an idea for a project, job or not-for-profit enterprise that will enhance local well-being? We study the concept and practice of social entrepreneurship, using case studies of work that has helped local communities, people or the environment. From this, you develop your project proposal or business plan.

What are the major US texts since 1850? And what problems are connected to them? Study a varied spectrum of US literature, looking at issues such as the relationship between American writing and history, American “difference” and differences within American society, nationalism and regionalism, and conflicts of race and gender.

In the late 19th century, Great Britain was the world's leading power and the 'workshop of the world'. By the time of the Second World War, the United States was dominant in both political and economic terms. After a discussion of the forging of the idea of this 'special relationship' during the Second World War, you will examine the nature and the degree of co-operation and tension between the two countries up to the modern day.

Want to do a dissertation in your final year? Have a great idea for a topic that you wish to study in depth? The short lectures, practical research exercises and discussion opportunities on this module help you develop your own coherent research project.

Final year

How powerful is Hollywood? How do directors construct an image of the USA? Examine how directors have created America in the popular imagination. Study Hollywood auteurs (such as Chaplin, Hawks, Hitchcock, Welles and Ford) alongside others (such as Scorsese, Allen and Lee) while covering the breadth of US film history.

Gain a detained insight into the history of sexuality in the United States from the colonial period to the present, with an emphasis on women. You will understand how the social construction of sexuality changed throughout time. Although women's historical experiences are positioned as central to this module, you also investigate concepts of masculinity and manhood. In addition to gender, race, class, free/un-free status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and the body, are crucial sites of analysis.

Are you doing a dissertation in your final year? Need help and advice on your research findings? Our workshop module lets you present your work to academic staff and your peers, gaining valuable feedback and guidance while you write your dissertation.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.


  • Taught through lectures plus classes of about twenty students
  • You take a one-hour lecture and a one-hour class for each of your modules every week
  • Spend either a term or a full year experiencing the American education system
  • Other teaching methods will depend on your individual combination of subjects


  • Assessed through a combination of written coursework and end-of-year examinations
  • Other assessment methods will depend on your individual combination of subjects

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UK entry requirements

A-levels: BBB, including one essay-based subject

IB: 30 points, including a Higher Level essay-based subject grade 5. We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.

Entry requirements for students studying BTEC qualifications are dependent on units studied. Advice can be provided on an individual basis. The standard required is generally at Distinction level.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.

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Visit us

Open days

Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. In 2017 we have three undergraduate Open Days (in June, September and October). These events enable you to discover what our Colchester Campus has to offer. You have the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.


Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: 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.

Visit days and interviews

Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our visit days. These run from January to April and give you the chance to explore the campus, meet our students and really get a feel for life as an Essex student.

Some of our courses also hold interviews and if you’re invited to one, this will take place during your visit day. Don’t panic, they’re nothing to worry about and it’s a great way for us to find out more about you and for you to find out more about the course. Some of our interviews are one-to-one with an academic, others are group activities, but we’ll send you all the information you need beforehand.

If you’re outside the UK and are planning a trip, feel free to email so we can help you plan a visit to the University.

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The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its course finder is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep prospective students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

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