BA (Hons) American Studies - University of Portsmouth
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BA (Hons)

American Studies

UCAS codeT700

full time3yrs

placement option1yr

A historical, cultural and political approach to the Americas

Course Overview

Why take this course?

Are you curious about September 11? How did American TV series like 24 and Battlestar Galactica reinforce or question the War on Terror? Are you interested in Hollywood, the American Dream, the US economic blockade of Cuba, economic crises in South America, and what the presidential aspirations of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama tell us about race, class and gender in the United States?

If you wish to enhance your knowledge and understanding of the Americas, their nation-states and peoples, and their diverse cultures, this course is ideal. Pan-American in its approach, it will require you to think critically about the Americas as a region rather than narrowly focus on the United States. The combination of core units and a wide range of options provide opportunities for you to learn about North America, Central America and South America through their literature, film, politics, history, sociology, geography and economics.

What will I experience?

On this course you can:

  • Apply for an internship in the heart of the American political process
  • Spend a period in one of our link universities in the USA - New York State, Minnesota, North Carolina - or Chile
  • Tailor your study to reflect the interests you develop during your studies

What opportunities might it lead to?

This course will equip you with the capabilities for a wide range of careers, in the US or UK, with a broadened world view that will help you apply your skills in any job that calls for analysis, argument or communication. Here are some routes our past graduates have pursued:

  • publishing and editing
  • journalism and media
  • teaching
  • marketing and sales
  • local government


Georgia Harrison, BA (Hons) American Studies

The teaching staff on the American Studies course were above and beyond supportive in our education and personal lives, and a great sense of community meant nobody ever felt left out. I can easily say the best decision so far was choosing to study American Studies at Portsmouth University. I couldn't have asked for a better three years.

Georgia Harrison, BA (Hons) American Studies


History, Politics and Social Studies

Find out what our students say about studying at Portsmouth, including:

  • The diverse spread of subjects offered and ability to complete your own research
  • The critical thinking, analytical and debating skills you’ll develop
  • The passionate lecturers with a wide range of specialist research expertise

Browse all courses in History, Politics and Social Studies

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Structure & Teaching

Year one

In the first year you will study introductory units to the various disciplines that you will cover on the course. These core units will offer you a chance to acquire a coherent understanding of the history, culture and politics of the Americas as a whole.

  • Studying at University
  • Introduction to Latin American History
  • Introduction to North American Studies
  • Introduction to Literature and Culture in the Americas
  • Spectacular Hollywood
  • Working Life Today (In the USA)

Year two

In the second and third years of study there will be a range of options so you can pursue your own particular interests. Options may vary from year to year but throughout the course, you will have opportunities to study in-depth critical and theoretical approaches to a wide range of subjects.

Core units unclude:

  • Race, Slavery and Emancipation in the Americas
  • Civil Rights USA
  • Home and Away: US Foreign and Domestic Policy

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Democratisation in Latin America
  • Critical Hollywood
  • From Revolution to Reconstruction
  • Puritans to Post-Modernists
  • Women's Writing in the Americas
  • Managing Across Cultures
  • IWLP (Language)
  • Learning from Experience (LiFE)

Year three

A large part of your final year is given over to the preparation of your dissertation, which is a major piece of independent work on a topic of your own choice. Some examples include the impact of the Vietnam war on US foreign policy and women in the Black power movement.

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Accredited Study Abroad
  • Thomas Jefferson and the Making of the American Republic
  • Politics and Culture of the Hispanic World in 20th Century Literature and Film
  • Gender, Sexuality and Cinema
  • Magical Realism
  • US Masculinities
  • African American History and Culture
  • Transitional Justice and Human Rights
  • Germany in the American CEntury
  • Learning from Experience

We use the best and most current research and professional practice, alongside feedback from our students, to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry and some optional units may not run every year. If a unit doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative unit.


We aim to provide a varied, challenging and stimulating learning environment. But most of all we want you to become an independent learner so that you will continue to learn beyond your time at the University.

Teaching involves lectures, seminars and workshops. Emphasis is placed not just on what you can take from the seminar but what you can bring to the experience, and how you interact and learn from your peers. Most of our seminars and workshops are undertaken in small groups so that you are able to ask questions and debate issues with confidence. You will also analyse primary documents and debate contemporary issues in small teams so that all you learn from a range of opinions and interpretations.

