The same old story? The tales you’ll be told on a classical studies degree may have been around since time immemorial, but they’re far from irrelevant – they’ve consistently been a source of inspiration for the arts throughout the ages, and everyone from Shakespeare (Anthony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Troilus and Cressida), to filmmakers the Coen Brothers (O Brother Where Art Thou), comic book writers Frank Miller and Lynn Varley (300) – even Marvel and Disney have borrowed liberally from the tradition.
In broad terms, to study classics to is to learn of the culture inherent to the period known as classical antiquity – that being, the roughly thousand or so years between Bronze Age of Ancient Greece and the fall of the Roman Empire, and all the literature, language, history, and art therein. From there, you’ll be faced with the almost infinite potential of tracing the influence of the period that is still displayed in contemporary art and culture.
Classical studies can often require a qualification in either Latin or ancient Greek. If you don’t have one, however, some universities offer the opportunity to study classical literature and civilisation in English, either as a separate degree or as part of a joint honours course (often paired with English language, literature, or a modern foreign language).
Other humanities subjects would also be beneficial to your application, as classical studies will often comprise elements from history, philosophy, sociology, and the study of languages and literatures.
That said, universities and colleges will be aware that not all students have had the opportunity to study classics in any real depth. The key part of your application in this case would be the personal statement – convince the admissions team at your chosen university or college that classics is the next step for you, regardless of your academic background to date.
A levels – Entry requirements range from BBB to AAB, with universities and colleges most commonly asking for ABB.
Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from ABBBB to AABBB, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring AABBB. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for ABB.
Vocational courses – Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma, or an SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative to A levels/Highers by some providers. It’s essential that you check alternative entry requirements with universities or colleges.
- Apply by 15 January
- Personal statement
- Submit a portfolio
- Audition for a place
- Attend an interview
- Pass an entry test
- Show work experience
Students with a broad interest in the humanities subjects, but not wanting to limit themselves to just one or two in particular, may be well placed to consider classical studies.
Another reason to consider classical studies is to invest in yourself and your future career – classics graduates have a reputation for being intelligent, analytical, and articulate, given the nature of their studies. They are also widely employable, and well regarded by potential employers for their broad skillset, knowledge, and logic.
Many go on to enjoy varied careers, from fiction writers (J. R. R. Tolkien, Virginia Woolf, and J. K. Rowling) and prominent figures in the arts and entertainment industries (Chris Martin of Coldplay, actor Tom Hiddleston, and Stephen Fry), to careers in law, heritage, academia, and many, many more.
Some modules you may study are:
- Latin language
- Greek language
- Greek drama: tragedy and comedy
- The ancient novel
- Reading Greek painted pottery
- Ancient Greek philosophy: the pre-Socratic to Aristotle, and beyond
- Greek and Roman Mythology
Studying classics at degree level will most often lead to a job as a:
- museum archivist or curator
- fundraising campaign manager
The skills you’ll gain studying classics can help prepare you for a career in:
- research and academia
- marketing and PR
- management consultancy
More than just reading Homer’s Odyssey and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, classical studies is a diverse and multidisciplinary degree – you’ll be covering the languages, literatures, history, and philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome. Classics may be an ideal choice for anyone with a broad interest in the humanities who is struggling to choose between these subjects, because on any given day you could be in a lecture or seminar looking at any one of them.
Expect to do a lot of reading and writing with a classical studies degree, along with preparing for exams, and oral tests for you to show off your aptitude in the languages you’ve been studying.
On a classical studies degree, you’ll spend an average of ten hours per week attending lectures and seminars, which will leave you with a lot of time for independent research and completing your assignments.
The university you choose may also offer the opportunity for travel – from the usual suspects such as Italy and Greece, to the further-flung reaches of their respective empires and explorations, such as North Africa and the Middle East.
Studying a classical studies degree is likely to involve:
- writing reports and essays
- conducting research projects
- attending lectures and seminars
- project, presentation, and group work
- studying for, and taking exams
- independent study