Liberal Arts at The University of Manchester

Liberal Arts are about the training and development of free and active citizens.

Liberal Arts are among the earliest intellectual pursuits, and Liberal Arts programmes and modules at The University of Manchester can help you to understand how big ideas from across the arts and humanities affect our world and can be a driver for positive change.

Scroll down to find out more about the unique opportunities Liberal Arts at The University of Manchester can provide you with.

Prepare to be challenged and inspired on an exciting, innovative, and unique degree programme

Experience challenge-led, interdisciplinary learning.

Modules and programmes in Liberal Arts emphasise learning beyond disciplinary boundaries.

You'll be trained in how to consider the importance of research that impacts communities, as well as developing your own work, using support from Creative Manchester, with institutions and groups across Manchester.

Make a difference.

A degree in Liberal Arts will give you unrivalled scope to engage with the issues that matter to you in the world, from AI to climate change, and from mental health and wellbeing to diversity and inclusivity. You'll also gain the skills needed to apply your learning to everyday life, and to Make a Difference in the world.

Courses like Understanding Rhetoric are exciting and particularly relevant. The course tackled many heavy fields of thought and subjects which were always extremely interesting, from the Ancient Greeks to Donald Trump.

Liberal Arts student

The University of Manchester is ranked number one in the world for its commitment to social responsibility as the world's top institution for social and environmental impact,* and these values, alongside world-class teaching and research, are built into the core of our Liberal Arts programmes.

*Times Higher Education University Impact Ranking, 2021, measured against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Bring your passion and enthusiasm for bold thinking

Study Liberal Arts in a way that works best for you.

There are multiple ways to study Liberal Arts at The University of Manchester. For more information on the degree programmes you can take in Liberal Arts, click one of the buttons below.

**Subject to academic approval and timetabling restrictions.

Learn in one of the most diverse cities in the UK

Tailor your programme to suit your interests.

Pursue your interests with a range of modules that contextualise knowledge and that allow you to explore further the topics that matter to you.

Combine bespoke Liberal Arts modules with optional courses from across the School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures, as well as from the School of Social Sciences. You'll also have the opportunity to take modules from the University College for Interdisciplinary Learning (UCIL).

If you're interested in studying a language, there are a number of routes that enable you to take up a new language or continue with one you've already started learning. There's a huge range of options from classical to modern languages, and you can dip in and out or specialise in a language as a Minor subject.

You can also specialise in other Minor subjects alongside your Liberal Arts Major, via the School of Arts, Languages & Cultures' Flexible Honours scheme. This gives you access to around 30 subjects that you can spend a third of your degree studying, which you can then choose to add to your degree title.

Both Languages and Minor subjects are completely optional.

Some Minor subjects, such as Languages, give you an opportunity to study abroad during the summer between your second and third year. You can also spend a year abroad as part of your Liberal Arts degree by applying through UCAS to our 4-year programme, or apply to transfer to the 4-year International Study programme after your first year of study.

**Modules are subject to availability and timetabling restrictions.

Encounter ideas from a range of perspectives, contexts, and traditions.

There are three categories of modules in the Liberal Arts programme that are designed to give you both structure and flexibility in your studies:

  • Core modules. These are bespoke courses that will give you the foundations needed to contextualise knowledge from across a range of different disciplines. You'll also gain the skills to communicate ideas with different academic and non-academic audiences.
  • Interests and issues. You will be able to select modules from a shortlist of courses across the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures that teach key issues like truth, communication, and humanness from interdisciplinary perspectives. You will also be able to select units from UCIL's lists. These optional units allow you to delve deeper into the topics that interest you.
  • Thematic clusters. Modules from across the University are structured into categories in order for you to identify where you'd like to specialise or broaden further your interests. These clusters give you to most freedom and flexibility of what to study, and you can discuss your options with your academic advisor as you progress through your programme.

These three categories provide a balance between breadth and depth, allowing you to understand the general landscape of knowledge production and communication, as well as gaining more focused insights into key topics and ideas.

