Choosing a completely new subject

Choosing a completely new subject

You will be aware of the more obvious degree choices available to you – those that have direct links to subjects you’re currently studying. However, at Cambridge we offer a number of courses that are less well known, and don’t require you to study any specific subjects.

Read on to find out more about Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic; Archaeology; Classics, History of Art; Human, Social, and Political Sciences; Land Economy; Law; Linguistics; Philosophy; Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion.

You can start all of these courses from scratch. As long as you have a real passion for the subject and meet the entry requirements, we would encourage you to apply.

Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic

If you’re fascinated by medieval history, literature and languages, and you relish the prospect of doing your own research using original source materials, this course will appeal.

Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic (ASNC) focuses on the history, material culture, languages and literature of the peoples of Britain, Ireland and the Scandinavian world in the earlier Middle Ages.

ASNC students discover medieval history while learning one or more languages and reading great works of literature in the original languages, such as the Old English poem Beowulf, the epic medieval Irish tale Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley) and Icelandic sagas.

"Recent graduates have gone on to a really huge variety of things; barristers and solicitors, teachers, librarians, people who work in museums. You name it, they've done it. One student got a job with the police, with forensic science on the basis of his expertise in medieval palaeography." 
Dr Rory Naismith

asnc.cam.ac.uk

Archaeology

Human evolution and biology, ancient cultures and languages, early civilisations and how heritage affects identity and politics today are just some of the topics you can study on our Archaeology course.​

The course offers great flexibility enabling students to specialise in one of the following areas:

Archaeology uses material evidence, from molecules to monumental structures, to explore the human past and understand past societies.

Assyriology is the study of languages, cultures, history and archaeology of ancient Mesopotamia (Sumer, Babylonia and Assyria).

Biological Anthropology investigates human evolution and diversity, biology and behaviour, and the interaction between biology and culture.

Egyptology is the study of the history, languages, society, archaeology and religion of ancient Egypt.

You also have the opportunity to combine subjects allowing you to study Archaeology and Biological Anthropology or Assyriology and Egyptology.

"Many of our students stay in academia to do research, or teach. Many others work in archaeology around the world and some go on and work in media, in museums, or in heritage studies. Students learn critical thinking skills, language skills, time management, writing skills, and all of those valuable things, which will serve people well in any job they might go on to do."
Dr Kate Spence

arch.cam.ac.uk

Classics

Classics at Cambridge isn't just studied as a period in the past, it also looks at the reception of classical culture, language and philosophy both historically and in the present day.

The course encompasses the history, culture, archaeology, art, philosophy and linguistics of classical antiquity and the study of original texts and artefacts. You'll have access to the Faculty's Museum of Classical Archaeology and to the holdings of the Fitzwilliam Museum where some classes take place.

The three year course requires A Level Latin or Classical Greek, but you can start the four year course with no subject specific requirements. This includes a preliminary year which focuses on Latin language and Roman culture.

"Our students are hard-working, articulate, accurate and efficient, take new tasks in their stride and can master situations intelligently. One of the things that we often say about classics, is just about the sheer variety of careers that our students end up taking after graduation. Lawyers, teachers, working for the BBC, working in consulting, also in museums, and auction houses."
Dr Myrto Hatzimichali

classics.cam.ac.uk

History of Art

History of Art covers a wide spectrum of art and architecture from all over the world, from the medieval to modern and contemporary periods. The aim is to foster a wide and deep understanding of art and architecture, and to help you develop visual literacy and awareness, as well as a range of critical and analytical skills.

We advise that you visit museums, exhibitions and buildings of architectural note, and take descriptive notes or sketches of what you see. Try to analyse the effect works of art or architecture have on you.

"Visuality is an incredibly important part of the way that people communicate. There are limitless opportunities for people with visual intelligence."
Dr Frank Salmon

hoart.cam.ac.uk

Human, Social, and Political Sciences

The Human, Social, and Political Sciences (HSPS) course comprises three core disciplines, taught by globally respected departments:

Politics and International Relations explores politics within and between countries, covering issues from human rights and democracy, to financial crises and international conflict.

