Durham University Liberal Arts

By | 24th May 2017

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Durham University Liberal Arts

Liberal Arts gives you the opportunity to design your own degree. You can study two, three, or even four subjects, in and beyond the Arts and Humanities, choosing and combining modules in ways which reflect your individual interests and aspirations.

Liberal Arts – formerly ‘Combined Honours in Arts’ – is a flexible multidisciplinary programme, which gives those who want to specialise in two or more subjects the chance to study in some of the UK’s most highly-regarded departments in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. If your interests include English Literature, History, Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, Classics, Music, or Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, the Liberal Arts programme gives you a way to combine these subjects, and other subjects, including Politics, Economics, Sociology, and Geography, at Durham University.


Liberal Arts offers you the opportunity to design your own programme of study. The Liberal Arts programme complements Durham University’s Single and Joint Honours programmes, enabling you to study modules in up to four subjects in, and beyond, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. If you are looking for the freedom to follow your intellectual interests, wherever these might take you, then Liberal Arts might be the right programme for you.

In Liberal Arts, it is not only possible to study any subject in the Arts and Humanities, but also most subjects in the Social Sciences. It is possible, therefore, for students to combine History and Politics, for example, but also to study subjects in combinations less likely to be available in a Joint Honours programme, such as Theology and Anthropology, or Music and Sociology, or Philosophy and Geography.

If the subject which you regard as your primary interest is in the Social Sciences, you should apply for the Combined Honours in Social Sciences programme (LMV0).

If your principal subjects include one or more modern languages – FrenchGermanSpanishItalianRussianArabicChinese, or Japanese – then, at the end of your first year, you would transfer to the four-year version of your programme, and spend your third year abroad, either studying at university, or teaching English, or undertaking internships in companies and other organisations. If, however, you do not wish to take any subject other than modern languages, you should apply for the Modern Languages and Cultures programme (R002).

If you are offered a place in one of the University’s international exchange programmes, then, during your second year, you would also transfer to the four-year version of your programme.

Liberal Arts, like its predecessor, Combined Honours in Arts, appeals to highly-qualified, self-motivated, and independent-minded students, who are seeking to make creative connections between their subjects. It offers exceptional flexibility, and the opportunity to study in some of the UK’s most prestigious departments in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

Year 1

In your first year, you will study six modules, in three or four subjects.

Year 2

In your second year, you will study six modules, in two, three, or four subjects.

Year 3 (Year 4 if undertaking a Year Abroad)

In your final year, you will complete a research project in your primary subject, and study four other modules, in two or three subjects.

As a Liberal Arts student, you will be focusing on subjects in the Arts and Humanities, but you will be able to take up to half of your modules each year in subjects in the Social Sciences.

In the Arts and Humanities, the subjects currently available are as follows:

  • Classics and Ancient History
  • English Literature
  • History
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Theology and Religious Studies
  • History of Art
  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Russian
  • Spanish

In the Social Sciences, the subjects currently available are as follows:

  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Business
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Geography
  • Politics and International Relations
  • Sociology

Arts and Humanities subjects

Department of Classics and Ancient History

Classics and Ancient History offers the opportunity to study, in translation, the history, philosophy, literature and culture of the ancient world, and to study Greek and Latin at several different levels, opening up the literatures of the Greek and Roman worlds in their original languages.

Department of English Studies

English Literature offers the opportunity to study specific literary genres, including poetry, drama, and the novel, and the literatures of specific periods, including Medieval, Renaissance, Romantic, Victorian, and Modern Literature, as well as studies in the theory and practice of literary criticism.

Department of History

History offers the opportunity to study medieval, early modern, and late modern history, through a range of modules in economic, social, religious, cultural, political, and diplomatic history, focusing on Britain, continental Europe, Africa, China, and the USA.

School of Modern Languages and Cultures

The principal languages are ArabicChineseFrenchGermanItalianJapaneseRussian, and Spanish, and each offers core language modules and ‘culture’ modules which cover a broad range of themes in history, politics, literature, film, the media, linguistics, translation, and interpreting.

Students who are not specialising in one or more modern languages can study a number of languages, currently including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish, at various levels, from beginners’ to advanced level, in the School’s Centre for Foreign Language Study (CFLS).