In your Liberal Arts programme, you'll have the chance to engage with ideas from familiar and unfamiliar traditions and perspectives, and reflect on your own values and beliefs. You'll be able to critique assumptions about cultural and intellectual norms, such as perceptions of truth, justice, and power.

Explore big ideas that shape the world

Delve into the topics that matter to you.

Liberal Arts Thematic Clusters provide an innovative way to help you to decide what you want to study on your BA degree programme, free of disciplinary boundaries.

There are three sets of Thematic Clusters:

  1. Foundations.
  2. Topics.
  3. Skills.

Foundations cover the theories and methods that can complement your core modules and give you a deeper insight into some of the ideas that underwrite interdisciplinary research and challenge-led learning.

Skills are highlighted throughout your programme to give you opportunities to develop your creative and entrepreneurial strengths, which will be beneficial throughout your programme and beyond.

Topics give you the most flexibility throughout your programme. You can specialise in one topical cluster over the course of your programme, or you can spread your studies across some or all of the topical clusters. You'll have an academic advisor who can help you to select the modules that are right for you.

These are the six topical Thematic Clusters:

  1. Bodies and beliefs.
  2. People and places.
  3. Governance and societies.
  4. Texts and contexts.
  5. Communication and culture.
  6. Ecology and environment.

Please note: Modules offered within each Thematic Cluster are subject to change each year, depending on availability. Each cluster features modules within and beyond the School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures.

**Subject to availability and timetabling restrictions.

Liberal Arts modules

Key to symbols for three routes of studying Liberal Arts (BA programmes; minor programme; free choice on other programmes)

  • ✅ Compulsory (core) module
  • 🆗 Available as an option (subject to programme requirements)
  • 🚫 Not available as an option

Year 1

In your first year, you’ll explore the role and value of the humanities for the generation of knowledge and for their impacts on the world. You’ll be able to explore and challenge the distinction between the arts, humanities, and sciences, and learn about new, cutting-edge insights that are changing the landscape of knowledge in digital, interdisciplinary, and culturally diverse contexts. You’ll also be able to learn about the pioneers behind these ideas, interrogate why we find ourselves drawn to key thinkers over others, and ask how we might rethink our foundations for understanding ourselves and the world.

Core units

SALC1XXX1 Research Methods in the Arts

  • ✅ BA Liberal Arts
  • 🚫 Minor programme
  • 🚫 Free choice unit

Methods and methodological concerns are at the heart of all research: the questions that we ask can impact the answers that we find. As such, it’s particularly important to develop a critical understanding of methodologies, both when evaluating others’ research, as well as developing your own.

This course trains you to think critically about methodologies across the arts and humanities, partially in differentiation to scientific methodologies. The course complements SALC10411 History of Humanities by going into more detail on the methodologies and perspectives that are encountered in different intellectual and social contexts.

You will have a chance to reflect on how you might apply different methodologies to your own interdisciplinary, challenge-led research that you will develop throughout your Liberal Arts degree programme (and beyond). What sources and datasets will you use, how will you bring together ideas from different disciplines, and how will you consider the impacts and implications of your research? The course helps you to think about the role and value of the humanities as represented through its methods, and this is an important foundation for Liberal Arts study. You will be able to make connections across ideas while raising appropriate critiques of them, which are skills that will be continually emphasised throughout your programme.

SALC10411 History of Humanities: The Past, Present and Future of Ideas that Shape the World

  • ✅ BA Liberal Arts
  • ✅ Minor programme
  • 🆗 Free choice unit

The humanities are important for helping us to understand and challenge the cultures and structures through which we live our lives. They encompass a broad set of disciplines ranging from social, legal, political, and economic theory, to theory driven by research in the arts, and to philosophical reflection on how we (should) make sense of the world. Broadly speaking, research from across the humanities impacts communities and the ways in which we approach them.

