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School of Area Studies, Sociology, History, Politics and Literature (SASSHPL)

Explore the teaching and research taking place within SASSHPL

In the School of Area Studies, Sociology, History, Politics and Literature (SASSHPL), we have a relentless curiosity about the world and its people. 

Our subjects are wide-ranging but tied together by a common aim. They seek to better understand humanity through its past and present, to fathom implications for its future. We help our students, researchers and academics thrive as global citizens who can make sense of the world, figure out their place in it, and collaborate with others to help make it a better place.

Our culture is built on accountability, fairness, integrity and transparency. We value equality, inclusion and authentic professional and personal development.

Our courses reflect our interdisciplinary expertise in research, teaching and learning, and ensure all of our students realise their potential and ability to shape their careers after study.

Alongside expert academics driven by passion for their specialisms, our students learn how to anticipate change coming – socially, politically, culturally, economically. They graduate with qualifications, skills and perspectives attractive to employers across an enormous range of careers.

The University of Portsmouth is the top modern university in the country for Area Studies*

What is area studies?

Area studies is the name given to the collective disciplines of international relations, history, politics, sociology, economies, cultures, languages and geography across specific regions of the world.

Whether its investigating Europe's relationship with Russia, exploring the history of the American civil rights movement or studying the causes of conflict in West Africa, area studies helps us decipher the ways in which the world works.

*Research Excellence Framework 2021

Teaching

We offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses, both on campus and via distance learning. We're incredibly invested in our students and in delivering innovative, research-led courses that help them achieve their goals.

Our academic and professional staff are research active and bring their ever-evolving fields of knowledge to each new cohort they teach. They also have close ties with our local community — including employers — so we can offer our students opportunities for work placements, internships, and work-based learning.

We support our students every step of the way, from establishing core skills in the first year to developing specialisms and fostering their interests and independent ideas. Through a range of assessment methods, from the traditional essay and presentations to podcasts, creative assessments and portfolios, our graduates embark on customised careers with real-world impact.

Our teaching areas

Explore the undergraduate and postgraduate degrees we offer within the following areas.

English literature and creative writing courses

Writing has the power to transport readers and listeners to an entirely different time and place. Tailor your studies to suit your goals, and graduate with the knowledge and skills find your dream career.
English student holding books
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History, politics, international relations and international development courses

Get the skills, knowledge and opportunities to develop a deep understanding of human behaviour, culture and society, and how they interact.
Students walk toward historical ship
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Sociology courses

Explore societies and social systems to discover why the world is organised and structured the way it is and why social inequalities persist.
Two students in discussion outside
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What's it like to take a placement year?

Hear from some of our placement year students - Finlay, who took a placement at NBC Universal, Anastasia, who found a place at St Vincent College, and Charley, who took a role at Castle View Academy.

Find out about their experiences and hear what advice they have to give other students.

Finlay: I've loved every moment of my placement. It's probably one of the most fantastic years I've ever done in my life, probably one of the best things I've ever done.

Emily Parry: The school covers area studies, sociology, history, politics and literature. There are a number of different placement opportunities that are based locally or nationally around the UK, covering lots of different sectors and areas. So there's something there for everybody.

Finlay: Before university, I was always somebody that really didn't want to rush university. I wanted to try a placement year out, which was something that I'd love to do, and here we are today at NBC Universal. I got very, very lucky with it, but it's great.

Emily Parry: One of the misconceptions about placements and work experience for humanities students is that it would be very restricted on the kind of things that they can do.

Finlay: As a politics student, obviously I do love politics, but it's the other interests you have outside of politics. I love my films, I love my TV series, so I work in an environment selling content that I love.

Anastasia: Since about year ten, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. The work placement has definitely put it in perspective that it’s still what I want to do and it means that I don't have to go into a PGCE placement completely unaware of what I have to do. It gives me the experience of what a teacher actually needs to do and what their role is in a college.

Charley: Teaching is something I find quite natural to do. It wasn't really to do with my degree, but I found it was quite easy to interlink the two. So I was able to run a politics club here and it was really quite inspiring to see how enlightened the students were and how knowledgeable they were about current day events, and went from there, really.

Emily Parry: What I love about placements is seeing the students when they come back and you can see the development in them of the confidence that they've built and their ability to communicate and work as part of a team.

Charley: Before, I really struggled with public speaking. So standing in front of an audience is not something I would initially choose to do, and for some people, standing in front of 30 children is even more scary than standing in front of adults.

Finlay: University of Portsmouth really helped me with confidence and the ability to speak, which I've then brought into NBCU where I present in front of my managers once a month.

Charley: Having that sort of exposure was really, really important to me. For students who want to do a placement, I would just say go for it.

Anastasia: It’s a brilliant opportunity to put yourself in a workplace environment with loads and loads of support.

Finlay: Just put everything into it because it really is a year that's really helped me feel a lot more confident going into my final year of university.

Emily Parry: It's the best feeling when a student gets that placement because you know the opportunities that's going to open up for them with their future career.

Partnerships and collaborations

SASSHPL has school-wide partnerships with the University of Halmstad, Sweden and the University of Caen, France, with links for both undergraduate and postgraduate students to study and research overseas.

We draw on the expertise of a diverse range of local and national organisations to enrich the teaching experience we offer, including Lloyd's Register Foundation, Friends Without Borders, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the Portsmouth Museum and Records Service, and Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Services (PARCS).

We also have ongoing Holocaust education collaborations with Mayville High School, Portsmouth High School, the D-Day Story, and Portsmouth City Council.

