Arts Sciences


BASc Programme FAQs

Q: Is Arts and Sciences a Liberal Arts degree programme?

A: The Arts and Sciences degree has some similarity with Liberal Arts degree programmes but there are important differences.

Like Liberal Arts programmes, you can study a wide range of subjects on Arts and Sciences and there is a great deal of flexibility and variety. We also offer a major and a minor, like many Liberal Arts programmes.

However, on Arts and Sciences all students study an Interdisciplinary Core of subjects and must take a combination of Arts and Science subjects throughout the programme (see More about Interdisciplinarity).

These two features distinguish the Arts and Sciences BASc from many Liberal Arts programmes.

Q: What is in the Arts and Sciences Core?

A: There are a range of modules in the Core, including interdisciplinary methods, a course in quantitative methods called 'Quantitative Methods and Mathematical Thinking' and a foreign language.

Q: Can you give me more detailed information about the Core?

A: In the Core you will learn vital interdisciplinary skills. There are two ways you will meet interdisciplinarity in the Core:

1) Through fully interdisciplinary modules. For example, in our first year there is Interdisciplinary Research Methods and Approaches to Knowledge. In Interdisciplinary Methods you learn many of the techniques used by researchers in the social sciences and humanities and you will be asked to research and present your own interdisciplinary project. For example, you will learn how to structure questionnaires and surveys and do interviews, and you will learn about ethnography, coding interviews and recording your work by video or audio files. Students use the techniques they learn to interview UCL research academics about their thoughts on interdisciplinarity, how it affects their research, whether they think of themselves as interdisciplinary scholars, and so on. Using the research skills gained in the first part of the course, students then work on a group project in an interdisciplinary area (e.g. the use of antibiotics in society, the reception of immigrants in London) and prepare a research proposal for a final assessment.

2) Through learning Core subjects that  help you to make your own interdisciplinary links. For example, all Arts and Sciences students must study a foreign language. This, of course, will help you make links with other cultures – vital in any modern business, political or otherwise international role – as well as allowing you to explore intellectual interests in other literatures, arts etc. The Core also contains a quantitative methods course: Mathematical Methods. This course gives you grounding in the sorts of quantitative and mathematical thinking that underpin a wide range of work, from financial analysis and computer modelling in health, to creating transport systems in cities and even to examining literary texts to try to discover the identity of the original author. 

Q: What will my degree title be if I study the Arts and Sciences course?

A: Irrespective of the pathway studied, students graduate with a BASc Arts and Sciences or BASc Arts and Sciences with Study Abroad degree, with the major pathway also shown on the degree certificate.

For example, a student majoring in Sciences and Engineering on the four year study abroad degree will have 'BASc Arts and Sciences with Study Abroad: Sciences and Engineering' printed on their degree certificate.

The modules studied by each student will only be shown on the final transcript and will not be reflected in the degree title.

Q: Will Arts and Sciences students have their own department or will they only have lessons in other departments?

A: Arts and Sciences students have their own department and their own common room. In the Core, all Arts and Sciences students study together. On the Pathways, Arts and Sciences students mix with students from other departments as well as with other Arts and Sciences students taking the same modules.

Q: What are the Pathways?

A: The Pathways are much wider areas of study and thought than you would usually encounter on an undergraduate degree programme. This allows you to explore a much broader area in your first year before taking more specialist modules in years two and three. Please see the Pathways pages for more information.

The following simple way of classifying the Pathways may also help:

Q: Can you give me more details about the modules in each Pathway?

A: There are about 8-12 modules in each Pathway in year 1 from which you pick three. The modules are chosen to cover the broad subject areas but may have slightly different titles.

For examples, in Sciences and Engineering there are modules in Chemistry, Physics, Engineering Thinking, Maths, Earth Sciences etc. You must pick three of these as part of your Major.

As a further example, in Cultures there are modules in English Literature, Multiculturalism and Identity, Knowledge and Reality (Philosophy), History, Ways of Seeing (Design), Sociology of Religion etc. You must pick three of these as part of your Major.

Q: After I have chosen my first year modules, what modules are available to me in the second and final years of Arts and Sciences?

A: Arts and Sciences is designed to offer you the maximum choice of modules at UCL and to encourage interdisciplinarity. To achieve this, in years 2 and 3 you will be offered a free choice of modules available at UCL across the entire university, but relevant to your specific Pathway. Your choice is subject to the following important constraints:

  1. You meet the prerequisites for a module. For example, you could not do year 2 modules in English Literature without taking the Introduction to English Literature module in your first year. Please note that although we aim to prepare you for a very wide range of choices in each department, there may be some modules at 2nd and 3rd year level which are not available due to prerequisites.
  2. The modules chosen fit in with the other modules on your timetable.
  3. Your Personal Tutor (and Programme Director) approve the choice of modules. (This is to ensure that you work towards a coherent selection of modules - in line with the Pathway objectives - which complement each other and which allow for your best academic progression.)
  4. (Please note that students majoring in Sciences and Engineering must take Mathematical Methods for Arts and Sciences as one of their first year Pathway modules, which effectively reduces the choice to two other modules in year 1 of that Pathway.)

Q: In the Core, can I take more than one language?

A: The language requirement in the Core is for 15 credits each year. You must take the same language in each year of the Arts and Sciences Core so that you get in-depth progression in this language. However, if you arrive at UCL with a strong background in languages, you may also be able to take language-based modules as part of the Cultures pathway, alongside your Core language requirement. Please contact us if you require further details.

Q: Will I be at a disadvantage in my overall Arts and Sciences grades if I start a language from scratch?

A: No. All levels of language are marked independently and you will only be marked alongside others taking your level of language. Therefore you could start a language from beginner's level and still get better marks than someone who starts at a more advanced level.

Q: How much contact time will I have with UCL staff each week?

A: Due to the wide range of modules that may be taken by BASc students, there is not a typical timetable for a BASc student. Science majors typically receive more contact hours because of lab requirements. Arts and Social Science majors typically have fewer contact hours but are required to undertake more reading outside of the class. These may vary depending on modules chosen. On all pathways you would be expected to spend 40 hours a week in full-time study, which is made up of a mixture of contact hours and self-directed study.

The important thing is the quality of the contact time and, even more important than this, simply how much you are learning on the module. Looking at brute hours spent with 'a member of staff' will not give you a good idea of the quality of education or value of investment.

We give three examples of why this might be so.

1. Some universities may advertise '2 hours contact time per week' for a given component of the course, but if you look closer this might mean being in a large group of up to about 40 people, led by an inexperienced lecturer. This is probably less value to a student than 1 hour per week in a group of 10 students with an experienced lecturer.

2. On the Arts and Sciences, we will be 'flipping' some lectures in the Core courses. This means that you will get the content of the lectures via videocast or audiocast before the lecture slot. The lecture slots can then be used for a much more interactive and dynamic learning session than in the 'turn up and listen' model. It could be argued that this gives the contact time more value than if you sit in a lecture theatre, listening to a lecture.

3. Many courses now involve field work and project work which require a good deal of set-up time and thought by university teachers. On some of these courses you may, indeed, be left on your own quite a bit - but this is because the teachers have thought through the programme of learning and have designed the programme so that you will learn the most by doing your own work and research, punctuated by key contact points with members of staff. Thus although you may only see the teacher 2-3 hours per week, they have invested considerably more time 'up front' so that the course works for you as a learner.

These are just 3 examples as to why the question 'How many contact hours will I get?' may not always give the most helpful answer in determining the quality of your undergraduate education.