A guide to studying History at university - including what to expect, application tips and careers after completing the course.
Why consider studying History at university?
Now more than ever, history is one of the most important and interesting academic subjects you can study at university. Many events over the last few years, for example, surprising elections, major constitutional changes, gender and race politics (which are now the subject of heated debate and social change) have a history behind them.
If you want to understand how we find ourselves in the current situation and how we might move beyond in productive ways, then there are examples from the past that can inform decisions. History is about studying the past to better understand the world we live in now. It is a very broad subject to examine at university and explores many issues including race, class, gender and power.
Studying history will increase your self-knowledge in relation to your own place in society, position in the world and identity as these are a product of history. This will develop skills and aptitudes that are essential for the modern working environment.
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What to expect if you study History at university?
University history courses generally focus on breadth in the first year, such as global and British history and large ‘chunks’ of time, for example medieval and imperial history.
You will have the opportunity in your second and third year to build on this base level of knowledge, studying specialist modules generally related to staff research specialisms, therefore it is important to investigate the modules available at each university in relation to your own interests.
Many courses offer a range of teaching styles such as roleplay, presentations, debates and mock trials as well as the traditional lectures and seminars. Increasing numbers of universities also have work placement modules which actively links what you have learned in the classroom with employment. Most courses require a dissertation of between 10,000 and 12,000 words in the final year.
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What careers does studying History lead to?
A history degree develops a broad range of skills and knowledge valuable to many professions including archive and records offices, banking and finance, charities, education, international development, law, management consultancies, publishing, television and radio.
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Application tips for History courses at university
Your application form needs to show your passion and interest for the subject. In your personal statement you could discuss particular topics you have undertaken at school and reasons that you found them particularly engaging and also how you have developed skills, for example, research, critical analysis and time management.
You may also wish to discuss events and documentaries outside of school that have sparked your interest, showing links between these and what you have learned in the classroom.
You need to ensure that the way that you express yourself is clear and grammatically correct as written communication skills are important for a history degree. You could also email university admission tutors asking what they are looking for in personal statements, ask about the modules offered and link these in with your personal statement.
It is also highly recommended that you attend open days, this will give you a good sense of what the university offers, the expertise of the staff, the work current students are working on and direct insight into what your day to day life might be like when you start your programme.
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With thanks to the event speaker (featured on the video):
Dr Vikram Visana, Senior Lecturer at the University of Huddersfield.
Jon Cheek, Founder and Director, UniTasterDays.com.