Through a range of teaching styles, including lectures, seminars, and workshops delivered in partnership with cultural institutions such as the John Rylands Library and the Museum of Medicine and Health, this course highlights the contributions that the humanities have made to knowledge in both universities and academic contexts, as well as in societies and in public contexts. It asks how we develop, categorise, and value different forms of wisdom and knowledge in our quest to cast light on the breadth of our human experiences.

On the course, students will critically consider topics such as the divide between humanities and sciences, interdisciplinarity, the social and political context of knowledge and ideas, the public role of the university, and new trends in the humanities, including medical humanities, digital humanities, and posthumanities. The course will help students to contextualise their learning in other modules, and to begin to critique some of the trends that underpin our approaches to the humanities, as well as to the human face of knowledge more widely.

SALC10002 Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Foundations for Study in the Arts

  • ✅ BA Liberal Arts
  • ✅ Minor programme
  • 🆗 Free choice unit

This Level 1 course introduces you to the key ideas, concepts and thinkers in the Western tradition which underpin the ways we approach the world in the different disciplines in the arts, from archaeology to literature, history to film, art to drama, religion to music. In the course students are introduced to a spectrum of revolutionary ideas in Western thought including well known figures like Freud and Marx to less familiar arguments on gender proposed by Connell and Fanon's writing on ethnicity. Each week, you will explore a central idea in a lecture, a seminar, and your written submissions, and engage directly with the texts or images at the heart of the debate. By doing so, you will gain a broad foundation in the ideas and concepts you will use throughout your degree programme in the School, and come to understand the intellectual underpinnings of the Western approach to knowledge, wisdom and truth.

Optional units

Thematic Clusters

  • ✅ BA Liberal Arts
  • 🚫 Minor programme
  • 🚫 Free choice unit

You'll be able to choose from modules that explore notions of truth, that reveal the role that language has played in shaping ourselves and our cultures, and that introduce you to digital tools and methodologies.

If you want to, you'll be able to take modules from the Thematic Clusters - including modules from areas in the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, but also in the School of Social Sciences (in disciplines such as Philosophy, Sociology, Social Anthropology, and Criminology), and in the School of Environment, Education and Development (in disciplines such as Geography, Planning, and Education).

You can choose to take language(s) through a number of study routes.

You'll also have the opportunity to start a Minor in another subject through Flexible Honours. If you choose not to take up a Minor, you'll be able to select more options from the four Thematic Clusters.

Year 2

In your second year, through a combination of theory and practice, you will learn more about the communication of ideas. You’ll see how rhetoric – the art of persuasive speech and writing – has had a huge impact on the world since ancient times, and can help us to make sense of public speech from politicians, advertisers, and activists, as well as to respond to the crises of polemics, post-truth, and ‘fake news’ that we currently face. You’ll also learn about the particular challenges faced by the city of Manchester, a cultural and one-time industrial hub, and you’ll find out how current arts-based research works with communities to bring about change.

Core units

SALC21141 Understanding Rhetoric: The Arts of Persuasion

  • ✅ BA Liberal Arts
  • 🆗 Minor programme
  • 🆗 Free choice unit

In a world that is faced with the challenges of ‘fake news’, ‘information bubbles’, and ‘post-truth politics’, the importance of rhetoric cannot be understated. Rhetoric is the art of effective or persuasive speech and writing, and insofar as it emphasises the importance of language in shaping our perceptions of the world, it offers a useful way of thinking about the value of the arts and humanities in contemporary society.

In Ancient Greece, an understanding of rhetoric was foundational to the Liberal Arts and to the empowerment of free citizens, and the course begins by introducing students to such early philosophical and philological approaches to persuasive speech and writing. Students are then introduced to different understandings of rhetoric throughout history, before exploring its significance in the contemporary world. These ideas are delivered via a blend of face-to-face lectures as well as access to bespoke online materials from experts in various fields from the arts to statistics, politics, and psychology. Students will be able to engage with these ideas through online exercises and group activities.

