The Student Room Group

Best universities for history?

Hi everyone, I’m 15 and want to apply to a UK university for an undergraduate degree as an international student. I want a degree in history and pursue a PhD’s degree after that, because I want to be a researcher. I do pretty well at middle school (ranked 5 out of 260) and have a decent IELTS score. Could you please give me some advice on university choice?

My criteria:
1) I’m not obsessed with the prestige of the university, but I wish to go to a university with good reputation, especially in the field of history.
2) Overall ranking isn’t the most important factor since many of the university rankings these days are becoming more and more unreliable. I didn’t expect the newest QS rankings to go like THAT, and the rankings might change a lot in three years.
3) Ideally, the university should have good graduate prospects. To be specific, I hope that the university can benefit me for my further studies and research in history.
4) I just want to go somewhere where I can study well. I look for universities with small class sizes, intensive teacher/student interaction and rich coursework which help establish my foundations as a researcher. I don’t care about the culture or student life, since my life is almost everything about books and I don’t need to socialize with other students (my mum, who’s a professor herself, says that my ideal job is a researcher because of my characteristics).
5) I think I won’t apply to universities in Scotland, because it takes four years (instead of three) to complete a degree and my family will have to sell our home to support my education if I study in the UK for one year more than usual.

I know that Oxbridge are definitely the best universities available, although I’m unsure whether I can get in. Then some people suggest UCL, which is also difficult to get in (besides, living in London can be very expensive). I’ve considered about Manchester (some people say it’s too large), Durham and Exeter (two "Oxbridge reject" universities?).

If you have any advice for me, please kindly let me learn about it. Thanks for reading this!
Original post by ArchiteuthisDux
Hi everyone, I’m 15 and want to apply to a UK university for an undergraduate degree as an international student. I want a degree in history and pursue a PhD’s degree after that, because I want to be a researcher. I do pretty well at middle school (ranked 5 out of 260) and have a decent IELTS score. Could you please give me some advice on university choice?

My criteria:
1) I’m not obsessed with the prestige of the university, but I wish to go to a university with good reputation, especially in the field of history.
2) Overall ranking isn’t the most important factor since many of the university rankings these days are becoming more and more unreliable. I didn’t expect the newest QS rankings to go like THAT, and the rankings might change a lot in three years.
3) Ideally, the university should have good graduate prospects. To be specific, I hope that the university can benefit me for my further studies and research in history.
4) I just want to go somewhere where I can study well. I look for universities with small class sizes, intensive teacher/student interaction and rich coursework which help establish my foundations as a researcher. I don’t care about the culture or student life, since my life is almost everything about books and I don’t need to socialize with other students (my mum, who’s a professor herself, says that my ideal job is a researcher because of my characteristics).
5) I think I won’t apply to universities in Scotland, because it takes four years (instead of three) to complete a degree and my family will have to sell our home to support my education if I study in the UK for one year more than usual.

I know that Oxbridge are definitely the best universities available, although I’m unsure whether I can get in. Then some people suggest UCL, which is also difficult to get in (besides, living in London can be very expensive). I’ve considered about Manchester (some people say it’s too large), Durham and Exeter (two "Oxbridge reject" universities?).

If you have any advice for me, please kindly let me learn about it. Thanks for reading this!


The first four points all conflate into one. There is a reason (ignoring student popularity, ie who has the cheapest alcohol) that prestige is sticky, the 'best' universities deliver the best outcomes. You should go for prestige, especially when paying overseas fees. So Oxbridge, Russell Group and very few outliers should be your target. If you can't get into them academically, then re-appraise your potential for a research career and the financial value.

Scottish degrees are only 4 years if you leave school and go to Uni from Year 12, ie a year early - which you are allowed to do in Scotland. That first year in Scottish unis is generally equivalent to the final year in Sixth form. If you have full sixth form qualifications, you are usually qualified to start in year 2 and it's a 3 year course thereafter.

Don't listen to nonsense like 'Oxbridge reject' universities. You have 5 choices, every university is lots of people's 'reject'.
Original post by ArchiteuthisDux
Hi everyone, I’m 15 and want to apply to a UK university for an undergraduate degree as an international student. I want a degree in history and pursue a PhD’s degree after that, because I want to be a researcher. I do pretty well at middle school (ranked 5 out of 260) and have a decent IELTS score. Could you please give me some advice on university choice?

My criteria:
1) I’m not obsessed with the prestige of the university, but I wish to go to a university with good reputation, especially in the field of history.
2) Overall ranking isn’t the most important factor since many of the university rankings these days are becoming more and more unreliable. I didn’t expect the newest QS rankings to go like THAT, and the rankings might change a lot in three years.
3) Ideally, the university should have good graduate prospects. To be specific, I hope that the university can benefit me for my further studies and research in history.
4) I just want to go somewhere where I can study well. I look for universities with small class sizes, intensive teacher/student interaction and rich coursework which help establish my foundations as a researcher. I don’t care about the culture or student life, since my life is almost everything about books and I don’t need to socialize with other students (my mum, who’s a professor herself, says that my ideal job is a researcher because of my characteristics).
5) I think I won’t apply to universities in Scotland, because it takes four years (instead of three) to complete a degree and my family will have to sell our home to support my education if I study in the UK for one year more than usual.

