Why study a degree within the Humanities Programme at the University of Brighton?
Our six undergraduate degrees are offered within an overall Humanities Programme designed to give a coherent experience of interdisciplinary study while allowing for specialization in distinct areas. Degrees share a common first year, and a core second year course, while the specialist work that gives each degree its particular identity takes place in Options courses in the second and third years and in your Project work.
Three central features of the Humanities undergraduate programme combine to determine a student experience that is possibly unique in British higher education. These are our commitments to:
Small group teaching
We maintain a focus upon teaching through classes small enough to foster the particular skills of oral presentation, debating and listening. In practice this means that you will be taught in seminar groups of no more than 12 students, a size large enough to ensure a diversity of opinion and hence productive debates, but small enough to allow every individual a space to raise issues, present arguments and to voice his or her particular intellectual concerns.
Since we place a particular emphasis upon seminar participation as one of the routes through which students develop important life and career skills such as confidence in oral communication, our seminars are student-led; this means that while a lecturer is always present to oversee proceedings and to ensure the academic content, the expectation is that you and your fellow students will increasingly develop the skills to manage seminar discussions together.
Every seminar is supported by a preceding lecture. In first year courses, and for the second year core course Critical Traditions, lectures are delivered to the whole year group. However, for the Options and Special Study pathway courses, we lecture to the small seminar group, ensuring that there is the opportunity for substantial interaction, with questions and feedback from students.
A large part of the distinctiveness of the humanities programme at Brighton is the emphasis upon interdisciplinarity.
The programme will enable you to develop the analytical skills of a variety of disciplines and the capacity to apply these to real world problems. This means that you will be introduced to the modes of inquiry that are particular to a range of traditional academic disciplines - to philosophy, history, literature, politics and cultural studies - but in order to be able to take the conceptual tools of each discipline and use these in the context of an interdisciplinary study.
For example, students on the Option pathway ‘Globalisation and Identity’ might spend a term looking at relations between Islam and the West by drawing upon skills from the disciplines of history (by learning about the Crusades), of cultural studies (by examining 19th century Orientalist paintings, by reading some Arabic literary fictions), and of political philosophy (by analysing Huntingdon’s ‘clash of civilisations’ thesis). This interdisciplinarity underpins all of our Option pathways as well as the core course Critical Traditions, and is typically a feature of the research project undertaken by students in their final year.
In contrast to degrees which are built around self-contained, discrete ‘modules’ of study, our programme is designed to build knowledge and skills progressively. This means that the work you do in the early units of the degree establishes a foundation for work in later units, and that later units will ask you to draw upon skills and knowledges that you have been developing continually since the first year. This developmental structure also provides the opportunity to revisit topics and questions considered earlier, in the light of the deepened understanding you will have gained as you have progressed through the programme.
An important and exciting part of the undergraduate programme is the research project. Your work towards this begins in the second year with a preparatory programme in which you will be introduced to the principles of designing and pursuing a research project, and have small-group tutorials to assist you in arriving at a provisional topic. You will then be allocated an appropriate supervisor with whom you will have regular one-to-one meetings in the second and third years.
The project typically results in the writing of a dissertation of between 8,000 and 12,000 words. However, alternatively, students may undertake an Independent Study - in which academic skills are related to the wider, non-academic world, and which may issue in either a substantial piece of written work or written work plus audio and/or visual presentations of reports or a Joint Project which is undertaken jointly by two students and which places particular emphasis upon the work-related skills involved in collaborative investigation.
The project will allow you to determine a topic of particular interest which you wish to explore in detail; to pursue this in the context of a regular supervisions with a member of faculty with expertise in that area; and to develop some of the skills of conducting independent research. The project is assessed both through the piece of writing (and/or presentation) in which it results and via an oral presentation at the end of the final year.
Some projects of recent graduates include:
The School offers a high level of student support and places a priority upon regular contact with teaching staff. All tutors have regular and frequent office hours. General academic support is provided through the Personal Tutoring system. You will be designated a Personal Tutor (who will normally remain the same throughout the three years) with whom you should meet regularly to discuss academic progress. The Personal Tutor alsos provide a first point of contact if a student is experiencing particular needs (academic or personal) and can direct students to the range of assistance and support that is available from Student Services. More specific course-related support is provided by Course Tutors. You will be supported in developing your essay-writing skills through the provision of individual pre- and post-essay tutorials with Course Tutors in which you will be guided in the preparatory stages of writing a course-essay and then given face-to-face feedback after the essay has been marked.
The student community
The student community is diverse and friendly. Since all four degrees share a common first year and then the second year core course Critical Traditions, you will work with and get to know students from the other three degrees and the other Options pathways offered within your degree. This leads to an exciting mix socially and to productive intellectual cross-fertilisations: for example, in a Critical Traditions seminar on the First World War, a student from Cultures, Histories, Literatures who knows about the impact of the First World War upon literature, may be in conversation with somebody from the Globalisation degree who has learnt about the reversal of globalisation processes brought about by the War. There are also opportunities for activities outside of the academic curriculum: there is the student-organised Philosophy Society which meets fortnightly during term-time with invited speakers such as academics from around the UK or speakers from organisations such as Amnesty International; there are opportunities for students to become involved in organising faculty-led events, such as the Holocaust Memorial Day.