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Degree type


Course length

3 or 4 years full-time


Durham City

UCAS code


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Typical offers

Typical offers
A Level A*AA
International Baccalaureate 38

Course details

If you are curious about the big issues that shape our society, this course may be for you. Taking a research-led approach, Combined Honours in Social Sciences explores systems, institutions, cultures and behaviours that shape the lives of people across the world. 

A multidisciplinary qualification that sits outside of traditional boundaries, this bespoke, academically ambitious course offers exceptional flexibility. 

You can choose to focus on two subjects or spread your learning across three or four to suit your individual interests, strengths and career plans. You can also apply to add a placement year or year abroad to your degree, increasing the course from three years to four.

Learning from academics working at the forefront of their specialisms, our students graduate feeling confident, intellectually engaged and well prepared for employment or further study. As a graduate you will be well placed to take up a career in fields as diverse as teaching, journalism, social work, in financial services or the charity sector.

In the Social Sciences you can choose from:

  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Business
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Geography
  • International Relations
  • Politics
  • Sociology and Criminology
  • Sport

Up to half of your modules can be chosen from subjects in the Arts and Humanities (subject to timetable compatibility and entry requirements):

  • Classics and Ancient History
  • English Literature 
  • History
  • Music 
  • Philosophy 
  • Theology and Religious Studies
  • Visual Arts
  • Languages, currently Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish

The degree culminates in a dissertation on a relevant topic which draws together the skills developed throughout the course.

Course structure

Years 1 and 2

The first two years follow a similar structure. In each year you will study 120 credits, chosen from a minimum of two and a maximum of four subjects. The subjects currently on offer are listed below. 

Year 3 (Year 4 if undertaking a placement or year abroad) 

In your final year, you will complete a dissertation in one of your subjects, alongside your remaining credits from a total of two or three subjects.

Modules can be chosen from a list of subjects which currently includes:

Social Sciences subjects

Anthropology includes cultural anthropology and physical anthropology, and a range of modules concerned with material culture, the physical and social evolution of humans, and topics such as medical anthropology and development anthropology.

Archaeology focuses on particular periods and places, including prehistoric archaeology, Roman archaeology, mediaeval and post-mediaeval archaeology, and the archaeology of Britain, Europe, Egypt, India and the Near East, as well as study of the employment of scientific methods in archaeology.

Business includes modules in entrepreneurship, management and governance, and some students choose to study additional modules in business management and marketing.

Economics includes microeconomics, macroeconomics and topics such as the history of economic thought, environmental economics, development economics, monetary economics and the economics of social policy.

Education includes central issues in school and higher education involving the study of the historical, philosophical, psychological, sociological and political dimensions of educational theory and practice, and the development of the social sciences in the modern and postmodern periods.

Geography includes human geography and a range of modules concerned with geographical theory and methods as well as special topics in urban transformation, environmental change, development, and hazard and risk.

International Relations and Politics includes politics in Europe, the USA, the Middle East and the Far East, as well as the history of political thought, or international relations, with a special emphasis on the Middle East and the Far East, and Middle Eastern and Islamic studies.

Sociology includes theories and methods, social structures, social policy, social exclusion, and the sociology of health, the city, and popular music.

Criminology includes theories and methods, crime and deviance, policing, sociology of punishment and the criminal justice system.

Sport includes modules on the sociology of sport and on sport and social policy.

Arts and Humanities subjects

Classics and Ancient History includes translation, the history, philosophy, literature and culture of the ancient world, and the study of Greek and Latin at several different levels, opening up the literatures of the Greek and Roman worlds in their original languages.

English Literature includes specific literary genres, such as poetry, drama and the novel. Also, the literatures of specific periods, including Medieval, Renaissance, Romantic, Victorian and Modern Literature, as well as studies in the theory and practice of literary criticism.

History includes medieval, early modern and late modern history through a range of modules in economic, social, religious, cultural, political and diplomatic history, focusing on Britain, continental Europe, Africa, China and the USA.

Modern Languages and Cultures includes the principal languages of Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. Each offers core language modules and ‘culture’ modules which cover a broad range of themes in history, politics, literature, film, the media, linguistics, translation and interpreting.

If you are not taking a modern language as one of your main subjects, you can study one of a number of languages, currently including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish, at various levels, from beginners’ to advanced level, in the School’s Centre for Foreign Language Study (CFLS).

Music includes musicology, including the history of music, music theory and analysis, and ethnomusicology, and, where these are studied alongside musicology, performance, composition and other practice-based disciplines.

Philosophy includes many of the principal philosophical disciplines, including metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and aesthetics, and also the history and philosophy of science and medicine.

Theology and Religion includes biblical studies, Christian theology, including the history of theology, contemporary theology, the philosophy of religion, and ethics and religious studies, including the sociology and anthropology of religion.

Visual Arts combines high-level critical and historical study of visual arts and film with a range of practical skills.