Department of Music

Music offers the opportunity to study musicology, including the history of music, music theory and analysis, and ethnomusicology, and, where these are studied alongside musicology, performance, composition, and other practice-based disciplines.

Department of Philosophy

Philosophy offers the opportunity to study many of the principal philosophical disciplines, including metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics, and also the history and philosophy of science and medicine.

Department of Theology and Religion

Theology and Religious Studies offers the opportunity to take modules in biblical studies, Christian theology, including the history of theology, contemporary theology, the philosophy of religion, and ethics, and religious studies, including the sociology and anthropology of religion.

History of Art

The School of Education provides a series of modules in the History of Art, with a particular focus on European art in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Social Sciences subjects

Department of Anthropology

Anthropology offers pathways in cultural anthropology and physical anthropology, and a range of modules concerned with material culture, the physical and social evolution of humans, and topics such as medical anthropology and development anthropology.

Department of Archaeology

Archaeology provides the opportunity to focus on particular periods and places, through prehistoric archaeology, Roman archaeology, medieval and post-medieval archaeology, and the archaeology of Britain, Europe, Egypt, India, and the Near East, and also to study the employment of scientific methods in archaeology.

Business School

Business offers a series of modules focusing on entrepreneurship, management, and governance, and some students choose to study additional modules, in business, management, and marketing, delivered at Queen’s Campus, in the second and final years of their degrees.

Economics offers the opportunity to study microeconomics and macroeconomics, and topics such as the history of economic thought, environmental economics, development economics, monetary economics, and the economics of social policy.

School of Education

Education offers the opportunity to study central issues in school and higher education, involving the study of the historical, philosophical, psychological, sociological, and political dimensions of educational theory and practice, and the development of the social sciences in the modern and postmodern periods.

Department of Geography

Geography offers pathways in human geography and a range of modules concerned with geographical theory and methods and special topics such as urban transformation, environmental change, development, and hazard and risk.

School of Government and International Affairs

Politics and International Relations offers the opportunity to study politics, in Europe, the USA, the Middle East, and the Far East, the history of political thought, international relations, with a special emphasis on the Middle East and the Far East, and Middle Eastern and Islamic studies.

School of Applied Social Sciences

Sociology offers the opportunity to study modules in sociology, including theories and methods, social structures, social policy, social exclusion, and the sociology of health, the city, and popular music, and in criminology, including theories and methods, crime and deviance, policing, sociology of punishment, and the criminal justice system.

Your choice of modules is subject to their availability, timetable constraints, and the approval of the Director of Liberal Arts. In order to take any modules in some subjects, you will also be required to meet specific A-level or equivalent requirements.

Study Abroad

Liberal Arts

Year Abroad (Modern Languages)

If, in the first year, you are studying Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, or Spanish, and you are planning to continue studying one or more languages throughout your degree, you will include a Year Abroad between the second and final year of your programme of study. The Year Abroad offers you an opportunity to study at a university, or to teach English in a secondary school, or to undertake an internship, in a wide variety of locations in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, or Latin America. You will be transferred from the three-year to the four-year version of your degree programme at the end of your first year, giving you over a year in which to plan the Year Abroad, in consultation with your advisers in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. If, however, you later decide to stop studying a language, at the end of your second year, you will transfer back to the three-year version of the programme.

If you are not studying one or two of these languages and associated literatures and cultures, you might still choose to study a language through the School’s Centre for Foreign Language Study (CFLS). The Centre offers classes in many languages, at beginners’, intermediate, and advanced levels, but these modules do not lead to a Year Abroad.

Other opportunities for Study Abroad

The University has established exchanges with many of its international partner universities, and opportunities for students to spend a year studying abroad are now multiplying as more and more of these exchanges are created. Liberal Arts students are in a particularly strong position to take advantage of these opportunities, since they are studying several subjects, and, therefore, would be ‘at home’ studying in universities throughout much of the English-speaking world. Students must compete for Study Abroad places, and so it is not possible to guarantee that every student who wishes to study in a particular country will be able to do so. Liberal Arts students can apply to study at universities across Europe, through the Erasmus + Programme, or at universities in the USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, or New Zealand, through the Overseas Exchange Programme. If successful, you will be transferred from the three-year to the four-year version of your degree programme in your second year.