Arts and Sciences BASc 3 years

The three-year programme of core courses, major and minor pathway and internship.


Arts and Sciences with Study Abroad BASc 4 years

The three-year programme plus an additional year abroad.



BASC1001 Approaches to Knowledge


We take a wide-ranging view of knowledge from different perspectives. We show that knowledge is not confined to university departments or school syllabi. We focus on the role of interdisciplinarity in breaking down old boundaries of knowledge - and its role in creating new ways of thinking about knowledge. We look at ways in which knowledge can be reconstructed along new and fruitful lines.

This course, taken with Interdisciplinary Research Methods and Quantitative Methods, frames the overall approach of the Arts and Sciences (BASc).

What is interdisciplinarity?

In simple terms, interdisciplinarity means combining university subjects together in new and relevant ways to solve problems.

The module is in two parts.

Part 1.

Here we examine knowledge and its relationship to academic disciplines. Topics include:

  • Why interdisciplinarity now?
  • The role of the web in our view of disciplines.
  • A brief history of disciplines.
  • The ‘Two Cultures’ of Sciences and Arts – how real are they?
  • Different ways of structuring knowledge

The aim of this part of the module is to encourage students to start to think across disciplinary boundaries so that: 1. Students can begin to appreciate that many contemporary problems require thinking from two or more academic disciplines; 2. Students are encouraged to start to think more deeply about the interdisciplinary combinations they are interested in, and why.

Part 2.

In this part of the course, we look at several concepts - here called Superconcepts - which straddle several academic disciplines and can lead to fruitful interdisciplinary thinking. For example, we study the concept of Evolution and see how this can be used in business and anthropology, as well as biology. Among other examples, we will look at the superconcept Complexity, which can be used to examine the nature of the interaction of many things, whether they be atoms, people or banks.

You can see that the two halves of the course show how interdisciplinarity emerges from existing ideas about knowledge in two ways:

  1. by the gradual breaking down of existing categories of knowledge and ‘subjects’ through the forces of social groups, new media, real-world problems, enterprise etc.
  2. by the attempts to draw existing knowledge together under new concepts which can be applied across existing subjects to stimulate powerful new connections.

This course will give you a framework in which to structure your own interdisciplinary knowledge, interests and learning as you move forward on the Arts and Sciences degree. At the end of the course you will be better placed to understand how Arts and Sciences will work best for you, where your academic interests lie and which areas you wish to explore and combine.

You will also have a better understanding of the state of knowledge today, and a range of skills to enable your own interdisciplinary learning.

This course is taught in Term 1 of Year 1.

The course is in two halves:

In part 1 we examine the nature of knowledge as defined by academic disciplines. How important are the disciplines? What is their role in the knowledge revolution caused by the web?

  • Sample lectures in this part of the course include:
  • Interdisciplinarity, why now?
  • What is happening to knowledge?
  • Multidisciplinarity and the academic disciplines.
  • Science and Art: different ways of knowing?
  • What is the discipline of economics?

In part 2 we will examine the way in which some thinkers are bringing together knowledge under new categories. Here we look at concepts - called Superconcepts - which bridge older disciplines in order to unify areas of thought and to create productive new links. Sample lectures in this part of the course include:

  • Systems
  • Complexity
  • Entropy
  • Evolution
  • Creativity
  • Postmodernism

There are 20 lectures/presentations in the course and 10 tutorials/activities/seminars.

There will be a wide range of assessment to test students’ learning and engagement with the module. We we will use digital media for some assessment and delivery and will ask students to demonstrate academic research skills.


The course runs for three hours per week in Term 1 of Year 1 as follows:

1-2pm on Tuesdays and 1-2pm on Fridays

 * Students are automatically allocated to a seminar class, so it is not possible to select one


For the 2014/15 academic year, the assessment is as follows:

  1. 1,500 word essay 1 - 25%
  2. 1,500 word essay 2 - 35%
  3. 800-1,000 word blog - 20%
  4. 3 minute podcast - 10%
  5. Questions - 10%

These are some examples of student work. In these essays students were asked to examine a Superconcept we had studied on the course and to link this Superconcept to one of their Pathway disciplines.

All of the examples above will open as PDF documents.