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Ancient World at UCL or Classics and the Ancient World at KCL?

Hi everyone, I have recently received unconditional offers from both KCL and UCL. I haven’t had a chance to visit open days for both, as my applications were very last minute, so I’m not sure which environment is ‘better’ for me. I’ve compared the modules for both and neither one stands out more than the other, and the locations are pretty similar, so it’s really just down to me choosing. I have no idea which one to go for!! does anyone have any advice?
Reply 1
Lots of universities invite people to offer holder days which are more exclusive than open days as they are just for people who have been offered a place. Maybe email the universities to see if they offer these as this would be a great way to look around both unis and meet other possible students.
I don't know that much about KCLs course - if it's the one I think it is then it's notable for allowing you to potentially switch into an intensive stream to graduate with the same language background as someone doing the full classics course, even with no prior language study - although caveat being you have to give up your summers to study for that and thus can't work or get internships and need to be resident in London year round, which is financially challenging.

But some things to note for UCL: the first year for ancient world is kind of heavier on ancient history/archaeology, but thereafter you have a huge amount of freedom in which modules to take provided they are in the "ancient world" area (which gives you a big range of modules - everything in classics, a large chunk of the archaeology modules, and various ancient history options, plus ancient philosophy). The introductory language modules are pretty intensive at UCL although really this is probably a good thing to ensure you get a good grounding in the language.

Also the location of UCL makes it much easier to take intercollegiate modules at SOAS in relevant areas e.g. Sanskrit, Avestan, Middle Persian etc, if that's of interest. UCL also offers more options in the ancient near east through the department of Hebrew & Jewish Studies (Akkadian and Sumerian being regular options there, and also having non-language options from time to time in e.g. ancient near Eastern science and so on), as well as courses on Judaism in the ancient world and Biblical Hebrew, if that's of interest. That said in principle you can take intercollegiate modules at either, and although I don't know how common it is for KCL students to take SOAS modules I do know the two classics departments of KCL and UCL coordinate a bit at least for the masters level so I imagine it's possible to take optional modules from one at the other, although timetabling could be a big issue (given the need to travel across to KCL for those modules), so you may get much the same options potentially at both.
Reply 3
Original post by 4orbit
Lots of universities invite people to offer holder days which are more exclusive than open days as they are just for people who have been offered a place. Maybe email the universities to see if they offer these as this would be a great way to look around both unis and meet other possible students.


Thank you, that’s a great idea! I’ll definitely email and ask. I only just noticed that there was an email from UCL sitting in my junk mail about a virtual event to find out more, but it’s been sold out unfortunately! Hopefully they have other events soon haha
Reply 4
Original post by artful_lounger
I don't know that much about KCLs course - if it's the one I think it is then it's notable for allowing you to potentially switch into an intensive stream to graduate with the same language background as someone doing the full classics course, even with no prior language study - although caveat being you have to give up your summers to study for that and thus can't work or get internships and need to be resident in London year round, which is financially challenging.

But some things to note for UCL: the first year for ancient world is kind of heavier on ancient history/archaeology, but thereafter you have a huge amount of freedom in which modules to take provided they are in the "ancient world" area (which gives you a big range of modules - everything in classics, a large chunk of the archaeology modules, and various ancient history options, plus ancient philosophy). The introductory language modules are pretty intensive at UCL although really this is probably a good thing to ensure you get a good grounding in the language.

Also the location of UCL makes it much easier to take intercollegiate modules at SOAS in relevant areas e.g. Sanskrit, Avestan, Middle Persian etc, if that's of interest. UCL also offers more options in the ancient near east through the department of Hebrew & Jewish Studies (Akkadian and Sumerian being regular options there, and also having non-language options from time to time in e.g. ancient near Eastern science and so on), as well as courses on Judaism in the ancient world and Biblical Hebrew, if that's of interest. That said in principle you can take intercollegiate modules at either, and although I don't know how common it is for KCL students to take SOAS modules I do know the two classics departments of KCL and UCL coordinate a bit at least for the masters level so I imagine it's possible to take optional modules from one at the other, although timetabling could be a big issue (given the need to travel across to KCL for those modules), so you may get much the same options potentially at both.