In addition to understanding the role of rhetoric in shaping past, present, and future societies, students will also have the opportunity to develop and reflect on their own persuasive speech and writing by preparing for and participating in formal debates. Face-to-face workshops throughout the course will train students how to use debating rhetoric, and this will develop important skills for further academic research as well as in a range of careers including (but not limited to) politics, law, and media.

SALC21152 Arts & The City: People, Power & Protest

  • ✅ BA Liberal Arts
  • ✅ Minor programme
  • 🆗 Free choice unit

Liberal Arts at Manchester emphasises learning and research that is driven by real-world challenges, rather than disciplines. What, then, are the challenges that mark contemporary contexts, for Liberal Arts to engage with? Using Manchester as a laboratory, this course considers different case studies that can be approached by arts-based and humanities research. Topics and case studies that represent various challenges and ethical issues are structured into four thematic clusters that are modelled in the broader Liberal Arts programme: Individuals, Identities & Beliefs; Societies, Cities & Civilisations; Technologies, Materials & Cultures; Environments, Sustainability & Social Responsibility. Students will have the opportunity to explore all of these themes over the course via a range of different learning platforms and environments, including online lectures, face-to-face seminars, and workshops in museums. The course will teach students about some of the research approaches and methodologies that underwrite interdisciplinary and socially responsible research that links to communities outside of academia. Assessment will allow students to develop their explorations of themes of their choice by working (a) in groups to identify, research, and present a case study using PechaKucha, and (b) individually to write an analytical essay.

Optional units

UCIL2XXXX Expressions of Creativity

  • 🆗 BA Liberal Arts
  • 🆗 Minor programme
  • 🆗 Free choice unit

What is creativity and why is it an important employable skill? In this flagship module, which can be taken as a shorter or longer course, and is open to students on Liberal Arts programmes and anywhere across the University, you'll be trained to recognise creativity and to develop your own creative praxis, through groupwork and individual reflective assignments. You'll also have the opportunity to learn about creativity and industry, and recognise how to tailor your creative strengths to your own studies and to a huge range of career paths.

UCIL20402/UCIL20602 Persuading People: Rhetoric in Speeches, Debates and Everyday Life

  • 🚫 BA Liberal Arts
  • 🆗 Minor programme
  • 🆗 Free choice unit

Everywhere in society, we find examples of persuasion. Whether that's a politician trying to convince you to vote for them or to accept their policies, or a business trying to convince you to buy their products, or even a friend trying to convince you to heed their advice, we're always being persuaded and trying to be persuasive.

In this unit, we examine some of the different ways that scholars have theorised what makes effective persuasive tools and techniques. We'll explore the psychology of persuasion, the philosophy of it, and the politics of it. You'll then delve into a range of different examples of persuasion, from the courtroom to the street protest, and from the newspaper to the Twittersphere. The unit will help you to develop the tools needed to make sense of persuasion, including how to recognise and reflect on how we're being persuaded, why that matters, and how we can use these tools to make ourselves more persuasive in turn.

The unit will provide you with a good working knowledge of persuasiveness, which you'll then be able to develop by selecting the topics on the unit that matter the most to you. In addition to gaining deeper insights into different uses of persuasiveness, you'll also learn how to debate with others and to be persuasive even when you don't always agree with the argument that you're putting across.

Click here for more information.

Thematic Clusters

  • ✅ BA Liberal Arts
  • 🚫 Minor programme
  • 🚫 Free choice unit

You'll have the opportunity to delve deeper into key ideas and concepts across the arts, such as critical theory and world philosophies.

You'll also have a choice of modules from UCIL, the University Centre for Interdisciplinary Learning. Modules include topics like AI, aliens, Antarctica, mental health, cybersecurity, sustainability, and diversity.

If you took up a Minor in your first year, you'll be able to carry on with that. If you didn't, or if you'd like to drop your Minor, you'll have access to more modules on the Liberal Arts Thematic Clusters.

You can also choose to continue studying a language, or take up a new one through a number of study routes.

