Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences Virtual Open Day

This is an opportunity to speak to Professor Diana Spencer, Dean of Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences.

Feel free to ask Diana about the course, our year abroad, extra-curricular activities or University life in general.

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Speaker profiles

  • Professor Diana Spencer

    Diana is the Dean of Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences and a professor of Classics.

Q&A Archive

These were the questions asked during the Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences Virtual Open Day live event.
Verity asked:

What would you say is the main difference/selling point between your course and the Arts and Sciences course at UCL? I’m really struggling to decide between them despite having read through all of the information on the websites and having gone to both open days!

Diana replied:

Hello — I think the big differences lie in our flexibility. Students at Birmingham can construct a programme of study that not only evolves (sometimes radically) over four years, but also that incorporates the educational challenge of studying abroad in contexts within which not only may subjects be defined very differently, and taught in diverse ways; and in particular, in foreign university environments in which linear/hierarchical conceptions of university study are less entrenched. This makes it genuinely possible for students to start something brand new, in year 3, and thereby transform their overall portfolio narrative in exciting and unexpected ways. We are already seeing the results of this with our current finalists (our first finalist cohort) as they create really interesting and often strongly interdisciplinary independent research projects. We do also encourage students to take risks with intellectual adventure, and unlike UCL, we build support in at programme level: years 2 and 3 at Birmingham generate 25% of your UG degree classification, but we allow LANS students to select the best 120/240 credits from those two years to feed into the classification sum. This means that if you try new things in those years, and it is less successful than you hoped, those lower pass marks don’t depress your degree overall.

Cassandra asked:

I read in the prospectus that students can choose in the final year whether they want to graduate with a Masters or not. Presumably extra modules are taken to allow for this, when are they taken? Would they mainly come from the year abroad?

Diana replied:

Hello — no, no extra modules are taken. It simply means that on the year abroad, ‘higher’ (i.e. final) year equivalent modules must be taken, then in year 4, 100/120 module credits are taken at Masters level (you can still take 20 credits at ‘higher’ level in that final year outcome). All LANS students take 480 module credits across the four years. For the Bachelor’s degree, the best 120 from years 2-3, plus the final year’s 120 credits, make up the degree classification. If you choose to graduate with MArt or MSci, all credits from years 2-3 ‘count’. So only students with a very strong set of results would be advised to take this route. But it is an added option and one more element in our flexibility.

Bea asked:

what requirements must an applicant meet to get an unconditional offer?

Diana replied:

Hello, it’s a prediction of A*A*A or above for A-Level, or 37+ for IB, PLUS an outstanding admissions essay.

Emma asked:

Hi I am intersted in applying having viisted on an open day. My A level predictions are 4 A*. Would I still have to submit an essay before an offer would be made

Diana replied:

Hello, and congratulations! Yes, we ask all applicants to complete the admissions essay because it’s so important for us, as an academic team, to get a strong sense of who our applicants are, intellectually, and how they might contribute interestingly to our student and academic community. This helps us, too, if applicants end up with a near-miss on results day. I’m sure that won’t be the case for you, but we need to get a feel for what our likely new cohort makeup will be like. So no offers without the submission of the essay.

Bobby asked:

Can you point to any evidence on levels of student satisfaction with LANS specifically, rather than B’ham UG courses as a whole? On the Open Day we came to, we didn’t get to speak to current undergraduates without faculty around and it felt like they were consciously ‘toeing the party line’!

Diana replied:

Goodness! I think our (very vocal and eager to give us feedback!) students would be horrified to think anyone imagined they toe a party line! One of the great things for me about working with our students is how keen they are to talk to us, to give us constructive feedback, and to assist in (in effect) co-creating the programme as a living entity. In terms of hard data, I can only tell you that in our internal University student survey (which happens annually, for all students except finalists — who do NSS) we had a 95% overall satisfaction rate. If you contact us ( we can put you in touch with some current students, and of course if you attend one of our Applicant Visit Days in the Spring you will have some informal opportunities to speak to students (e.g. over lunch).