Social Anthropology addresses ‘what it is to be human’ by studying social and cultural diversity – how people live, think and relate to each other around the world.

Sociology focuses on the nature of modern societies and the processes that shape social life, by examining social institutions and topics such as power and inequality.

You can either specialise in a single subject, or combine subjects for a multidisciplinary degree.

"HSPS allows students to see some of the biggest social questions and political issues in the world around us from a whole range of perspectives, and that is profoundly valuable, and increasingly necessary."
Dr Perveez Mody

hsps.cam.ac.uk

Land Economy

Environment, Law and Economics

The multidisciplinary nature of the course is particularly relevant in the twenty-first century where the environment, law and economics and the control of scarce resources affect the daily lives of people around the world.

Law, economics, and their relationship to natural and built environments are central to Land Economy, along with other areas such as public policy, planning, the financial aspects of real estate and international development.

"Our graduates, if they are more interested in the real estate side, would go and become chartered surveyors. In the legal side, they would do a law conversion course and become lawyers. Increasingly, with the growing emphasis on the environment and sustainability, people move into careers in green energy."
Dr Shailaja Fennell

landecon.cam.ac.uk

Law

Law at Cambridge allows you to understand law in its historical and social contexts. It develops skills in analysis, interpretation and logical reasoning, and challenges students to interrogate questions of ethical judgement, political liberty, and social control.

Although our course (referred to elsewhere as LLB) is primarily concerned with English law, there are opportunities to study other legal systems, including civil (Roman) law, EU law and international law. You can also study theoretical and sociological aspects of law such as jurisprudence or parts of criminology.

"A lot of our students will go into legal fields, they'll become solicitors or barristers, some others go into the civil service, or they work in the city in other areas. Some work for charities, some work as in-house lawyers in law firms or newspapers, some are parliamentary draftsmen, an array of different jobs."
Mr Henry Mares

law.cam.ac.uk

Linguistics

Linguistics is the systematic study of human language. Superficially, there’s huge variation among the world’s languages, and linguists not only describe the diverse characteristics of individual languages but also explore properties which all languages share and which offer insight into the human mind.

The range of disciplines studied is one of the things that makes linguistics fascinating: one day you might be poring over a medieval text for evidence of how the grammar of a language has changed, and the next, learning about how the larynx creates sound energy for speech, or how we can record brain responses in a categorisation task.

"We have students that became journalists, we have students that became language teachers. Lots of our students go into jobs in the city, often consultancy, advising on language and translation."
Dr Brechtje Post

mmll.cam.ac.uk/dtal

Philosophy

Do you enjoy arguments on the pros and cons of general issues? Do you relish puzzle-solving? Do you like subjects that emphasise rigorous thought? Our Philosophy course encompasses all of these and much more besides.

Philosophy explores human thought, the basis of knowledge, the nature of reason, consciousness and cognition, as well as the foundations of value and political theory. Its questions are intriguing and its study requires complex critical thinking, rigorous analysis and consideration of new perspectives. 

"Employers look on Philosophy graduates very favourably because they come out with a set of skills that can be applied to a wide range of different careers. They often go into finance, law, consultancy, they can go into the civil service, or work for non-governmental organisations (NGO)s and charities."
Dr Jessie Munton

phil.cam.ac.uk

Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion

Worldwide, six out of seven people describe themselves as religious, with religious beliefs driving social and political change globally. This course develops your understanding of the significance of religion and its cultural contexts.

As a graduate you will be well equipped to play an important part in this world, valued for your intellectual literacy, critical thinking, research skills and understanding of the depth and nuance of human experience.

"Contrary to popular belief, graduates in theology do not necessarily go on to become ministers of religion. They can go on to careers in social service, and law, government service, all manner of things, as well as further study in academia."
Professor Ian McFarland

divinity.cam.ac.uk

For more advice on finding a course, see our previous feature: choosing the right course for you.  

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing. To find out more about all our courses visit www.cam.ac.uk/courses

Last reviewed July 2021.