College in the UK, Part 1 — A First Degree in History at UCL
A history degree at University College London (UCL) would suit high-achieving students who already know that they want to concentrate on history and who feel that the broad distribution requirements common at U.S. schools do not fit their personal intellectual profile, just as the heavy advanced specialisation of the English system does fit students who are primarily all-arounders.
Here, you would take predominantly history courses from the word “go.” The degree is structured around 12 or 16 units dependent upon whether you apply for one of our 3- or 4-year degrees; 4 units per year. Courses at UCL take the form of either half year (0.5 units) and full year (1 units), and history students can take up to 1 unit outside the department per year (a bit like doing a minor in the States) Our students can also enjoy the benefits of the intercollegiate agreement between the history departments of the University of London.
The UCL History Department has two 4-year degrees: History with a European Language and History with a Year Abroad. History with a European Language allows for one year at Paris IV Sorbonne, University of Venice Ca’ Foscari, Humboldt University in Berlin, or Universidad de Pablo Olavide in Spain. Whereas our History with a Year Abroad degree would allow you to spend your third year in the Americas at either the University of Toronto, University of Texas, University of Pennsylvania or Catholic University of Chile. The straight history degree is three years long, which seems short to Americans but is standard in the “golden triangle” of London, Oxford and Cambridge and indeed, in all universities south of the Scottish border. The level of the 3-year degree is generally higher than that of a major at an American university. This does not mean that the degree is better overall. It is much narrower; those distribution requirements have an intellectual function. The English and UCL system is only better for students who want to focus intensely on their favourite academic study.
You should be a high-achiever. UK applicants are normally asked to achieve straight As in their A-level examinations (which take place when they are eighteen), and we have up to 1,000 applications to the department each year for 100 places. Therefore, we look for top-end results in four Advanced Placement examinations – one of which must be history. There are also other entry routes for students who have already successfully completed one year at a recognised American university.
A degree here is very hard currency in world terms. UCL is in the tiny elite of the world’s top universities. Recently, it was ranked the 4th best institution in the World by U.S. News & World Report. London in general is an exciting place to be. No matter what your interests are, you will find that this fantastic city will cater to your every want and need.
Some of our current students have been willing to write about their experiences of UCL, and you will find these in some of the other posts in this series. And finally, if you have any further queries about our degree programmes, please do get in touch with our admissions administrator, Gemma Barber, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Professor of Medieval History & Overseas Student Co-ordinator
University College London
“College in the UK” is a series of op-ed articles written by guest contributors about academics, social life and what is unique about colleges and universities in the United Kingdom compared to American schools. As part of the first installment of this occasional special series, we invited contributions from university professors and students at UCL (University College London). The 2011 UCAS application deadline, which includes applications to UCL, is January 15th.