I know that Oxbridge are definitely the best universities available, although I’m unsure whether I can get in. Then some people suggest UCL, which is also difficult to get in (besides, living in London can be very expensive). I’ve considered about Manchester (some people say it’s too large), Durham and Exeter (two "Oxbridge reject" universities?).

If you have any advice for me, please kindly let me learn about it. Thanks for reading this!


look at which courses offer modules in the specific periods of history you want to study
I just had a quick look at Complete University 2024 rankings for History, and am astonished by how many universities are currently in clearing!
visit on open days if that is an option- virtual tours if not
Reply 3
Look at staff lists, the modules running and any research centres that are active in the department - there are such a vast range of specialisms within history that, if you're interested in going into research and already have an idea of what you'd like to focus on, this can really help you narrow down your options. If you're looking for universities with good reputations, the most obvious options would be Oxford and Cambridge (but you cannot apply to both within one cycle). The universities you have mentioned are all well respected. As you get five options via UCAS, there is no harm in applying to at least one university that is considered difficult to get into, as you can also have back up options with slightly lower grade requirements.

Two things to keep in mind:
- If you want to pursue a PhD, you will also have to do an MA so will need to pay for four years worth of tuition fees regardless (MA funding is unfortunately very rare).
- I know you say socialising with other students isn't a priority, but I'd really recommend considering the importance of research and academic communities. I'm currently a PhD student in a History Department and have found collaborative research to be much more important than I originally realised. There is a lot of emphasis on working with other researchers in organising conferences etc. and networking, and funding consortiums often prioritise this sort of collaborative work. The process of researching itself can be a solitary one, but there is an expectation that you will be involved in the wider research community alongside this. This is why it can be helpful to seek out History Departments with staff and other researchers who have interests similar to your own.
Original post by ArchiteuthisDux
Hi everyone, I’m 15 and want to apply to a UK university for an undergraduate degree as an international student. I want a degree in history and pursue a PhD’s degree after that, because I want to be a researcher. I do pretty well at middle school (ranked 5 out of 260) and have a decent IELTS score. Could you please give me some advice on university choice?
My criteria:
1) I’m not obsessed with the prestige of the university, but I wish to go to a university with good reputation, especially in the field of history.
2) Overall ranking isn’t the most important factor since many of the university rankings these days are becoming more and more unreliable. I didn’t expect the newest QS rankings to go like THAT, and the rankings might change a lot in three years.
3) Ideally, the university should have good graduate prospects. To be specific, I hope that the university can benefit me for my further studies and research in history.
4) I just want to go somewhere where I can study well. I look for universities with small class sizes, intensive teacher/student interaction and rich coursework which help establish my foundations as a researcher. I don’t care about the culture or student life, since my life is almost everything about books and I don’t need to socialize with other students (my mum, who’s a professor herself, says that my ideal job is a researcher because of my characteristics).
5) I think I won’t apply to universities in Scotland, because it takes four years (instead of three) to complete a degree and my family will have to sell our home to support my education if I study in the UK for one year more than usual.
I know that Oxbridge are definitely the best universities available, although I’m unsure whether I can get in. Then some people suggest UCL, which is also difficult to get in (besides, living in London can be very expensive). I’ve considered about Manchester (some people say it’s too large), Durham and Exeter (two "Oxbridge reject" universities?).
If you have any advice for me, please kindly let me learn about it. Thanks for reading this!

Hi,

It's great that you want to study history at university. There are loads of great unis for history in the UK, have you considered LJMU?

I'm currently a first year History student at LJMU. Liverpool is a great place to study History as it's full of culture. One of the reasons I chose LJMU was because of how intriguing the course is. We look at a range of different topics and themes, from all over the world. Although our lectures often have large numbers of people, the seminars are smaller groups where we can discuss our modules together in detail. The assignments are mostly essays and coursework. Although in year one everyone takes the same modules, you have the opportunity to choose which modules you want to study so you can tailor the course to your preferences.

Liverpool is a really popular city for international students. It has a really multi-cultured population and is affordable to live in. You can find more info about international students support at LJMU here. https://www.ljmu.ac.uk/discover/student-support/international-student-
support

I hope this has helped. If you have any more questions about History or LJMU, please feel free to ask.

