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Unit information: What Does It Mean To Be Human? I: The Modern World in 2021/22

Unit name What Does It Mean To Be Human? I: The Modern World
Unit code AFAC10010
Credit points 40
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Ms. Amy Laurent
Open unit status Not open




School/department Arts Faculty Office
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit aims to introduce students to a broad range of topics from, and some of the intellectual questions raised by, the range of disciplines Foundation students may go on to study at degree level. It further aims to help students develop a range of skills required for study at university and to gain an understanding of how particular disciplines may be studied in more depth at undergraduate level. The unit will use the academic content it provides as the vehicle for this development of these skills.

In more detail, the unit has the following aims:

• To introduce students to significant events, movements, ideas, and works of arts, literature, philosophy, and music from the nineteenth century to the present day, with a particular emphasis on understanding how these historical episodes and works contributed to our present day society and its culture.

• To introduce students to primary and secondary source material; to introduce them to the skills required to analyze and evaluate the primary material, to understand the secondary material and critically evaluate it, and to formulate their own ideas in response to this.

• To introduce students to the various disciplines from which they may wish to choose an undergraduate course as a result of progression from the Foundation programme.

• To introduce students to seminar-style discussion lead by a member of academic staff, and to help them develop the skills required to contribute productively and to articulate their own ideas in these discussions.

• To help students develop skills required for study at university, such as writing an essay, critical thinking, or responding to feedback.

The thematic question that titles the unit will be explored from diverse perspectives, e.g. by examining how our understanding of what it is to be human has been influenced by movements such as those for women’s rights, civil rights, climate change, the Labour movement, universal suffrage, Apartheid in South Africa and/or the Holocaust.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. evaluate some of the major episodes in the history of ideas from the nineteenth century to the present day;
  2. relate these episodes to our current society and its culture;
  3. demonstrate an understanding of skills, such as, essay writing, critical thinking, responding to feedback, contributing to seminar-style discussions, and critical appraisal of philosophical arguments, works of music, art, and literature, theological texts, and historical documents appropriate to level C/4.
  4. articulate an understanding of the aims and academic content of a range of disciplines.

Teaching Information

Students will interact with material and presentations from members of staff with research interests in the topic of study, with th eaim the the unit introduces a wide range of disciplines over the lecture series. Each week students will discuss that material and the way they interacted with it in a smaller group seminar, which will also provide opportunities to explore a partcular skill required for study at university e.g. critical thinking, dveeloping an argument, lanning an essay. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Information

1 x 1000 word essay plan (formative).

1 x 2000 word essay (50% of unit mark).

1 x Timed Assessment (50% of unit mark)

An attempt will be required for each assignment.

The written assignments will assess ILOs (1), (2) and (4) and they will also assess many components of ILO (3), especially essay writing, critical thinking and critical appraisal skills. The exam will assess ILOs 1-4, as well as forming an important part of students' preparation for undergraduate study by enabling them to develop the necessary skills to prepare for and undertake a formal examination.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. AFAC10010).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.