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 the overall ‘lens’ through which we will be looking at the material is ‘Interdisciplinarity and the Disciplines’

Each week we will look at a different theme associated with interdisciplinarity and the disciplines.

Week 1. Introduction.

Week 2. Truth and the Disciplines.

Week 3. Evidence and the Disciplines.

Week 4. Imperialism and the Disciplining of Knowledge.

Week 5. Arts vs Sciences: Different Ways of Knowing?

Throughout the first half of the course, students should aim to become gradually aware that useful or interesting knowledge need not be confined to university departments, that ‘specialism’ is a complex and contested idea and that the current interest in interdisciplinarity is driven by contemporary concerns such as complex, real-world problems and the rise of the web. This is the start of a longer process that will aid the students in constructing their own interdisciplinary university degree.

Part 2.

In the second half of the course we look at interdisciplinary ‘superconcepts’. These are ideas that have arisen in one discipline but have come to have wide-ranging and fruitful applications in other disciplines. Examples include: Complexity, Evolution, Fiction and Postmodernism. The overall aim of this half of the course is to introduce students to several important contemporary concepts and allow them to see that interdisciplinary work often involves the creative crossing of established disciplinary boundaries. Through their assignments students will be asked to think creatively how to cross some such boundaries themselves.

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.

The lectures are split into two halves:

Part 1

  1. Introduction, framing and nuts and bolts.
  2. Why interdisciplinarity now?
  3. Truth and the Disciplines. 1
  4. Truth and the Disciplines. 2
  5. Evidence and the Disciplines. (Dr Jason Davies)
  6. Student-led conference on Truth and Evidence in the disciplines
  7. Imperialism and the Disciplining of Knowledge. 1 (Dr Judith Suissa)
  8. Imperialism and the Disciplining of Knowledge. 2 (Dr Judith Suissa)
  9. Sciences and Art: Different Ways of Knowing? (Don Foresta)
  10. Transhumanities: Liberal Arts for the 21st Century. (Prof Steve Fuller)

Part 2

  1. Introduction to Superconcepts
  2. Knowledge Power (Prof Alan Wilson)
  3. Systems (Prof Alan Wilson)
  4. Entropy
  5. Complexity
  6. Evolution 1
  7. Evolution 2
  8. Fiction
  9. Postmodernism
  10. Structuralism


The course is delivered by two lectures per week to the whole cohort and one smaller seminar group for each student per week.

Many of the lectures will be ‘flipped’. This means that for these lectures students will be asked to view the lectures on video before the class and to submit questions in advance of the timetabled lecture slot. The plenary class time will then be used to address student questions and do other activities.

The course runs in Term 1 of Year 1 as follows:

1-2pm on Tuesdays and 1-2pm on Fridays
3-4pm on Tuesdays or 4-5pm on Tuesdays or 5-6pm on Tuesdays or 10-11am on Wednesdays or 11am-12pm on Wednesdays or 11am-12pm on Thursdays or 3-4pm on Thursdays or 4-5pm on Thursdays or 10-11am on Fridays or 11am-12pm on Fridays

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


For the 2015/16 academic year, the assessment is as follows:

  • 10% Submitted ‘Hot’ Questions.
  • 10% Podcast. Students work in small teams to produce a podcast which outlines how an interdisciplinary, ‘real world’ project would be implemented.
  • 25% Blog. Students will be asked to produce individual blogs based on a topic concerning interdisciplinarity, to reflect on the difference in academic writing between a blog post and more traditional academic papers, and to reflect on the research process.
  • 25% Essay (1,500 words). On Superconcepts.
  • 30% Essay (2,000 words). On Superconcepts.

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.