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What's it like to study a History degree?

History is the study of the past, but what about your future? Check out our case studies of real students to find out just what it's like to study the subject.

Click on each name to read their story, or scroll through:

Eve – Manchester

Eve, 20, moved up north to study having lived in Wantage in Oxfordshire previously. The bright lights of a sprawling metropolis attracted her to Manchester, especially when juxtaposed with the handful of charity shops which were on offer back home.

Eve History Case Study

What inspired you to study a History degree?

At school History was always my favourite subject. I was by far the most capable at it than any of my other A-Levels, and so it seemed to be a natural trajectory for me to go and study the past at a higher level. Modern History is definitely my preferred discipline.

Why did you choose to study at your univeristy?

Manchester is renowned for an eclectic and intense night-life, which definitely helped sway my opinion. On the academic side of things, it is a Russell Group uni, and so that gives obvious incentive. 

What do you like about the course?

The choices we are given definitely allow us the opportunity to slightly tailor our courses to our strengths. We can choose essays or exams as our means of assessment, and so as an essay-type person I can put more emphasis on essay-based work. The few contact hours also allow me to go off and carry out my own research, as oppossed to sitting in a stagnant lecture theatre for hours on end. 

What are you learning about?

After the summer I will be learning about modern Britain, modern warfare and early modern europe … as you can see my penchant for modernity is being indulged. 

What learning methods does your department employ?

It's a mixed bag. I have had lectures, seminars and a lot of self-led study.

What aspects of the course do you find difficult?

The vast quantity of History students, which is 500+, is a hindrance at times, as one-to-one tutor time becomes hard to come by.

Does the department support you well?

Yes and no. In terms of email support, the faculty is pretty good, providing written help relatively promptly. However sometimes your needs transcend the effectiveness of an email, and due to the low contact hours and large subscription to the course, a meaningful experience with a tutor is hard to come by, which is far from ideal. 

How do you fund your studies?

I am lucky in that I have my student loan and my parents who provide me with money so I can afford to spend more time on research.

What about the social side of things at uni, does a History student find much time for it?

When you have a maximum of 12 hours in lectures a week there is plenty of time and plenty of people to socialise with. As I have said, Manchester is a hot-bed for activities. The array of nights out on offer is astounding.

What sort of things do you get up to?

I swim regularly and volunteer for the Outreach charity.

What do you plan to do once you’ve graduated?

I am thinking about a law conversion, or a permanent role in the charity sector.

How has your department supported your career aspirations? 

There has been a lot of information on law conversions and postgraduate degree options such as doing a masters or PHD. There has also been career days , workshops have been held on careers such as marketing and banking.

Josie Child Photo

Josie – Durham

20 year old Josie, of Oxfordshire, cites her experience at a good secondary school as a major contributing factor to her decision to go to university. She has thoroughly enjoyed her time as a student at Durham thus far, having studied for two years already and is contemplating taking a masters in order to further both her knowledge of her chosen subjects and her student experience. 

What inspired you to study a History degree?

My fantastic A-level teacher! As well as a thorough enjoyment for and interest in the subject, and a desire to keep studying at a higher level.

Why did you choose to study at your university?

Durham has a great reputation and stays close to the top of league tables for both of my disciplines. I hope this will give me a higher standard of education as well as better career prospects. What with the rise in fees, employability has become a big factor in my decision.

What do you like about the course?

The department specialises in a wide range of geographical areas as well as periods and themes across time. I like the opportunity to study widely across these as well as deeply into specific areas.

What are you learning about?

Next year I'll be doing one module on interpreting conflict in postcolonial Africa, and another in Native American and minority rights in the US, 1914-2000. Last year most of my modules were early modern so I've deliberately chosen modern modules for a change.

What learning methods does your department employ?

Our modules are taught in weekly lectures as well as fortnightly seminars of small groups of about 8. Every module has a percentage of assessed coursework as well as exams. We can also arrange to meet with our professors if we're struggling with work.

What aspects of the course do you find difficult? Does the department support you well?

It's definitely been a big step up from sixth form. We're expected to study so much independently, so it can be really hard to motivate yourself. The lecturers can only do so much - at the end of the day, whether or not you do well in a module comes down to whether you've put the hours in or not.

How do you fund your studies? 

I work during holidays for the Medical Research Council as an animal technician. It has absolutely nothing to do with my degree but it keeps me out of my overdraft!

What about the social side of things at university, does a History student find much time for it?

As an arts student I have an average of about 8 contact hours a week, so have plenty of leisure time.

I'm involved with a few societies and sports teams - I captain our college ultimate frisbee team and I'm part of the basketball team, I'm secretary for the film-making society, and I'm a bible study leader for my college Christian Union. I love that my course allows me to get so involved with things like this.

What do you plan to do once you’ve graduated?

I’d like to do something which lasts a year - potentially a master's degree, or an internship in the media, or in publishing or journalism. I'm also considering graduate schemes with companies like the BBC, but they’re intimidatingly competitive.

I find it hard to plan what I want to do in the long term because my degree isn't very vocational and my options are therefore very flexible.

How has your department supported your career aspirations?

I would say that this is more the area of the careers centre, which is run by the university and supplies lots of subject specific support about making the most of your degree.

The history society, which works closely with the department, organises lots of speakers; if you're interested in further study, this is really handy for networking and creating opportunities for the future.