Students Staff

Interdisciplinary Studies Centre

Liberal arts

Mosaic art

BA Liberal Arts

What can you expect from a liberal arts degree at Essex?

BA Liberal Arts is our most flexible course. You can study any combination of humanities, arts and social science subjects, building your own degree as your interests develop. Choose from more than 100 modules in:

  • history
  • sociology
  • literature
  • philosophy
  • film studies
  • psychoanalytic studies
  • language and linguistics
  • art history
  • creative writing
  • drama
  • politics

Your course will be truly interdisciplinary - you'll learn and think across subject boundaries, giving you a very different perspective to students on single honours courses. Liberal arts is for you if you're intellectually curious and love exploring ideas and discovering the connections between them.

Why liberal arts?

Liberal arts is increasingly popular in the UK, having long been the basis of undergraduate education in North America. We've developed the varied curriculum enjoyed by students in the US to structure our course and you will:

  • be encouraged to think imaginatively and critically about the world
  • develop your powers of self-expression and critical thinking
  • see the differences in how subjects are written and thought about, and learn to work in multiple fields
  • bring a broader perspective to classes thanks to your understanding of related subjects
  • become a well-rounded global citizen, educated in a number of different areas

Course structure

In each year you take a core module which gives you a solid grounding in interdisciplinary study. These modules encourage you to think critically about the major social, political and cultural issues of our time. You choose your other modules from a wide range offered by several Essex departments.

Year Core module Other modules
First Modern Revolutions In Science, Politics, And Culture introduces you to the foundations of Western ways of thinking about the world Modules in three different subjects
Second The World in Question exposes these ideas to scrutiny and goes on to examine how prominent concerns around empire, conceptions of the self, and our relationships to nature developed in the 20th and 21st centuries Modules in two of the subjects you studied in your first year
Final Dangerous Ideas presents a number of classic, subversive, witty and politically important essays and manifestos that encourage you to articulate yourself in creative and effective ways Modules in the same two subjects, and you may add a third subject if you like
  • Explore the module directory to see the full range of undergraduate outside options available. First year Liberal Arts students must select modules from three different disciplines (two of which must be from the following: Art History, Government, History, Human Rights, Languages, Literature, Psychoanalytic Studies, Philosophy or Sociology).
  • We also offer the BA Journalism and Liberal Arts.

The course is designed to give you coherence in the subjects you study throughout, enabling you to build your expertise in those fields, alongside variety and the chance to understand alternative ideas.

Your classmates in your modules will be single and joint honours students in those subjects, as well as your fellow liberal arts students. You'll all bring different perspectives and ideas to discussions.

Course options


If you fall in love with a particular subject during your first or second year on the Liberal Arts BA, you may be able to complete a 'major' in it - for example, Liberal Arts with a Politics major. This can help you signal to employers that you have developed an area of special expertise within your interdisciplinary degree programme. To earn a major, you'll need to spend roughly half of your time in the second and final year taking classes in that subject. We currently offer majors in: Art History, History, Politics, Literature, Sociology, and Philosophy. Check back here as we plan to add to this list!

Study abroad

With an Essex degree you can study abroad for up to a year, giving you the chance to immerse yourself in another culture and develop your independence, adaptability and cultural awareness. You can:

  • study abroad for a term as part of the standard three-year course
  • take our four-year course with a full year abroad in your third year

You can also switch between the three and four-year versions after you've started if you change your mind.

As a liberal arts student we strongly encourage you to take the opportunity to study abroad as it perfectly complements an interdisciplinary course. While abroad you can choose to study different subjects to those you're focusing on at Essex. Alternatively, if you study the same subjects, you'll gain new perspectives as subjects are thought about and taught differently in different countries. Either way, your experiences will influence your thinking when you return to complete your course.

Gain new language skills

If you're interested in learning a language, there are lots of options available. You could choose to study a language as part of your degree by taking language modules. Alternatively you can join our award-winning Languages for All programme, enabling you to learn a language outside your course for no extra cost. Choose from Arabic, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, or Spanish.

Life after BA Liberal Arts

Postgraduate study

Liberal arts forms the perfect foundation for progressing to Masters-level study as you'll have developed the core skills of both critical and creative thinking. You could take a Masters in any of the fields you've specialised in during your second and final years. Our liberal arts students love to learn and many do go on to postgraduate study.


Our students are optimistic, imaginative and cosmopolitan – liberal arts creates the people that employers want. In a world in which complex global issues can't be solved by one discipline alone, liberal arts graduates will have an edge. You'll develop many transferable skills including:

  • a flexible mind, able to adapt to new areas and ways of thinking
  • fluid and imaginative communication
  • critical thinking
  • report writing
  • problem solving
  • creativity

A huge range of careers will be open to you. We offer specific employability modules to help you find work, apply for jobs and develop a career. Our Employability and Careers Centre can help you articulate your skills and wide-ranging experience to prospective employers.

How to apply

We're interested in you as an individual. Applications are judged on a lot more than just scores. We want to learn about you. We want to understand why you want to study liberal arts and what you want to do with your life. This is why we’ll look at your entire application, not just your grades.