Anthropology at LSE Frequently Asked Questions The Course

Anthropology at LSE
Frequently Asked Questions
The Course
What is the difference between the BA and the BSc?
The programmes are identical, and applicants to each programme are put into the same ‘pool’
when it comes to selection. We offer you the choice because anthropologists differ over
whether human social life, in all its complexity, is something that can and should be studied
scientifically (people who think it can tend to choose a BSc) or can only ever be interpreted,
much as a historian interprets the past (these people usually prefer to receive a BA).
Go with whichever feels right to you. If you change your mind during your studies, it’s no
problem to switch!
Do you offer any biological anthropology?
We do offer some. In fact, the LSE department is a world-leader in the field of cognitive
anthropology, which explores how evolutionary science, developmental psychology, and
neuroscience can help explain social phenomena including kinship structures, religion and
ritual, economic behaviour, myth, and co-operation. You will get to explore elements of this
in the core courses and there are special options that will allow you to take it further. Our
courses also explore the interface between biological and social sciences in fields such as
gender, the body, and psychiatry.
We don’t offer any courses on topics like human evolution, structural anatomy, or
comparative primatology. If these are your primary interests, you should consider studying
elsewhere. But if you are interested in thinking about the social behaviour of contemporary
humans from a biological perspective, then you will have a fantastic time studying at LSE.
What are the advantages of studying an intensive ‘Social Anthropology’ course as
opposed to a much broader course or joint-honours degree?
Firstly, we’re quite a bit broader and more flexible than you might think! Our courses include
close engagements with the latest developments in the biological sciences, psychology, as
well as in political and economic theory – and there’s lots of scope for taking options from
outside departments if you want to.
The biggest advantage we offer to students who are seriously interested in understanding
human social life is the unparalleled depth of our programme. Some ‘modular’ courses offer a
lot of choice, but because the courses are open to people regardless of what they have studied
before, they tend to be taught at a very introductory level. The result is broad but superficial
knowledge. At LSE, each year’s teaching builds on the core understanding that has been
acquired in previous years. By your third year you will be working at an extremely advanced
level and capable of formulating highly sophisticated arguments. That’s part of what makes
an LSE anthropology undergraduate so employable.
How many contact hours
will there be? / How is the
course taught?
Depending on what options
you choose, you’ll get 4-6
hours of lectures a week,
and 4-5 hours of classes.
The classes are taught in
groups of around 12, and
are designed to help you put
your independent reading in
dialogue with the themes
discussed in the lecture.
On top of that you’ll have
around 4 tutorials a term.
These tutorials, which are
in-depth discussions involving just you, another student, and a member of the teaching staff,
allow you to write an essay on whatever themes and topics most interest you from the courses
you’re taking, and then get in-depth personalised feedback on how you can develop your
arguments further. It’s great preparation for assessment essays and exams. There are also
many optional extra contact hours – for example, departmental trips, away days, and film
This combination of teaching methods is part of what makes the LSE course so special.
You’ll graduate with an exceptionally broad base of anthropological knowledge from
having come to all the classes but still be able to pursue your individual interests in-depth
throughout the course in tutorials.
How is the course assessed?
Most full unit papers involve a three-hour exam in the summer (worth 70% of the grade) and
two coursework essays (worth 30%). Some courses use assessed oral presentations instead of
coursework essays. Several papers are 100% coursework.
What grades do I need?
Our standard offer is AAB at A-Level, or 37 points (including 6,6,6 at Higher Level) for
students taking the IB. Students taking different qualifications should go to for further information.
Are any subjects especially important?
No – we recruit students with A-Level backgrounds in the humanities, the arts, the sciences,
or a mix – and all do well at degree level.
How important are GCSE / AS-Level grades?
Successful applicants usually have strong GCSE grades, including several at grade A* and A.
