Liberal Arts: Frequently asked questions


Do I have to decide now whether to do the BA or MLibArts?

No. You can apply to either one, and transfer to the other later if you wish. If you would like to go abroad in Year 3, the latest that you can transfer onto the MlibArts programme is the beginning of Year 2. This is because you need to apply for your place abroad in November of the second year. You can transfer onto the BA course at any time up until the end of Year 2.  

Don’t worry, you’ll get a reminder and lots of help.

How do 'pathways' work?

Informally, the pathway is also called your ‘major', ie the subject in which you will specialise, while also taking Liberal Arts core units and options in other subjects that interest you. One-quarter of your units are done in the pathway, and you graduate with a degree in Liberal Arts ‘with’ that pathway (eg History, or Theatre). Each subject has a coherent curriculum for Liberal Arts students, with some required units and plenty of optional choices.

In the last year of your degree you will do a dissertation that ideally will be on a topic that draws on material you have been studying both in your pathway and in other units. 

How many credits do I need to take in my pathway?

Students are expected to take 120 credits in each year of study. By the end of your degree you should have passed: 

  • Liberal Arts (BA) – 360 credits in total of which 100 credits must be in your pathway; 

  • Liberal Arts with Study Abroad (MLibArts) - 480 credits in total of which 120 credits must be in your pathway. 

To meet these targets the framework requires you take: 

  • Years 1 and 2 – at least 40 credits in your subject pathway for each year 

  • Year 3 - at least 20 credits in your subject pathway (BA programme OR up to a third of your units in your subject pathway whilst abroad (MLibArts programme).   

  • Year 4 - at least 40 credits in your subject pathway (MLibArts only).  

How much free choice will I have?

Quite a lot. In Years 1 and 2 half of your units will split between pathway and optional units of your choice. The amount of choice for your pathway will depend upon which pathway you choose. Some pathways list units which the departments feel Liberal Arts students should take to help their studies progress in that discipline. Other departments allow students to choose from a range of units.  In Year 3 of the BA programme you will choose three pathway and optional units. In Year 4 of the MlibArts programme, you will choose up to four pathway and optional units.   

How does the year abroad work?

See our study abroad page.

How do I write my personal statement for UCAS?

It might seem difficult to write a statement both for the interdisciplinary Liberal Arts degree and for a single or joint degree (eg BA English), but the qualities we look for in students coming to the University of Bristol are the same in all cases.

Other applicants will be in the same situation as you, and our admissions team is fully alert to it, so you needn’t think you will be disadvantaged. The reasons you give for your interest in specific subjects will stand you in good stead for Liberal Arts. Conversely, a good Liberal Arts applicant will be attractive to admissions officers recruiting for single or joint honours degrees. If you read the admissions statement carefully, you will notice that one of the criteria for Liberal Arts is “interest in links between subjects and overarching themes of historical or contemporary relevance”. This is what the Liberal Arts degree is about; but it’s also a quality that any admissions officer would think commendable.

Who do I contact for further information?

If you have any questions about our Liberal Arts courses, get in touch with our admissions team via:

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