Thanks a lot! Yes, it’s the one that allows switching to Classics after a year. You mentioned summer study, and I noticed it on their website too, but do you have a general idea of what this actually entails? As in, would I be having to go to KCL in person consistently during summer, or is it independent studies? Being a London resident is not much of a problem for me, as I live here permanently and will have to commute anyway!

And the information you’ve provided for UCL is very useful thank you! Ancient history and archaeology is more up my alley anyway, so I’m more than happy for the first year to be focused on that, and then expanding after.

Oh wow, that’s definitely something that I would be interested in. I actually did my first year of classics at another university and they never offered anything like that, so this is really appealing to me. I noticed that on the programme summary for Ancient World that UCL sent on Portico, the list of modules doesn’t really include what you’ve mentioned. Are these modules ones that I would have to ask for separately, or is the module list not a fully extensive one?

sorry for all the questions haha, I just really want to make sure of everything before making a decision!
Original post by asiwoo
Thanks a lot! Yes, it’s the one that allows switching to Classics after a year. You mentioned summer study, and I noticed it on their website too, but do you have a general idea of what this actually entails? As in, would I be having to go to KCL in person consistently during summer, or is it independent studies? Being a London resident is not much of a problem for me, as I live here permanently and will have to commute anyway!

And the information you’ve provided for UCL is very useful thank you! Ancient history and archaeology is more up my alley anyway, so I’m more than happy for the first year to be focused on that, and then expanding after.

Oh wow, that’s definitely something that I would be interested in. I actually did my first year of classics at another university and they never offered anything like that, so this is really appealing to me. I noticed that on the programme summary for Ancient World that UCL sent on Portico, the list of modules doesn’t really include what you’ve mentioned. Are these modules ones that I would have to ask for separately, or is the module list not a fully extensive one?

sorry for all the questions haha, I just really want to make sure of everything before making a decision!

So for KCL from what I gleaned on their site, the summer study is intensive in person classes - which may then present challenges financially if you needed to work over the summer. Also there is a definitely opportunity cost of not being able to pursue internships etc over the summer, as you only really have the spring period then. If you're aiming for academia then this is not a big deal, if you wanted to go into investment banking or something...probably a bigger issue. Worth considering.

For UCL on the language side I'd note that you can do one language to advanced level and start the other in second year and do it to intermediate level, so you would have a decent level in both languages that way (albeit probably not as advanced in both as the intensive course at KCL). They don't allow you to do both languages at beginners level in the same year normally though.

For modules at UCL you can see the recommended external modules listed on this page: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/classics/study/undergraduate/modules-2022-23/structures (these are for all Greek & Latin department programmes). See also for AW specifically: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/classics/ancient-world-all-modules and https://www.ucl.ac.uk/classics/study/undergraduate/ba-ancient-world-sample-options. I imagine the list sent on portico isn't exhaustive - the lists above aren't either really as it will depend on what's available each year! But there's lots of options from different perspectives available in different departments e.g. SELCS offers various options in Viking and Old Norse studies including language modules, English offers Old/Middle English language/literature modules, etc.

Spoiler


I forgot also that UCL now has their own Sanskritist (Dr. Maddalena Italia - who did her PhD at SOAS!) so you can take Sanskrit at UCL (at least for beginners level - not sure if they will be offering intermediate level, although this is available at SOAS). You can also take, with permission from the lecturer to supervise you at SOAS and from your home department at UCL, an independent reading/study module at SOAS doing more advanced Sanskrit topics if you want - they have previously allowed students to do e.g. Vedic Sanskrit in this way, after the old Vedic Sanskrit module was cut at SOAS). If you're particularly interested in ancient South Asia (as I am!) SOAS also offers various other non-language based modules of relevance in the art history and religions & philosophies departments there, which you may be permitted to take.
(edited 1 year ago)
Reply 6
Original post by artful_lounger
So for KCL from what I gleaned on their site, the summer study is intensive in person classes - which may then present challenges financially if you needed to work over the summer. Also there is a definitely opportunity cost of not being able to pursue internships etc over the summer, as you only really have the spring period then. If you're aiming for academia then this is not a big deal, if you wanted to go into investment banking or something...probably a bigger issue. Worth considering.