Good AS grades also help, as they give us confidence that you’ll be able to meet that AAB
offer! That said, we realise that sometimes exams go badly, sometimes students’ academic
interests consolidate as they get older, and sometimes school exams are a bad proxy for
what’s needed to do well at anthropology. So if you think you can meet our entrance
requirements, don’t let your existing grades put you off! We may well still make you an offer;
we might also ask you to come into LSE and do a written admissions assessment before we
make a final decision.
I have been out of education for a long time, and/or am taking an Access Course. Can I
apply to LSE?
Yes! We welcome applications from all students, regardless of their educational backgrounds.
We have admitted many students who have studied with us after studying an Access course,
or after a break from education, and they do just as well as their peers.
If it’s been a while since you were last studying, or your earlier studies didn’t go so well,
we might ask you to sit our Undergraduate Admissions Assessment, which takes place in the
early Spring. This is a three hour verbal and numerical reasoning paper – it doesn’t require a
lot of preparation, and its function is to help us identify your academic strengths and find out
a bit more about you as a candidate before we make a final decision.
What do you look for in a Personal Statement?
It’s important to show us that you know what anthropology is, that you’ve taken some time to
read some books about anthropology (or go to events like London Anthropology Day), and
that you’re committed to studying it for the next three years. Tell us about what you’ve read
– what you found interesting about it, or perhaps even what you didn’t like or didn’t agree
with. That shows your commitment but also showcases your analytical and critical thinking
Help us get a sense of who you are: tell us about the big questions that excite you and
that you’d like to address during your undergraduate studies. Show us that you’re interested
in social issues that go beyond the UK but include the global comparative perspective that
characterises our course. And show us that you’re good at understanding other people’s
points of view. That’s one of the core skills of a good anthropologist – and you don’t need to
have travelled overseas to show it. You could just as easily write about your experiences of
understanding other people in your home community, or at your school.
If you’re applying for Anthropology and Law, then make sure you
talk about both anthropology and law in your personal statement, or
it risks being rejected as unsuitable for the joint programme! A good
way to do this could be by discussing issues where the social and
legal sciences intersect. For example…. Are courtrooms
institutionally racist? Should we allow Muslim witnesses to wear the
burqa? Is sharia law an appropriate mode of justice for the UK?
Does prosecuting war criminals stabilise or destabilise a postconflict society?
After LSE
What are my prospects for employment after studying
anthropology at LSE?
They’re good. 87.2% of our 2012 leavers were in full-time
employment, study or taking planned time off just 6 months
after graduating. Their average starting salary was £24,200.
What sectors do LSE anthropology graduates usually work in?
All sorts! Being able to understand the ways in which people experience the world means that
anthropology makes you employable in fields as diverse as marketing and public relations,
development and charity work, local and national government, recruitment, consulting,
journalism and the media.
We have a dedicated career service which can help you get internships and work experience
placements during your degree to test out what path is right for you. Just this summer, for
example, our second year students have internships with employers as diverse as an
intellectual property rights NGO, the civil service, and Vogue magazine. Anthropology opens
And Finally….
Is it true that the LSE is the best social anthropology course in the UK?
We think so! The compulsory papers will give you a grounding in social anthropology of
unparalleled range and depth, while the structure of the programme as a whole offers
tremendous flexibility in terms of what papers you would like to study as options.
We’re probably the friendliest anthropology department in the UK – just the right size for
everyone to know each other, but never claustrophobic! We have regular tea parties,
Department gigs, staff-student dinners, and other opportunities to get to know your lecturers
as people – and as your intellectual peers.
Our students do well thanks to the LSE’s fair and transparent classification system. We
believe in rewarding students for what they are good at, rather than penalising them because a
course happened not to be right for them. If you get five first class marks out of nine (and
don’t fail anything outright) then you’ll get a first overall. Simple as that.
The LSE is the leading social science institution in the world. We’d love to have you with us.
Any questions that haven’t been answered by this booklet? Just email us on
[email protected] -- we’ll be happy to help!