The time you spend in teaching activities may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year typically spent their time as follows:

  • Year one students: 23% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 77% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year two students: 22% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 78% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year three students: 4% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 63% studying independently and 33% on work placement


Our assessment methods are varied too, incorporating essays, reports, speech writing, some formal examinations, case studies, projects and presentations.

The way you’re assessed may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year were typically assessed as follows:

  • Year one students: 12% by written exams, 18% by practical exams and 70% by coursework
  • Year two students: 17% by written exams, 0% by practical exams and 83% by coursework
  • Year three students: 0% by written exams, 3% by practical exams and 97% by coursework

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Facilities & Features

Pan-American Approaches

At Portsmouth, the entire pan-American region is explored through a wide range of disciplines and perspectives. You may study the US, the Caribbean, Central or South America. You may also be able to study for a period abroad in one of our partner universities in the Americas - New York State, Minnesota, Kansas, North Carolina and Chile

Washington DC Internship

Students on this programme are eligible to apply for an internship through the Brockport Washington Intern Program, offering work experience and learning opportunities in the heart of the American political process.

University Library

Modern, comfortable and a great learning environment, our library offers a wealth of information including 400,000 books, DVDs, maps and thousands of online ejournals and newspapers. Many electronic resources are available anywhere, 24/7 and our friendly staff are always on hand to help.

Budgeting for your studies

There are extra costs associated with studying, which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.

Recommended texts:
If you wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow from the University Library, the average price is £50-£60. You may be studying up to 6 units a year, each with a standard recommended text.

General costs:
We recommend that you budget £75 a year for costs of photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.

Final year project:
If your final year includes a major project, there could be cost for transport or accommodation related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose to develop.

Other costs to consider

For placements abroad that are taken in countries outside the EU/EEA, you will be required to meet travel costs. These costs will be in the region of £1000.

You will also be required to meet any extra tuition costs for units of study taken outside of your agreed study abroad programme. These costs will be in the region of £200.

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Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

Career prospects
Where next?

You will develop a wide range of skills and capabilities that are valued by prospective employers such as analysis, criticism and argument. Your global world view and, potentially, study experience abroad will make you more appealing to many employers. You will be eligible to apply to an internship programme in Washington DC where you can develop personal and professional skills at the heart of US politics. Recently, a student interned for the senior US senator for Illinois in 2012, and another worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce in 2013.

Roles our graduates have moved into include:

  • teacher
  • researcher
  • librarian
  • administrator
  • archivist
  • government administrator
  • journalist

Work experience

Work experience
Employment boosting opportunities

In addition to the Washington internship opportunity, you may study abroad in the first semester of the final year, either in the United States or South America.

You can also take the Learning From Experience (LiFE) option, which lets you earn credits toward your degree for work/research placements, volunteer roles or internships undertaken alongside your studies. The option gives you the opportunity to enhance your employability skills, to reflect on the ways in which you've done so, and to learn to express this to potential employers.

Career planning

Career planning

To make sure you take the right steps on your career path, we’re here to give you help, support and advice throughout your study. Even after you’ve graduated, we continue to give you support for up to five years.

Employers tell us that they want graduates to be able to demonstrate certain skills when they come out of university. Our courses take account of this. We make sure we prepare you for employment through work-related learning, projects, placements and working in simulated environments that are designed to prepare you for the working world.

Blake Sears, BA (Hons) American Studies student 2013

I would like to travel to Asia after graduation so the option to take a language unit (Japanese) has been really exciting. The course has helped me realise that there are job opportunities available all over the world, and possible careers for me would be journalism, teaching, government and working for NGOs.

Blake Sears, BA (Hons) American Studies student 2013

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Apply now or visit us

Apply for 2018 entry

To apply, you'll need this course's UCAS code, which is at the top of this page, and the University of Portsmouth institution code – P80.

Apply now

After you apply, we'll invite you to an Applicant Experience Day where you’ll get to speak to lecturers and meet your future classmates.

Open Days for courses starting in 2019

Come to an Open Day and explore our course facilities, tour the campus and have a look around our halls of residence.

Book your Open Day

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to our terms and conditions as well as the University’s policies, rules and regulations. You should read and consider these before you apply.

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