The Humanities degree is split into two streams, Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Social Science (BSocSc), and both degrees are offered at most tertiary institutions in South Africa, including universities, colleges and technikons. There is a wide variety of programmes in the Arts, the Social Sciences, the Performing Arts and Creative Arts in the form of both general and named degrees.
Depending on where students select their majors from will determine whether they will be registered for a Bachelor of Arts degree or Bachelor of Social Science degree.
Generally a 3/4-year, Bachelor’s Level Degree.
Majors vary from institution to institution
Common available majors include:
Bachelor of Arts:
1. Afrikaans, Arabic, Business French, English, French, Hebrew Language, African Languages, Italian, Spanish, Xhosa Communication
2. Classical Studies, Dance, Drama, Jazz Studies, Music
3. Economic History, History, Linguistics, Visual and Arts History
4. Media and Writing, Film Studies
Bachelor of Social Sciences:
1. Economics, Gender Studies, Industrial Sociology, International Relations, Politics, Public policy and Administration
2. Psychology, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Social Anthropology, Social Development, Sociology
The faculty of Humanities is divided into two-degree choices: a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Social Science (BSocSci). Both degrees are three-year undergraduate courses. With both the BA and BSocSci, students are required to choose at least two subjects to major in. More than two majors are allowed, however the workload by third year tends to be very intense with more majors, so generally this is not advisable. The main difference between a BA and a BSocSci are the actual subjects you choose to major in. BA degrees require 2 or more majors in subjects that are more inclined to the arts, for example: languages, Film & Media, Art, Drama, Music etc. A BSocSci on the other hand requires 2 or more majors that are considered part of social sciences, for example: Sociology, Politics, Archaeology, Psychology, Social Work etc. If students take two majors, one from the BA list of majors, and another from the Social Sciences, the student may choose what degree they would like to fall under- BA or BSocSci. There is not too much of a difference between these two titles. Some people think that a BSocSci sounds more professional, while some argue that a BA is more internationally recognised. As is evident, there is quite a large degree of flexibility in a Humanities degree: Up until second year you are able to add or change majors, provided you can make up those major requirements by third year. You can also drop a major if you have three majors if you find that the workload is getting too much.
Every Humanities degree is different and you will seldom find two degrees the same. Nevertheless, there is a general structure to them- In first year students take four subjects per semester, each a prerequisite to the acquiring of the two chosen majors. In second year, students take three courses per semester, four major courses and two electives. In third year students take two courses per semester both of which are their majors. If you decide to do three majors in second year your two additional courses will be for your third major, and in third year you will also have to three courses per semester for all three majors.
In general, the workload for both a BA and a BSocSci is quite intense as there are generally a lot of readings to do for Humanities courses, coupled with many essays, tutorial assignments and a few tests, depending on the subject.
Also of note is that Humanities degrees, unlike most other degrees, do not give you a career title: Chartered Accountant, Engineer or Doctor. However a BA does equip one with essential skills that are very useful in the working world, the trick is finding where your skills will be most appropriate. Humanities degrees give students the tools to learn how to think outside the box, to deal with problems and find solutions as well as being critical and questioning of the world around them.
Daniël Geldenhuys, Second Year (BA)
“You’ll just have to accept that people aren’t going to think you’re working very hard. What you may lack in number skills though, you make up for in aesthetic brainpower: you can write a killer essay. You will master the art of arguing the validity of your original idea with the help of other ideas from great scholars.”
James Kieser, Ex-BSocSci & current Honours Year BBusSci (Finance)
“In 2010, during my gap year, I put in an application to study a business science finance as my first choice and a bcom accounting as my second choice at UCT. Soon after I sent in my application both my choices were rejected as I had insufficient points. This was deeply upsetting as UCT was my dream, and it wasn’t because I wasn’t smart enough, it was because I was lazy at school. I then decided to apply for a bachelor of social science. My application was accepted and I started out my 1st year in humanities. However I had no interest in studying politics or philosophy, so I decided to manually pick my subjects and mirror them as best I could to a business science finance degree. I managed to take almost all the necessary subjects except for psychology, which I actually enjoyed, and was able to transfer across to the business science degree in 2nd year only carrying one law course. I am now in my honors year of finance and it has been an incredible journey. One piece of advice I can give is that even if you don’t know what you want to study, it is not the end of the world. If you don’t enjoy it after a year of study then it is fairly easy to shift across to something else that may interest you. All you have to do is get your foot in the door.”
Phathiswa Magangane, Second Year, (Bmus Performance Jazz Vocals)
“If you’re considering studying music, you should prepare for some deceptively offensive and patronising comments from onlookers who believe that they hold the secrets of the universe. Within in the industry itself – you are constantly being judged and told you are not good enough thus, if you choose to make this courageous and extremely rewarding decision of studying a Bmus prepare to develop a thick skin.”
Daniël Geldenhuys, Second Year (BA)
“A Bachelor of Arts Degree isn’t really all that much work: you only do four courses per semester in your first year, and three in your second and third. However, what you may lack in number skills you make up for in aesthetic brainpower: you can write a killer essay. You’ve mastered the art of arguing the validity of your original idea with the help of other ideas from great scholars.