Research

Our research covers multiple disciplines and aligns with the University’s strategic research themes of democratic citizenship, health and wellbeing, sustainability and the environment, security and risk, and future and emerging technologies.

We're proud of our research culture, which we've developed through a strong commitment to scholarship and publication. We offer postgraduate research opportunities on Area Studies, SociologyHistoryLiterary Studies and Politics and International Relations.

We've worked with a range of organisations through our research projects including the Imperial War Museum, Forceswatch, ichange21, Vegan Society, Friends Without Borders, Connect Futures, and Journeys Festival International. 

Our research areas

Explore the work we're doing across the research areas that sit within the School of Area Studies, Sociology, History, Politics and Literature (SASSHPL).

Area studies

We're exploring international relations, history, politics, economies, cultures, languages and geography across specific regions.

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Identities and inequalities

We're asking questions around who we are, who is different from us, and who we want to be, to challenge structural violence and reduce inequality.

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Sociology of culture

We're probing the link between culture and power, confronting societal issues, and looking at the ideological function of culture in naturalising them.

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Social research methods

We're investigating the different methods, tools and techniques for studying social phenomena and generating information and data about all aspects of social life.

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Social theory

We're drawing on classical and contemporary social thought, philosophy, political economy, social anthropology, and history to explain and analyse social processes, issues, and concerns.

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History

We're understanding our society through the study of experiences, culture, values and activities of people throughout history. 

Young girls on a march in Eastern Europe
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Politics and international relations

We're exploring pressing issues in politics and international relations and working with organisations, governments and individuals to find solutions.

Kamala Harris and Emmanuel Macron
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English literature

We're researching how literature provides insight and understanding into the lives of other individuals, communities and cultures.

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Our research centres

Much of our exceptional research takes place within the following cross-disciplinary research centres.

Centre for European and International Studies Research

We're researching topics such as citizenship, race, language across borders, social theory and transnational politics.

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Centre for Studies in Literature

We're researching the history and culture of the English speaking world through literature.

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Centre for Port Cities and Maritime Cultures

The interdisciplinary Centre for Port Cities and Maritime Cultures focuses on the past, present and future importance of urban-maritime cultures and communities within a global context.

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Research project highlights

James Robert Ryan Portrait

Media ready expert

Professor James Ryan

Head of School

James.Ryan@port.ac.uk

School of Area Studies, Sociology, History, Politics, and Literature

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

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Mathias Seiter Portrait

Dr Mathias Seiter

Associate Head (Academic)

Mathias.Seiter@port.ac.uk

School of Area Studies, Sociology, History, Politics, and Literature

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

PhD Supervisor

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Melita Elizabeth Lazell Portrait

Media ready expert

Dr Melita Lazell

Associate Head (Research)

melita.lazell@port.ac.uk

School of Area Studies, Sociology, History, Politics, and Literature

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

PhD Supervisor

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Thomas George Rodgers Portrait

Dr Thomas Rodgers

Senior Lecturer

thomas.rodgers@port.ac.uk

School of Area Studies, Sociology, History, Politics, and Literature

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

PhD Supervisor

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Christine Berberich Portrait

Media ready expert

Dr Christine Berberich

Associate Head (Global Engagement)

Christine.Berberich@port.ac.uk

School of Area Studies, Sociology, History, Politics, and Literature

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

PhD Supervisor

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SASSHPL news and blogs 

Latest news

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Manton signal box picture

Descendants mark the centenary of the Manton railway tragedy

24 May 2024

Descendants mark the centenary of the Manton railway tragedy
phd

PhD scholarships will investigate ‘hidden treasures’ to help plan for the future of local institutions

22 April 2024

PhD scholarships will investigate ‘hidden treasures’ to help plan for the future of local institutions
books

National Campaign shows creative and economic value of English degrees

26 March 2024

National Campaign shows creative and economic value of English degrees
**INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT USE ONLY** Women, Violence and Displacement; Chars, northern Bangladesh

City event calls for end to Female Genital Mutilation

5 February 2024

City event calls for end to Female Genital Mutilation
MRT and UoP

University of Portsmouth and Mary Rose Trust forge strategic alliance for maritime excellence

26 October 2023

University of Portsmouth and Mary Rose Trust forge strategic alliance for maritime excellence

Latest blogs

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African women

Female genital mutilation is on the rise in Africa.

Tamsin Bradley

Female genital mutilation is on the rise in Africa.
Port Cities and Maritime Cultures logo

Launch of new maritime podcast from the University of Portsmouth

Guy Collender

Launch of new maritime podcast from the University of Portsmouth
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We’ve researched trans inclusion for nearly a decade – how we do our work has changed

Rosa Marvell

We’ve researched trans inclusion for nearly a decade – how we do our work has changed
Silhouette of soldier with rifle

Russia has tightened its hold over the Sahel region – and now it’s looking to Africa’s west coast

Russia has tightened its hold over the Sahel region – and now it’s looking to Africa’s west coast
Nadin Eluemunor at a stand promoting study abroad opportunities

The power of saying ‘yes’ as an international student

The power of saying ‘yes’ as an international student

Explore our faculty

Explore the other schools and departments that make up our faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Read more about the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and explore the teaching and research activities that take place within it.

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School of Education, Languages and Linguistics

Explore the School of Education, Languages and Linguistics, and learn more about the teaching and research activities that take place within the school.

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Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Explore more about the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, teaching and research activities taking place across the faculty's four schools and institutes.

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Contact us

To get in touch, please contact our Faculty office.

Phone: +44 (0)23 9284 2992

Email: hss-enquiries@port.ac.uk