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Studying a Postgraduate Course in the Humanities

With the study of humanities at postgraduate level becoming increasingly popular, so too does the demand for postgraduate funding. The term ‘humanities’ covers a wide range of subjects from history and philosophy to literature, and there is only a finite amount of money available to finance research within these areas.

The majority of humanities funding comes from the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) an organisation that aims to finance, strengthen and promote world-class research and training. However, due to the current economic climate the AHRC have had to significantly cut their financial support (withdrawing up to 500 postgraduate scholarships and grants) meaning that funding a course within this sector has become a little more difficult.

However, this shouldn’t put you off from considering a course in the humanities sector. Far from it – the AHRC are willing to fund a number of different research areas from TV history on the web and the political face of the Olympics.


Areas of Specialism

History, Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Art

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History and historical artefacts are often subject to revision based on new evidence, theory and ways of viewing, and academics in this area are constantly reviewing and questioning given assumptions about history.

Master’s study not only provides an opportunity for students to develop personal interest in their subject area, but also provides a range of transferable skills for work in areas in which an understanding of our own and other cultures is applicable. Examples can include the tourist industry, arts and social policy sectors, as well as academic and applied research.

Research in history, anthropology and architecture is wide ranging; there are plenty of opportunities to revise history based on new evidence and external collaboration with museums, heritage groups or art galleries is common.

Search for history courses on Postgraduate Search


Philosophy and Religion

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Given that an estimated four billion people are adherents of the major religions, increased knowledge and understanding of religion is of great importance in understanding different communities throughout the world.

The application of ethics is particularly relevant in today’s society due to breakthroughs in the biomedical sciences, the environment, international relations and other professions. Philosophy and religious studies postgraduates have the opportunity to relate to important questions about the world and its continuing development.

Taught master’s degrees in philosophy can be MA (Master of Arts) or MSc (Master of Science), depending on the content and institution studied at. Since the introduction of a Philosophy option for study in Scottish schools, some Scottish universities, such as the University of Aberdeen, have been assisting in the provision of philosophy teaching in local sixth forms. Research programmes can focus on one particular aspect of philosophy – for example, logic, metaphysics, rationality or moral philosophy.


English Studies, Languages and Linguistics

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Language is one of the key tools that can help us define ourselves, our history and the world around us. Master’s students of English studies, languages and linguistics will be able to specialise in areas such as phonetics, semantics, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, historical linguistics and the history of English, philosophy of language, linguistic evolution, translation studies, and applied linguistics.

Students interested in translation work as a career can specialise at master’s level and will need to have some professional experience and undertake continuing professional development to become a member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI).


Human and Social Geography

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Social geography is concerned with how society affects geographical features and how environmental factors affect society. Within this field, areas of study could include rural or urban exodus, or whether low-rise developments generate a different type of daily life than tower blocks.

As this sort of questioning is about the building blocks of modern life, specialising in this area could lead to a range of careers including town planning and urban design as well as irrigation and public health in less-developed countries.


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