I found my first year of BA to be excruciatingly boring. All my courses seemed to be exactly the same, and not at all what was advertised. Example: a course named Images in Conflict was not about images in conflict. It was about colonialism.
It really does, however, get better from second year, and all those first-year eye-droop lectures taught me how to think like an academic, how to do thorough research, and how to spot know-it-all lecturers who think they’re all that because they have doctorates.
The BA will be of great benefit to two kinds of people; those who have the time and money to study something light, and want to be a part of the best university on the continent while doing lots of extra mural activities to build their CV. Or those who actually enjoy getting into the academic “nitty gritty” of things, love essays, and will apply early for honours.
If you’re of the latter mindset, you need to apply immediately. Does the history of the human race, and the souvenirs (books, films, artworks, ways of thinking) we’ve left behind along the way excite you? And better yet, do you think you might be able to contribute to that history? Well then: never mind those science/accounting people with their hard work and their money. Next century, you’ll be the one people remember.”
Barbara Fourie, Second Year (Web Design)
“I am now in my second-year at UCT and up until now have enjoyed this course thoroughly. You don’t need any prior web designing knowledge, but you will have to be prepared and determined to work very hard and learn a lot in a small amount of time.
This degree is a production programme that UCT offers which differs from the general BA degree. At the end of your three–year’s you will have a named degree specifically in “Designing Online Media” instead of the general BA.
The programme is part of the Film & Media Centre and you can only apply in the second semester of second-year. In first-year, you apply for a general BA and take either Media & Writing or Film & Media courses that you will have to continue taking even though you have been accepted into the production course. At the end of first semester second-year you have to compile a portfolio that you have built up so far at UCT. There are lots of opportunities like writing and designing for VARSITY Newspaper and working at the UCT radio station – the main goal to keep in mind is getting involved and developing you skills.
Once you apply with your creative portfolio you are notified within two weeks if you are one of the 20 students that have been accepted into the production course. I applied for a BA degree knowing that I will work hard enough to get accepted into the production stream, and if this is going to be you mindset then this degree is definitely right for you. The best about this degree so far has been the feeling of accomplishment when you have mastered a skill you never thought possible and being proud of what you completed with those skills.
You also have to be very self-disciplined, because the biggest part of the learning process is up to you. The biggest project in you second year is coding two websites, it takes long hours working in the lab, but it’s absolutely worth it. If you have an interest in the workings of social and other online media as well as determination to work hard and a creative flair you will be well off studying this course.
A degree in Online Media also looks better on a CV than a diploma in web design, which many other institutions offer.”
Phathiswa Magangane, Second Year (Bmus Performance Jazz Vocals)
“Deciding to study a Bmus Performance involved a rather extensive process. After convincing myself I agreed with the ‘clear superiority’ of law over music I initially opted for the safe and celebrated option of a BA/LLB . Sadly, society wasn’t right – the promise of making oodles of money was not enough to carry me through law.
After my first year of law I realised my true passion lay in music and I immediately jumped ship financial risks and all. If you’re considering studying music, you should prepare for some deceptively offensive and patronising comments from onlookers who believe that they hold the secrets of the universe.
Within in the industry itself – you are constantly being judged and told you are not good enough thus, if you choose to make this courageous and extremely rewarding decision of studying a Bmus prepare to develop a thick skin. Thankfully, UCT’s Jazz department is ranked very highly thus talent and knowledge-wise, you are in extremely capable hands.
The problem is that brilliant creative minds make for less than wonderful organisers – and UCT’s department is not exempt on some occasions. But alumni such as Freshly Ground, Gold Fish and current students from Cape Town favourites Christian Tiger School and Beatenberg makes up for that at least.
My timetable as a Bmus student is a mixture of glorious 2-hour days and devastating 7-hour long nightmares but the beauty of it is that I sing for homework, I play piano for my assignments and I study by listening to music beautiful music. How can I complain?”
Megan Bybee, Honours Year (BA, International Relations)
“Choose subjects that you enjoy, as this ensures that you will do well in them! Employers tend to choose graduates who have done Philosophy majors, as there is general consensus that Philosophy students work very hard. Psychology is also a great subject to do as it gives a lot of insight into human behaviour which is good for the workplace. There is quite a large degree of flexibility in a Humanities degree: Up until second year you are able to add or change majors, provided you can make up those major requirements by third year. You can also drop a major if you have three majors if you find that the work load is getting too much. The faculty allows students to add/drop subjects by the end of the first week of university without any additional charge. Students may also change subjects after the first week; however there is certain charge, which is a percentage of the course being dropped. It is a good idea to attend additional lectures during the first week, if unsure of your subject choice. Also it is a very good idea to do an honours/masters degree, as the more educated you are the larger your guarantee for job security.
There is an increasing demand for Humanities graduates, thus students should not be discouraged in deciding to do a BA or BSocSci. There have been many world renowned figures who studied Humanities degrees! No education is a waste of time and ultimately your degree is what you make of it. You have the power to do as well as you want and to create your own career path – that is the beauty of a Humanities degree. There is no set path to success, apart from determination, the skills you learn along the way and the determination to become a success doing what you love the most!”
Find institutions to study the Bachelor of Social Sciences degree on our institutions directory.