For UCL on the language side I'd note that you can do one language to advanced level and start the other in second year and do it to intermediate level, so you would have a decent level in both languages that way (albeit probably not as advanced in both as the intensive course at KCL). They don't allow you to do both languages at beginners level in the same year normally though.

For modules at UCL you can see the recommended external modules listed on this page: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/classics/study/undergraduate/modules-2022-23/structures (these are for all Greek & Latin department programmes). See also for AW specifically: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/classics/ancient-world-all-modules and https://www.ucl.ac.uk/classics/study/undergraduate/ba-ancient-world-sample-options. I imagine the list sent on portico isn't exhaustive - the lists above aren't either really as it will depend on what's available each year! But there's lots of options from different perspectives available in different departments e.g. SELCS offers various options in Viking and Old Norse studies including language modules, English offers Old/Middle English language/literature modules, etc.

Spoiler


I forgot also that UCL now has their own Sanskritist (Dr. Maddalena Italia - who did her PhD at SOAS!) so you can take Sanskrit at UCL (at least for beginners level - not sure if they will be offering intermediate level, although this is available at SOAS). You can also take, with permission from the lecturer to supervise you at SOAS and from your home department at UCL, an independent reading/study module at SOAS doing more advanced Sanskrit topics if you want - they have previously allowed students to do e.g. Vedic Sanskrit in this way, after the old Vedic Sanskrit module was cut at SOAS). If you're particularly interested in ancient South Asia (as I am!) SOAS also offers various other non-language based modules of relevance in the art history and religions & philosophies departments there, which you may be permitted to take.


Oh dear, yeah that’s not really the best situation for me since I usually would like to work or go abroad or something during summer, not be stuck doing more classes, especially since I’m most definitely not pursuing academia.

That’s amazing! I’m actually South Asian haha so this is VERY compelling for me, and I’d love to be able to study or, at the very least, touch upon those languages/topics. Is it that I won’t be able to do those sort of languages unless I do Greek/Latin first? Or would I be able to do one of those languages, and Greek/Latin over the course of the three years? This has definitely made me lean heavily towards UCL now, I never realised the breadth of their modules and options.

Thank you so much!
Original post by asiwoo
Oh dear, yeah that’s not really the best situation for me since I usually would like to work or go abroad or something during summer, not be stuck doing more classes, especially since I’m most definitely not pursuing academia.

That’s amazing! I’m actually South Asian haha so this is VERY compelling for me, and I’d love to be able to study or, at the very least, touch upon those languages/topics. Is it that I won’t be able to do those sort of languages unless I do Greek/Latin first? Or would I be able to do one of those languages, and Greek/Latin over the course of the three years? This has definitely made me lean heavily towards UCL now, I never realised the breadth of their modules and options.

Thank you so much!

So the external intercollegiate options I don't think have any particular restrictions, obviously it will be quite intensive if you are doing two languages starting from scratch in the same year. I don't know if the restrictions for taking a beginners module in the department of Greek & Latin apply to languages other than Greek or Latin at UCL though (specifically Sanskrit and Hittite are the relevant options available).

I'd expect languages in other departments/at SOAS there are no formal restrictions on, although depending on your background you may be advised to take fewer languages to start. But in principle it's possible - ancient languages BA students normally do at least two languages from scratch in first year (Biblical Hebrew and Greek or Latin) plus can take others in their options even in first year from scratch if they wish (except, they can't take both Greek and Latin beginners at the same time).

Generally once you've had some background in one of the ancient languages it becomes a lot easier to start picking up others though, since you already have the metalanguage required to understand how to learn an ancient language (also depending on the languages you may notice cognates or related/similar endings/processes). That said there's no reason you can't start learning e.g. Sanskrit without having a background in Greek or Latin - certainly it can be helpful to have some background to make things easier but plenty of people at SOAS at least did Sanskrit without any background in other ancient Indo-European languages :smile:

Doing Sanskrit first/in parallel actually might make some things easier to grasp in Greek or Latin (understanding why the dative/ablative seem to have so many functions makes more sense when you realise they've just "rolled up" several other older cases from proto-Indo-European which you can see as still present in Sanskrit - and you can also see that in many cases the endings are the same in several declensions so you can see why at a point the distinctions between the cases blurred and it just became a function of one case rather than two distinct ones!) :biggrin:

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