Sophie
LJMU Student Rep
Reply 5
History is a subject in which Oxford and Cambridge absolutely don't dominate for either graduate prospects on track or research quality. See www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk
(edited 3 weeks ago)
History is a very broad subject area, and there are even areas of what might in some places be called history that elsewhere may fall under other degrees (e.g. ancient history, classics, archaeology, various regional studies courses etc).

What particular periods/regions/topics in history are you interested in? This may guide your choices. For example if you're resolutely interested in bronze age Mesopotamia then you may well prefer looking for courses in Ancient Near Eastern studies and/or archaeology. If you're very interested in Greece and Rome you may want to consider a course in classics or ancient history. Medieval history is pretty varied and there are some specialist courses that may appeal for that depending on your interests in the area e.g. ASNAC at Cambridge or Viking and Old Norse Studies at UCL. For "modern" (i.e. post medieval) history different universities have different regional and period specialisms and general approaches. For example LSE focuses very much on international history, SOAS has a lot of offerings in non-Western regions and postcolonial approaches, Edinburgh has some specialist options in Scottish history etc.

Bear in mind also many areas of history if you pursue it to PhD level and beyond will necessarily require some language background - this might be modern languages (which could be as a "source" language or as a "scholarly" language) or ancient languages (as source languages). For example if you were interested in the ancient near east, you'd need sooner or later to learn Akkadian and/or Sumerian or Hittite as ancient "source" languages, and French and German as modern "scholarly" languages. So having done an undergraduate degree incorporating one or more of those would be useful - and there are only a handful of universities in the UK offering the former options! Also note that for some languages (especially modern Middle Eastern, African, and Asian languages), conventional league tables may not give the best insight (for example typically in those areas SOAS will be the best or second best as they are very specialised in those languages and have great strengths in teaching them - whereas some other conventionally high ranking universities such as Durham may not have that depth of specialism and not have strong teaching in some of those languages).

I'd focus firstly on just doing well in your current studies until you are of the age to apply to uni, and in the meantime think about what particular topics and areas of history you are interested in. That will then give you a good idea of what direction you might want to go into, and which universities may be a good fit for that as your undergrad institution :smile:
Original post by ArchiteuthisDux
Hi everyone, I’m 15 and want to apply to a UK university for an undergraduate degree as an international student. I want a degree in history and pursue a PhD’s degree after that, because I want to be a researcher. I do pretty well at middle school (ranked 5 out of 260) and have a decent IELTS score. Could you please give me some advice on university choice?
My criteria:
1) I’m not obsessed with the prestige of the university, but I wish to go to a university with good reputation, especially in the field of history.
2) Overall ranking isn’t the most important factor since many of the university rankings these days are becoming more and more unreliable. I didn’t expect the newest QS rankings to go like THAT, and the rankings might change a lot in three years.
3) Ideally, the university should have good graduate prospects. To be specific, I hope that the university can benefit me for my further studies and research in history.
4) I just want to go somewhere where I can study well. I look for universities with small class sizes, intensive teacher/student interaction and rich coursework which help establish my foundations as a researcher. I don’t care about the culture or student life, since my life is almost everything about books and I don’t need to socialize with other students (my mum, who’s a professor herself, says that my ideal job is a researcher because of my characteristics).
5) I think I won’t apply to universities in Scotland, because it takes four years (instead of three) to complete a degree and my family will have to sell our home to support my education if I study in the UK for one year more than usual.
I know that Oxbridge are definitely the best universities available, although I’m unsure whether I can get in. Then some people suggest UCL, which is also difficult to get in (besides, living in London can be very expensive). I’ve considered about Manchester (some people say it’s too large), Durham and Exeter (two "Oxbridge reject" universities?).
If you have any advice for me, please kindly let me learn about it. Thanks for reading this!

Hi, it's great that you want to study history and pursue your PHD! It's worth considering SOAS for history because it's offers you the chance to gain in-depth knowledge and critically analyse different regions of the world including Asia, Africa and the Middle East as you take modules relating to e.g Mughal India, Southern Africa, Islam in China and the Atlantic Slave Trade. History at SOAS is ranked 12th in the UK and it's a small, campus university in the heart of London where classes are small and the professors are passionate and well-researched on their subject, meaning you get the chance to gain expert knowledge, critically engage and debate in classes, bring your ideas and thrive in a student- focused institution, leaving you well equipped to pursue postgraduate studies. The assignments are mostly essay based and you have the chance to visit your professors during their 1-1 hours for extra support and guidance. Here is more information about the course https://www.soas.ac.uk/study/find-course/ba-history. SOAS is also ranked 6th in the UK for employment and the Careers Service can help you tailor your CV and find a range of graduate and internship opportunities.

Hope this helps!
Z
UG Arabic & IR
(edited 3 weeks ago)
Original post by Picnicl
History is a subject in which Oxford and Cambridge absolutely don't dominate for either graduate prospects on track or research quality. See www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk

thanks

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