UK universities’ most niche degrees

By Jessica Smith and Phoebe Hill

1. Egyptology

The Pyramids of Giza

What is it?

Egyptology is the study of ancient Egyptian history, language, literature, religion, architecture and art from 500BC to 400AD. Understanding this unique culture provides a unique and rewarding intellectual challenge, and teaches many skills such as translation and nuanced essay-writing.

Where can I study?

Oxford, Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, UCL, Swansea, Durham, Liverpool

Reading list:

  • Shaw, I. 2004. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press.
  • Lichtheim, M. 1975. Ancient Egyptian Literature: The Old and Middle Kingdoms v. 1: A Book of Readings. University of California Press.
  • Gardiner, A.H. 1973 Egyptian Grammar. Griffith Institute

2. Assyriology

Ruins of a Ziggurat

What is it?

Assyriology is the archaeological, historical, and linguistic study of not just Assyria, but the entirety of ancient Mesopotamia and of related cultures that used cuneiform writing. You will learn skills across multiple disciplines, such as translation and essay writing. It is often called ‘Ancient Near Eastern Studies’, and is offered in joint honours with Oriental or Egyptian studies. It is also available in Masters and PhD programmes.

Where can I study?

Oxford, Cambridge, SOAS

Reading List

  • Crawford, H. 2004 rev ed. Sumer and the Sumerians. Cambridge University Press.
  • Pollock, S. 1999. Ancient Mesopotamia. Cambridge University Press.
  • Dalley, S. 2000 rev. ed. Myths from Mesopotamia. Oxford University Press.

3. Scandinavian Studies

A traditional Viking longboat

What is it?

Scandinavian studies is an interdisciplinary academic field of area studies that covers topics related to Scandinavia and the Nordic countries, including languages, literatures, histories, cultures and societies. It also encompasses Viking Studies and Old Norse studies, which focuses on the more ancient elements of Scandinavian culture.

Where can I study?

UCL, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Cambridge

Reading list:

  • R.I. Page, Chronicles of the Vikings (pb, British Museum Publications)
  • M. Clunies Ross, ed., Old Icelandic Literature and Society (Cambridge University Press)
  • A. Faulkes, ed., A New Introduction to Old Norse, Part II Reader (pb Viking Society)

4. Sanskrit

What is it?

Sanskrit is the language of the ancient Indian elite, a roughly parallel to Latin or Greek in the Western world, and its earliest forms date back to at least 1200 BC. It’s also the root of many Indian languages, which enables you to learn Hindi at the same time or after your degree finishes. Computer scientists also herald Sanskrit as being the language closest to coding, due to it being so precise and systematic.

Where can I study?

Edinburgh, SOAS, Oxford

Reading list:

Ruppel, A.M. The Cambridge Introduction to Sanskrit. 2017. Cambridge University Press

Doniger, W. Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook Translated from the Sanskrit. 2004. Penguin

Eck, D.L. India: A Sacred Geography. 2013. Three Rivers Press

5. Oceanography

What is it?

Oceanography is the science that studies physical, chemical, geological and biological processes within the Earth’s oceans. The oceans cover over 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface and are fundamentally important to the human race as a source of food, energy, and minerals.

Where can I study?

Southampton, Bangor, UEA, Plymouth, Newcastle, Liverpool

Reading list:

  • Introducing oceanography. 2012. Dunedin Academic Press
  • Mladenov, P. L. Marine biology: a very short introduction. 2013. Oxford University Press
  • Waves, Tides and Shallow-water Processes. 1989. Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd

6. Sexual Health studies

What is it?

This is the UK’s first ever non-clinical specialised undergraduate degree programme. It is the ideal programme if you are interested in working in adult and young people’s sexual health services. The course covers contraception, unplanned pregnancy, sexual health, screening for STIs, sex and relationships education, communication skills and more, developing specialist theoretical knowledge in the care of individuals requiring sexual health services.

Where can I study?

University of Central Lancashire.

What should I be reading?

  • Aggleton, P. et al. 2015. Culture, Health and Sexuality: An Introduction, Routledge.
  • Wellings, k. Et al. 2012. Sexual Health: A Public Health Perspective, McGraw-Hill Education

7. Sound and Acoustics Engineering

What is it?

The study of sound and acoustics is wide-ranging and fascinating — designing auditoriums, improving consumer audio products or working to reduce noise pollution, audio and acoustic engineering courses and careers are filled with exciting and inventive possibilities.

Where can I study it?

Bolton, Brunel, Coventry, Hertfordshire, Oxford Brookes, Southampton, Southampton Solent.

What should I be reading?

  • Jens Blauert, Ning Xiang, Acoustics for Engineers: Troy Lectures, Springer Berlin Heidelberg
  • R. J. Peters, Brian John Smith, Margaret Hollins, 2011. Acoustics and Noise Control, Pearson Education.
  • Douglas Self, 2009, Audio Engineering, Newnes/Elsevier

8. Glass

What is it?

This creative degree gives you a chance to specialise and develop skills in glasswork. It is offered on its own or as a direction within an Applied Art or Design degree. It

Where can you study it?

Sunderland, Plymouth College of Art, Nottingham Trent, Edinburgh.

Reading list

  • Philippa Beveridge, Ignasi Doménech, Eva Pascual i Miró, 2005. Warm Glass: A Complete Guide to Kiln-forming Techniques : Fusing, Slumping, Casting, Lark Books
  • Brenda Griffith, 2012, A Beginner’s Guide to Kiln-formed Glass: Fused, Slumped, Cast, Lark Books
  • Eric Ebeling, 2003, Basic Stained Glass Making: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started, Stackpole Books

9. Applied Golf Management Studies

What is it?

Recognised by the Professional Golfer’s Association and with three vocational placements within a golf environment, this degree provides specialist teaching in sports science, coaching, psychology, business management and financial training. It is a hugely varied and exciting course.

Where can you study it?

Birmingham, University of the Highlands and Islands, SRUC Scotland’s Rural College, Myerscough College.

Reading List:

  • John Pates, 2013, Practitioner’s Guide to Evidence Based Golf Psychology, Protectics.
  • Gonçalo Dias, Micael S. Couceiro, 2015, The Science of Golf Putting: A Complete Guide for Researchers, Players and Coaches, Springer International Publishing.
  • John Beech, Simon Chadwick, 2013, The Business of Sport Management, Pearson

10. Education Studies (Harry Potter module)

What is it?

As a part of the Education Studies degree, Durham offers ‘Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion’. The module covers Harry Potter in its social, cultural and educational context. Covering topics such as; Harry Potter and the remaking of England, anarchy and rebellion from Tom Brown to Harry Potter, Gryffindor and Slytherin: prejudice and intolerance in the classroom and magic, reason and reality. You also take part in the traditional sorting ceremony. Education studies at Durham is part of multiple joint honours programmes, partnered with nine humanities and arts subjects, such as English and Geography.

Where can I study it?

The Harry Potter module is unique to Durham, but Education Studies is offered more widely.

Reading list

All the Harry Potter books.

Prinzi, T., Granger, J. Hog’s Head Conversations: Essays on Harry Potter, Volume 1. 2009. Zossima Press.