Year 3/4

The skills and knowledge that you gain in your first two years will allow you, in your final year, to develop your own challenge-led, interdisciplinary research project that works with institutions and communities across Manchester. You’ll receive training and support as you conduct your research, and you’ll also be able to pursue topics that interest you in further detail through a list of optional modules.

Core modules

SALC3XXX1 Reflective Methods in Liberal Arts

  • ✅ BA Liberal Arts
  • 🚫 Minor programme
  • 🚫 Free choice unit

Reflective learning is essential across the Liberal Arts, given the breadth of topics that can be explored. Reflective learning enables synthesis of ideas, and to realise the connections across different disciplines. In this module, students will analyse and critique the connections that they have made across their studies and to explore how Liberal Arts respond to challenge-led learning. Students will also have an ability to discuss their reflections with L1 Liberal Arts students, thereby completing the reflexive loop. As part of this, students will receive training to help them to develop and deliver learning resources in a 1 hour small group mentoring session. The reflections that students make in this course will be informed by class discussions, pedagogical theory, and an emphasis on contemporary contexts. The course will additionally prepare students for SALC3XXX0 by helping them to consider their approach to connecting theory with practice.

SALC3XXX0 Creative Manchester: Engagement Project

  • ✅ BA Liberal Arts
  • ✅ Minor programme
  • 🚫 Free choice unit

Creative Manchester is a flagship initiative developed by the School of Arts, Languages & Cultures to facilitate collaborations between researchers, educators, civic leaders, employers, and communities. The Creative Manchester module on the Liberal Arts programme allows students to design and develop their own world-facing research that responds to the needs of organisations and industries in Manchester. Students will be able to utilise volunteering and placement opportunities in building their relationships with impact groups. In addition to volunteering and placement hours, students will meet with an academic project supervisor to oversee the research and writing process. The course will also feature group seminars to provide scope for peer support, as well as guidance from experts on how to consider tasks such as research design, ethics proposals, and report writing. This innovative course celebrates creative approaches to research, communication, and social responsibility. Assessment is divided between coursework (which will typically involve a report) and a final presentation. The course places a strong emphasis on employability skills and brings together different approaches and skills focused on in other core Liberal Arts units.

Optional modules

Thematic Clusters

  • ✅ BA Liberal Arts
  • ✅ Minor programme
  • 🚫 Free choice unit

Your third year gives you the most flexibility to tailor your learning. You can choose to write a long essay, where you will have independent supervision from planning to researching, and from writing to editing. You can also choose to develop your critical knowledge about the importance of the past, aestheticism, romanticism, or modernism as movements and ideas that have impacted the arts.

You'll be able to take a further unit from UCIL, as well as more options from the Liberal Arts Thematic Clusters. If you took a Minor subject in your first and second year, you'll be able to complete it so that you can graduate through Flexible Honours. Alternatively, you can take additional modules from the Thematic Clusters.

Develop key transferable skills from the UK's top university for graduate recruitment and employability.***

Liberal Arts courses implement a range of learning styles, including lectures, seminars, workshops, tutorials, supervisions, and use a mix of online and face-to-face activities.

You'll be assessed in a range of ways, including essays and exams, but also reflective portfolios, individual and group presentations, structured debates, reports, and posters.

Today’s graduate employers are seeking to recruit students who can evidence a range of transferrable skills such as first class communication, adaptability and flexibility, higher level thinking, critical reasoning and the ability to respond positively to feedback. These skills are built into the Liberal Arts curriculum.

Louise Sethi, University of Manchester Careers Consultant

Liberal Arts modules also allow you to work with cultural institutions such as the John Rylands Library, the Museum of Science & Industry, the Museum of Medicine & Health, and the Manchester Museum. Taking your learning beyond the classroom and understanding the impact of research and universities for different sectors of the public is an important part of The University of Manchester's approach to Liberal Arts.

There are also links with the University's in-house Careers Service, and you'll also be eligible for schemes such as Stellify to elevate your learning and employability.

***The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020

Work with non-academic partners throughout your degree


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