African Studies (BA)
About the programme
Studying Africa’s history, cultures and languages in this programme, will give you an insight in other aspects of Africa as well, including economics, politics and international relations. In the second year, you will be able to specialise in one or more of our themes, tailoring the programme to your personal interests.
In the programme’s broad introductory year, you will familiarise yourself with our main themes, while you will also be introduced to the language of your choice: Swahili or Berber. In this year, language acquisition will take up about a third of the programme.
From the second year onwards, you can follow your interests by choosing one of our specialisations. Within the specialisations Sociolinguistics, Literature & Art or History & Anthropology, you have the option to choose thematic courses on subjects such as Gender and Violence, Environmental Imperialism and Media and Power. This year is important in terms of your personal Africa experience: you will spend a semester in an African country, in order to increase your language skills, while also doing an internship or studying at an African university. In addition, there will be the opportunity to develop and carry out your own research project during this period.
Half of your third year consists of elective space: you can follow a minor in another faculty, do an internship or study abroad. You can also create a package of electives from other programmes that match your academic and career interests. In the second semester of your third year, you will conclude your bachelor’s with your final thesis. This will give you the chance to apply what you have learned: finding specific information, critically analysing that information and reporting on it clearly, both orally and in writing.
“Learning languages is cool. The introduction to new languages means that you are also introduced to new perspectives on the world. Swahili, for example, has a class system in which words are categorised. This gives you an idea of how such language communities see the world.”
Senior university lecturer
"Communication in Africa is one of the courses that I’m teaching. In this course students learn about the standards and values and the codes of conduct and manners in various African societies. An example: In Africa it is considered impolite to use your left hand while handing something to another person. When you really cannot help using this hand, you are expected to apologise with a special phrase."
Walter Gam Nkwi
Senior university lecturer
"For a long time, in many people’s mind in Europe, Africa was a backward place, with no history, no civilisation, and in a way, that view still persists till today. I want to present a counter voice, showing how Africa has contributed to global civilisation in fantastic ways: culturally, linguistically, historically. I want my students to realise the role of Africa today in her contributions as well as in the past, and to exchange a Eurocentric approach for an Afrocentric approach. In a way, this bachelor’s programme contributes to the decolonisation of the academic mind."
The African Studies BA programme is research-oriented. As a student, you will start acquiring the skills to do research and you will learn how to develop and carry out your own research project.
At the same time, our courses are based, for a large part, on the exciting research that our lecturers are involved in. This means that you will be in touch with the very latest developments and insights in African Studies-related subjects.
Some of the research currently carried out by our lecturers:
- Radicalisation in the Sahel countries (Prof. Dr. Mirjam de Bruijn)
- African history, including oral history and slave songs (Dr. Anne Marieke van der Wal)
- Berber street language in the Netherlands (Dr. Khalid Mourigh)
- Muslim scholars and their Swahili texts (Dr. Annachiara Raia)
As a student of the BA in African Studies, you can expect a full working week of about 40 hours. You will spend an average of 12 hours in lectures, while the rest of your time will be devoted to independent study.
Do you need support during your study? We make sure to offer our students the support they need. A mentor will be at hand to offer the help or advice that you need.
Should you have any questions about the programme, our coordinator of studies is available to provide advice or help you make practical arrangements if needed.
Apart from study advice, we offer many more support services. Our Career Services can help you arrange a study abroad or find an internship position.
In case of psychological issues, a university psychologist can be consulted. In the event of chronic illness, dyslexia or a physical or psychological disability, you can contact the university’s Fenestra Disability Centre.
The POPcorner is an accessible study support point with locations in Leiden and The Hague, focused on creating an inclusive and diverse learning environment. As well as organising POPtalks on D&I related topics, the POPcorner helps students develop study skills through workshops, create social and support networks, establish personal and academic goals, and connect them with university resources and services.
The programme is taught in English. However, if you wish to specialise in a Francophone country of region in Africa, you will need to speak or learn to speak French as well.
The academic year consists of two semesters. Each semester is concluded with an exam or an assignment. Upon successful completion of each course, you are awarded a number of study credits (EC). A full academic year has 60 EC.