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BA Communications and Digital Culture

Why we're great

  • Our teaching is underpinned by research - new ideas and theories are tested in the classroom.
  • You acquire a range of skills valued by employers including research, interpreting data and debating.
  • You develop the critical and inventive thinking skills necessary for many graduate jobs.

Course options2017-18

UCAS code: LP33
Duration: 3 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Sociology
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: PL33
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Sociology
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: LP34
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Sociology
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

How does the media shape social and cultural life? How have digital and internet cultures transformed personal and networked interactions? What is the relationship between the media, mass politics, and governance? What is media power, and who wields it? Whatever the questions that interest you, at Essex you can develop the skills to go beyond simply arguing about them, and instead find the evidence needed to answer them.

At Essex we investigate what connects people with each other, as well as what divides them. We consider every aspect of our daily lives, from how we relate to politicians, celebrities and friends, to how we define ourselves, our families, and others.

You experience a lively, informal environment with many possibilities to pursue a variety of topics including:

  • The impact of computer games on crime
  • Mass media and modern life
  • The art, film and personal testimony of war
  • Practical research methods, including designing interview schedules and surveys and handling cultural data

Our BA Communications and Digital Culture is run by the Department of Sociology, which was rated top 10 in the UK for research quality (REF 2014), and we consistently receive strong student satisfaction scores, including 91% overall student satisfaction in 2014.

The Department of Sociology also offers expertise in many areas that complement the study of communications and digital culture, including criminology, social history, visual sociology, anthropology, economic sociology, US and European studies and cultural rights.

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you extending your education through providing the option of an additional year at no extra cost. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year studying abroad or employed on a placement, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

Studying abroad allows 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.

Placement year

You can also undertake a placement year in which you gain relevant work experience within an external business, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. You will be responsible for finding your placement, but with support and guidance provided by both your department and our Employability and Careers Centre.

Training social scientists of the future

We offer you the opportunity to follow a specialised pathway that embeds quantitative methods in your degree. Successful completion of specified modules entitles you to receive the qualifier ‘(Applied Quantitative Methods)’ at the end of your degree title, for example BA Sociology (Applied Quantitative Methods) and this will appear on your transcript. You can also receive student bursaries to go on work placements, helping you stand out when applying for jobs.

Our expert staff

Our staff have worked at local, national and international level with bodies like news organisations, advertising agencies, local councils, the Home Office, Amnesty International and the United Nations.

They are high-profile researchers with interests across the field of media, culture and society.

Professor Sean Nixon is an expert on media history, consumer cultures and advertising. Dr Michael Bailey leads on cultural policy studies, critical theory and heritage and has been closely involved with national debates on the Leveson Inquiry into UK press regulation. Dr James Allen-Robertson specialises in digital cultures, disruptive technologies and gaming.

Specialist facilities

  • A unique Student Resource Centre where you can get help with your studies, access examples of previous students’ work, and attend workshops on research skills
  • The Sociology common room is open all day Monday-Friday, is stocked with daily newspapers, magazines and journals, and has free drinks available
  • Links with the Institute of Social and Economic Research, which conducts large-scale survey projects and has its own library, and the UK Data Archive, which stores national research data like the British Crime Survey
  • Our students’ Sociology Society is a forum for the exchange of ideas, arranging talks by visiting speakers, introducing you to various career pathways, and organising debates
  • Links on Campus with the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies and its new BA in Multimedia Journalism supported by former BBC staff

Your future

Careers linked to communications and digital culture are varied. Our courses provide an excellent training for work within the cultural industries, communications, PR, marketing, publishing and social research.

Our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies including:

  • The Institute of Public Finance
  • Media Analysts
  • Guardian Professional
  • United
  • Synergy Healthcare Research

We also work with the university’s 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

What research methods do sociologists use? And what are the methodologies underpinning them? Wish to learn how to critically evaluate social research? And receive training in collecting quantitative and qualitative data? We study the principles of social science investigation and how to carry out original research.

Does the media make people violent? Objectify women? Tell you what to do? Study the modern media as a social terrain, order of communication and domain of ideas, using examples from cinema, photography, newspapers and TV. Examine popular debates and consider practical methodologies for undertaking media research in the future.

How can sociology help you understand the world in which you live? What are some of the major features and trends in present-day societies? Using sociological tools, you analyse key features of different societies, such as stratification, poverty, racism, consumption, multinational corporations, religion, and the gender division of labour in low-income countries.

How do we analyse moving images? What innovations have transformed the cinema experience? What moments and movements have been key to film history? Study the development of international cinema, looking at all aspects of the form, including analysis of theoretical issues, film language, and a variety of important directors and genres.

Year 2

Want to study sociological classics? Wish to read and interpret original texts by Marx, Durkheim and Weber? Then study a selection of the contemporary writers who followed? We look at classic and modern thinkers, carrying their ideas into new contexts and inverting approaches to social understanding.

What methods are used in carrying out empirical sociological research? How do you critically analyse approaches to social research? And what are the skills required to undertake such research? We introduce the statistical foundations for empirical research and methods of analysis for qualitative data, building practical skills for your final-year project.

Does technology determine history? Can games teach us about power? Does software shape society? Develop a critical understanding of the role played by human-machine relationships in contemporary cultural change. Evaluate recent developments in media technologies from a sociological perspective. Develop your own blog as part of your final assessment.

You will examine key theories and trends in criminological thought, including the historical development of criminology and some of the more recent critiques. The themes of causation, criminalisation, correction and control run throughout the theoretical perspectives and are considered alongside some specific examples of criminal activity and organisation. Examples range from the individually-experienced through the structural inequalities relevant to understanding gender, ethnicity and crime and include the global dimensions.

Final year

How do you understand contemporary society? What role do key topics like modernity, post-modernity, feminism and capitalism play? And what do contemporary theorists like Foucault and Bourdieu say? Learn why philosophical knowledge is vital for sociological understanding, while deepening your own awareness of the subject.

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.

Want to focus on your own topic? Keen to conduct research and write up original work? Your project can range from empirical research to theoretical studies, with guidance from your supervisor. The eventual success of your research will depend on the ideas that you develop, plan and undertake.

What is it to be an American Indian today? Has the slavery legacy contributed to contemporary debates on criminal justice? What are the politics for a Latino presence? Examine social, political and economic encounters between European settlers, American Indians, African-Americans and Latinos that shaped the USA, from colonisation to today.

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. Our Programme Specification gives more detail about modules on your year abroad.


  • Teaching is arranged to allow a lot of freedom in how you organise your learning experience, with a focus on discussion and problem-solving
  • Lab sessions to improve technical research skills


  • Assessed through a combination of written coursework and end-of-year examinations
  • Weighting is 50% coursework and 50% examinations
  • Complete a supervised dissertation on the topic that most inspires you

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UK entry requirements

A-levels: BBB

IB: 30 points. 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.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.