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Durham University


LA01 Liberal Arts BA Undergraduate  2021


Please note: 2020-21 courses may be affected by Covid-19 and are therefore subject to change due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Summaries of course-specific changes resulting from the impact of Covid-19 will be provided to applicants during August 2020.

For the latest information on our plans for teaching in academic year 2020/21 in light of Covid-19, please see

UCAS code LA01
Degree BA
Mode of study Full Time
Duration 3 or 4 years
Location Durham City
Typical Offers A Level
International Baccalaureate
Please also check Requirements and Admissions.
Alternative qualifications
Contextual Offers You may be eligible for an offer which is one or two grades lower than our standard entry requirements. Find out more.
More information Still have questions?
Department(s) Website

Course Summary


Liberal Arts offers you the opportunity to design your own programme of study. The Liberal Arts degree 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 degree 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 degree.

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 degree, 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 degree.

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

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
  • Visual Arts
  • 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
  • International Relations
  • Politics
  • Sociology and Criminology.

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 Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, 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.


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.

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 are the two subjects in this school which offer the opportunity to study politics, in Europe, the USA, the Middle East, and the Far East, as well as the history of political thought, or international relations, with a special
emphasis on the Middle East and the Far East, and Middle Eastern and Islamic studies.

Sociology Department

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 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 degree.

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 in your second year.

Placement Year

You may be able to take a work placement. Find out more.

Course Learning and Teaching

Students on this degree design their own programme of study, so depending on their choices they learn through a combination of lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical classes, workshops, language classes, informal but scheduled one-on-one support, and self-directed learning, such as research, reading, and writing.

All of these are supported by a state of the art virtual learning environment, Durham University Online (DUO). Seminars, workshops, and practical classes are much smaller groups than lectures, small enough to allow one-on-one interaction with a professor or lecturer. This emphasis on small-group teaching reflects a conscious choice to enhance the quality of the learning experience rather than the quantity of formal sessions.

The subjects studied in Liberal Arts are designed to feature fewer formal sessions and more independent research as students move from their first to their final year. Small-group teaching and one-on-one attention from the personal academic advisor (provided for all students when they enter the degree) are part of the learning experience throughout, but by the final year classroom time gives way, to some extent, to independent research, including a capstone dissertation—supported by one-on-one supervision—that makes up a third of final year credits.

In this way the degree systematically transforms you from a consumer of knowledge in the classroom to a generator of knowledge, ready for professional or postgraduate life.

These formal teaching arrangements are supported by ‘drop-in’ surgeries with teaching staff and induction sessions that begin in the week before the start of the degree and continue at key times throughout each year of the course. Students can also attend an extensive programme of research-focused seminars where staff and visiting scholars in various academic departments present their cutting-edge research.

Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

A level offer – A*AA

  • To study English Literature, History or Music, an A level (or equivalent) is required in the subject.
  • To study Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Italian, Russian or Spanish at an advanced level, an A level (or equivalent) in the language is required.
  • To study Arabic, German, Italian, Russian or Spanish ab initio, an A level (or equivalent) in a modern foreign language is required.
  • To study Chinese or Japanese ab initio, an A level (or equivalent) in a modern foreign language is desirable but not essential.
  • To study Economics, an A level (or equivalent) in Mathematics is required.

BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma/OCR Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma – D*DD and subject-specific A levels
(or equivalent) as above.

IB Diploma score – 38 with 666 in higher level subjects.

There are also higher level subject requirements.

In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:

  • We do not include General Studies or Critical Thinking as part of our offer.
  • If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take an International Foundation Year pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre
  • We are happy to consider applications for deferred entry.

Science A levels

Applicants taking Science A levels that include a practical component will be required to take and pass this as a condition of entry. This applies only to applicants sitting A levels with an English examination board.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Information relevant to your country

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £21,730.00 per year
Home Student £9,250.00 per year
Island Student £9,250.00 per year
International non-EU Student £21,730.00 per year

The tuition fees shown for home and EU students are for one complete academic year of full time study and are set according to the academic year of entry. Fees for subsequent years of your course may rise in line with an inflationary uplift as determined by the government.

The tuition fees shown for overseas students are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding 

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Pre-application open days are the best way to discover all you need to know about Durham University. With representatives from all relevant academic and support service departments, and opportunities to explore college options, the open days provide our prospective undergraduates with the full experience of Durham University.

Please see the following page for further details and information on how to book a place:

Discover Durham Tours

Discover Durham tours offer a brief introduction to the University. The tour begins at one of our undergraduate colleges, where you will receive an introductory talk from a member of college staff, followed by a tour of the college by current students.

Overseas Visit Schedule

Department Information

Liberal Arts