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BA Liberal Arts

Why we're great

  • Essex is top ten for student satisfaction (English mainstream universities, NSS 2016)
  • We are a team of internationally recognised writers and lecturers across a range of disciplines.
  • You study at one of the UK's leading universities for social science and the best for politics.

Course options2017-18

BA Liberal Arts Full-time

UCAS code: V900
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: QV00
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
Email admit@essex.ac.uk
Live chat

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About the course

Knowledge is rooted in the experiences of people across the world. It is created from memory, culture, landscape and myth. This knowledge is often split into separate ‘disciplines’ such as those in the sciences, maths, history, geography, literature and art. However, true knowledge does not recognise these boundaries; the world is complex, interconnected and networked.

Our course is for you if you love studying a variety of subjects, and want to maintain this breadth of knowledge at university. Broaden your horizons by taking up the challenge of studying across a range of disciplines, exploring the variations in the ways that the humanities and social sciences help us to think imaginatively and critically about the worlds we live in.

You take modules which cover the historical foundations of the humanities, challenge dominant worldviews, and explore innovative and subversive essays and manifestos. The flexible structure of this course allows you to choose a range of optional modules across literature, film, philosophy, history of art, history, linguistics, politics, sociology and modern languages.

The types of issues and problems you might explore include:

  • How commercial and independent films interpret human relationships
  • How to compose your own writing, inspired by the great essayists
  • Important philosophical questions about life, death and religion
  • Great works of art and literature
  • Languages

Based within our Interdisciplinary Studies Centre (ISC), the choice is yours: you choose your modules based on your own background and interests. You engage with unusual, controversial, and provocative ideas, so that you can use the humanities and social sciences to become critically aware and possess the tools to change the world for the better.

"Studying liberal arts at Essex has enabled me to acquire a depth of knowledge in various academic fields and disciplines."

Daniel Ruiz Viejobueno, first-year BA Liberal Arts student

"Studying at Essex gave me the choice and diversity that I wanted from an undergraduate course. The Centre was fantastic and I could not have asked for more supportive people to help me settle in, guide me and answer all of my questions."

Jaide Mead, BA Humanities (now BA Liberal Arts), 2011

"I had a great time at Essex from the very start, both academically and socially, and I really benefited from my experience of studying a multidisciplinary course."

Steluta Grama, BA Humanities (now BA Liberal Arts), 2012

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond our University campus. We support you extending your education by offering you an additional year at no extra cost (2017 entry). The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend your third year studying abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

You study modules in the liberal arts and social sciences, comparable to what you might take at Essex.

Studying abroad can allow you 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.

Our expert staff

We are a team of internationally recognised writers and lecturers with expertise across the arts, humanities and social sciences. You are taught by a highly qualified, enthusiastic team with wide-ranging research interests and a proven academic scholarship.

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

Current research is exploring indigenous experiences of colonialism, public sociology, nature writing, contemporary world cinema, wealth inequalities, and the implementation of American advertising practices in Australia.

Specialist facilities

Your future

As a liberal arts graduate, you’ll be provided with an all-round education that can lead to a more extensive range of knowledge, better communication skills and a more flexible and positive attitude to life. The best way to prepare for the future is to develop the abilities and skills which make you resilient; reasoning skills which mean that you do not accept easy answers; so that you can always question.

A Liberal Arts course can lead to a wide variety of careers in the media, journalism, publishing, local government, voluntary agencies, librarianship, finance, management and other fields. Many employers prefer to recruit students with a broad-based liberal arts education (and provide them with vocational training during their first year at work) than to recruit students who have specialised in one discipline.

Our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of organisations including Euromoney, a financial publication company, a housing association, and an English language school in Japan.

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

We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of compulsory modules and options chosen from lists. Below is just one example of a combination of modules you could take. For a full list of optional modules you can look at the course’s Programme Specification.

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore all modules listed are subject to change.

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 created a European identity? Was it religion, politics, war, art? And how do Europeans interact with the world? How is Europe viewed from afar? By studying themes like the Reformation, and focusing on individual writers and artists, test the idea and myth of Europe from many perspectives.

What impact has migration had on Latin America in recent years? And what about the drug trade? Or climate change? Study the contemporary topics that have shaped Latin America in the last thirty years, drawing on interdisciplinary research as well as creative work by Latin American artists, writers and film-makers.