Certain elements of the course are defined by the choice of subject, for example:

  • If your principal subjects include a modern language, then your studies will be extended from three years to four. The third year is spent abroad studying at university, teaching English or undertaking internships.

  • If your primary interest lies in the Arts and Humanities, you should apply for the Liberal Arts degree instead.

  • If you are only interested in modern languages subjects, you should apply for the Modern Languages and Cultures degree instead.
  • It is not possible to study Business and Economics alone or Politics and International Relations alone. For these combinations you would need to look at courses offered by the Business School or School of Government and International Affairs, respectively.
  • Your choice of modules is subject to availability, timetable compatibility and the approval of the Director of Combined Honours in Social Sciences. You may also be required to meet specific A level or equivalent requirements.

Additional pathways

Students on the Combined Honours in Social Sciences can apply to be transferred onto either the ‘with Year Abroad’ or ‘with Placement’ pathway. Places are competitive and if you are chosen your studies will extend from three years to four.

If you are selected for the study abroad route you will spend Year 3 studying at one of our overseas partner universities. This flexible year is designed around your area of study and interests. Not only will you gain valuable academic experiences to take forward to your final year and beyond, study abroad is also an opportunity to expand your cultural horizons, develop language skills and meet new people.

If you are selected for the ‘with placement’ route, Year 3 is spent in the workplace. Combined Social Science students are in a strong position to work for a range of organisations from multinational corporations, government agencies, NGOs and small businesses. During the year you will be assigned an academic tutor who will visit you, liaise with your employer and provide the support to ensure you gain the most from your experience.

The placement year is an opportunity to put learning from the first two years into practice. You will also gain valuable experience and a tailored skill set to take forward to your final year. The skills and professional network gained during the placement year will give you a head start with graduate employers.


You may be able to take a work placement. Find out more.


Methods of learning will vary according to subject choice but are likely to include a blend of lectures and small-group seminars alongside tutorials, workshops, fieldwork and practical classes.

Seminars, workshops and practical classes take place in much smaller groups than lectures. In some subjects, practicals provide hands-on experience of the type of work performed by professionals in the various disciplines. Small-group format and support from your academic advisor are embedded into the learning experience to help you get more out of your studies.

In the final year there's an increased focus on self-directed learning and independent research, including a dissertation, as you prepare for professional or postgraduate life.


Your choice of subjects/modules will determine the assessment types you encounter, but these are likely to include essays, examinations, presentations, case studies and reflections. Assessment is designed to evaluate your knowledge and understanding, test your critical thinking and your ability to apply your learning to real-world issues.

In your final year, you will complete a dissertation supported by one-on-one supervision. You will be expected to think independently and take greater control of the direction of study.

Entry requirements

A level offer – A*AA. 

Contextual offer – AAB.

If you would like to study:

  • Economics, an A in A level Mathematics is required.
  • English Literature, History or Music a grade A at A level (or equivalent) is required in the subject.
  • Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Italian, Russian or Spanish at an advanced level, a grade A at A level (or equivalent) in the language is required.
  • Arabic, French,  German, Italian, Russian or Spanish ab initio, an A at A level (or equivalent) in a modern foreign language is required.
  • Chinese or Japanese ab initio, a grade A at A level (or equivalent) in a modern foreign language is desirable but not essential.

BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma/OCR Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma – D*DD and subject specific A levels (or equivalent) as above.

IB Diploma score – 38 with 666 in higher level subjects. Subject requirements as listed above for A level. Students wishing to study the subjects listed above would need to achieve Higher Level grade 6 in the subject. For students wishing to study Economics we are happy to accept either Higher Level grade 6 or Standard Level grade 7 in Mathematics. Mathematical Studies is not acceptable.

After we have received your application we will send you a link, which you will need to follow to submit your subject choices. We will use this information to establish that you have satisfied, or will satisfy, any special requirements for studying these subjects, and to assist us in the evaluation of your personal statement.

In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:

We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or who may have had a break in their study.

  • We also consider other level 3 qualifications, including T-levels.
  • We are happy to consider applications for deferred entry.
  • If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take an International Foundation Year pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre.

Science A levels

Applicants taking Science A levels that include a practical component will be required to take and pass this as a condition of entry. This applies only to applicants sitting A levels with an English examination board.

Alternative qualifications

International students who do not meet direct entry requirements for this degree might have the option to complete an International Foundation Year.

English language requirements

Country specific information

Fees and funding

The tuition fees for 2025/26 academic year have not yet been finalised, they will be displayed here once approved.

The tuition fees shown for home students are for one complete academic year of full time study and are set according to the academic year of entry. Fees for subsequent years of your course may rise in line with an inflationary uplift as determined by the government.

The tuition fees shown for overseas and EU students are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities

No information is available at present - please consider using our Ask Us facility for assistance.

Department information

No information is available at present - please consider using our Ask Us facility for assistance.


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