Gain first-hand professional experience in the cultural and creative sector with this practical skills-based module. You will work with the Arts Education team on an arts projects with a local school, discovering how to plan and deliver effective and engaging sessions, whilst learning about the career opportunities in this sector. By helping children develop, you’ll reflect upon your own strengths and capabilities, building on vital transferrable employability skills such as teamwork, resilience, leadership, and experience of working with outside organisations. You will have the opportunity to achieve Arts Award Gold accreditation, and the chance to put yourself forward for extra Arts Award training, helping you to stand out from the crowd. Complementing other modules on the course, this module will also prepare you for a placement or year abroad.

What does it mean to be a "digital citizen"? How are digital technologies transforming society? To what extent do digital technologies curb or enhance our rights? Some say that we live in a "post-truth" era filled with "fake news" that traps us in a digital "bubble" or "echo chamber". Others see digital technologies as the key to unlocking social change and finding new ways to bring people together across geographical boundaries. Which view is right? What are the actual legal, ethical, social, political, creative, and economic implications of living in an increasingly digital world? This module gives you an opportunity to explore these important issues, and it also provides you with hands-on training from experts in the practical skills required to navigate the digital world.

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.

Year 2

What kind of societies have we created in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries? What makes them new? Or are they simply new expressions of old ideas? Study contemporary issues such as the humanitarian treatment of people, the meaning of the self and global warming that have arisen out of the ideas behind the Enlightenment, colonialism, and capitalism.

Since the Enlightenment, religious belief in the Western World has been under new pressures to justify itself in terms compatible with the worldview of modern science. You explore the work of philosophers who have sought to show that we can and need to make a place for religion in modern cultural and social life, through the work of Hegel, Rosenzweig, Habermas, and Levinas.

This module introduces students to key debates in modern social and political thought. We focus on seminal texts by authors such as Hobbes, Spinoza, and Rousseau, whose contributions have radically transformed our understanding of social and political life. We explore the roots of modern notions like the state and society, and scrutinise the nature of freedom, power and democracy. Finally, we consider whether these authors’ accounts of social misdevelopments can still guide critiques of contemporary society.

In this module you’ll explore the shifting meanings of the natural and supernatural worlds during a period that encompassed three major shifts in intellectual outlook during the early modern period in Europe: the Reformation, Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment. You’ll look at the way in which early modern people understood the boundaries between human and animal, body and soul, life and death, science and religion, and reality and imagination.

Does Hollywood have the last word on America? What do we mean by independent motion pictures? Understand the diverse and changing modes of film production in the USA. Formulate your own ideas of the social, cultural and political dimensions of American films and filmmaking in the last 40 years.

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.

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

Is Swift’s A Modest Proposal the best example of early modern western satire? What did Marx and Engel achieve with The Communist Manifesto? Examine subversive essays and manifestos. Study how they challenges and satirise existing ideas and social arrangements. Experiment with writing, thus broadening the approach of your own essays.

What impact has the printed press had on our social and cultural life? What about radio, cinema, TV and recorded music? And how important is all this in the light of new technological advancements? Examine the development of our mass media culture, from the nineteenth century to the present day.

Where do “human rights” come from, and what are their philosophical foundations and justifications? What are some of the criticisms and objections to the idea of human rights? This module invites you to reflect on the moral principles that should govern our world.

Thai curry for gallery-goers, and the aftermath of a monster attack – just two examples of how contemporary artists are pushing techniques, processes and media to the limit. Explore how the attitudes and approaches to art have evolved over the last 30 years, and the crucial precursors who influenced them, whilst always considering how the context in which art is made and received – be it geographical, sociological, political, or philosophical – affects its production, reception, and interpretation.

Investigate the myths surrounding the founding of the United States. Crossing disciplines of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and cinematic and theatrical texts, you compare the classic Western against a range of counter-narratives from black, Hispanic, latino, and aboriginal storytellers. This module interrogates the concept of a 'national literature', explores the relationship between folklore and contemporary society, and investigates the relationship between the Western as a narrative form, and the history of colonialism in the U.S.A.

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.

Teaching

  • Taught through lectures and classes of about twenty students
  • A one-hour lecture and a one-hour class for each of your modules every week. Some core modules are organised as two-hour seminars, rather than lectures and classes
  • Your language classes involve lectures, classes and language laboratory sessions

Assessment

  • You are assessed on essays, book reviews, class presentations, projects, take-home exams and end-of-year unseen examinations
  • Your first-year marks do not count towards determining your overall degree class

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Qualifications

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 admit@essex.ac.uk 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.

English language requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. Different requirements apply for second year entry, and specified component grades are also required for applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.

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 listed above. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications

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.

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.

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Applying

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.

Applicant Days and interviews

Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our applicant 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 applicant 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 visit@essex.ac.uk so we can help you plan a visit to the University.

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 tours@essex.ac.uk 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.

Exhibitions

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.

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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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