BlogUniversityWhat It’s Like Studying a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW

What It’s Like Studying a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW

Bachelor of Arts UNSW - Fact Sheet

So you’re considering studying a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW?

Luckily for you, you’ve stumbled across this handy little guide that will tell you literally everything you need to know about this chameleon degree. From possible majors to faculty culture, needless to say we’ve got you covered.

And if you’re still wondering what exactly this course shares with a colour-changing lizard, scroll down for more!

What is a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW?
Core Units and Majors
How to Get into a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW
What’s the Teaching Format?
What’s the Faculty and Culture Like?

What is a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW?

Now that is the age-old question. The truth is, even students of a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW may have trouble giving you a flat-out answer – mostly because a BA can be anything you want it to be and can take you almost anywhere.

If you don’t believe us just look at Australia’s minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, and Rebel Wilson. That’s right, they both graduated with a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW. 

The reason this degree is so varied is that it offers 26 different majors within the realm of humanities and social sciences. Do you like learning languages? Great. Got a passion for politics? Tick! Maybe you’ve got an obsession with Media? We’ve got a winner. 

See what we mean about the chameleon thing?

Career Paths

Like we said before, a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW can guide you down a variety of different career paths. As a general rule, the degree will develop sought-after skills in any industry, such as critical thinking, creative problem solving, and persuasive communication (this will vary depending on how you end up structuring your degree).

Here’s a general idea of the careers that can come from a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW:

  • Diplomacy
  • Social justice
  • Publishing
  • International affairs
  • Media
  • Politics
  • Business and entrepreneurship

Alternatively, you can even go onto postgraduate study in a different field once you finish up your Bachelors, so it’s a great starting point for almost any career.

One thing to keep in mind is that the degree’s flexible nature means that by the end of the degree you will not be feeling as highly skilled as your friends studying Engineering or Speech Pathology for example. 

This is why it’s so important to put the effort into getting an internship once you’ve figured out what you want to major in. Despite what you might have heard, professional experience is one of the most important things for employability, maybe even more so than the degree you study and definitely more than your WAM (UNSW’s version of a grade point average)!

Learn more about different careers you can pursue with a Bachelor of Arts here!

Core Units and Majors

This is one of the interesting parts of a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW — there aren’t technically any core units for the degree itself. Basically there aren’t any specific courses that you must study in order to graduate from this program.

However, you must either choose a major and a minor OR two different majors (also known as a double major). Once you choose your major, you will need to enrol in certain courses in order to continue through that specialisation.

In other words your ‘Core Units’ will depend completely on how you major. So without further ado:

What are the Majors?

Like we said before, a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW offers an astounding 26 different majors. Some of the more popular majors are:

  • English
  • International Relations
  • Global Development
  • Sociology and Anthropology
  • History
  • A language (Chinese, Japanese, French, Spanish, Korean, German and more)
  • Economics

To give you a little taste of the many colours of the specialisation rainbow, we’ve chatted with a couple of people from different majors to give you an idea of what to expect.

What’s an International Relations Major like?

International Relations (or IR) is one of the most popular specialisations for Bachelor of Arts students at UNSW. IR is a social science discipline that critically engages with foreign policy and politics, international connectivity, and a variety of complex international issues.

Bachelor of Arts UNSW - Student Quote

Day-to-day, students of this course study both the history of International Relations, and how currently unfolding events are directly impacted by the discipline. The course requires a lot of reading (and we mean a lot!) and the majority of assessments are essay and project-based (exams pretty much don’t exist).

This major also lends itself to many other social sciences to the extent that at times it might feel like you’re taking courses in Philosophy, History or even Journalism. 

One of the greatest things about a Major in International Relations is that it teaches you to problematise (a word that pops up painfully often in lectures) the world around you and to see everything in a completely different way. 

By the end of this specialisation, students will have an intricate understanding of the forces that mould political development and the world at large and will be prepared for a career in Public Affairs, National Intelligence, Border Control and much more.

What’s an English Major like? 

Bachelor of Arts UNSW - Student Quote 2

A major in English is another popular specialisation for Bachelor of Arts Students at UNSW. This stream will cover major works from a variety of historical periods including the Renaissance, postmodernism and contemporary society. These literary pieces are then critically reviewed in the context of culture, politics and ideology. 

In other words, it’s a course that dives head first into the literary world, giving students a chance to engage with some of the most important cultural artefacts of the English language. On top of critically analysing books and essays, this major will give you the opportunity to put your writing cap on by encouraging you to take courses in Creative Writing. 

Upon completing a major in English, students will be ready for a career in writing, publishing, media or (if they’re interested in continuing their studies) academia, but just like every other Bachelor of Arts major, it really could lead in any career direction. 

A list of all available majors can be found here!

Is there a built-in Internship Program?

Here’s the thing. The flexible nature of a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW does not leave room for a compulsory (or even recommended) internship program. 

However, The Arts faculty does offer an Internship course (HUMS2000), which can be taken as a free elective. Alternatively, you can always try to score an internship over the summer break!

How to Get into a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW

Because a Bachelor of Arts is a generalised social science and humanities degree, it does not require any pre-requisite HSC subjects for admission. In saying that, we definitely would not recommend skipping out on Advanced English and some humanities courses like Modern or Ancient History.

As far as ATARs go, ATAR of 80 will give you guaranteed entry into the course. Even if you don’t achieve this ATAR, there are alternative pathways into this degree and bonus points you may be able to attain — check out the UNSW ACCESS Scheme!

Wondering which universities are the best for an Arts degree in Australia? Learn more here!


UNSW offers a variety of scholarships specific to each year and field of study. A list of those scholarships can be found here!

What’s the Teaching Format?

Just like every other course, a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW is taught under the trimester format. This means that, in order to fulfil full-time requirements, you will need to study 3 courses per academic session – although you will be able to take one trimester per year with only 2 courses (can’t complain about that!).

If you consistently meet full-time requirements, a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW will take 3 years to complete. There is also an option to undertake an Honours year but you will need a WAM of 70 in order to qualify for it. 

Courses at UNSW will either be broken down into lectures and tutorials, or with one single seminar block. Courses generally have 3 contact hours each (some longer), meaning that students of a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW are most likely blessed with 9 contact hours per week (easy breezy!).

Bachelor of Arts UNSW - Class Structure


Lectures are almost never compulsory and go for roughly 2 hours. They are used to introduce the course content and will have minimal peer interaction, speaking of which, most lectures will have somewhere between 100 to 300 students present.

In saying that, the number of students will go down drastically as you progress through the degree.


Tutorials go for an hour with generally 30 other students present; they are used to discuss course content and prescribed readings. Most courses will prescribe roughly 80 pages of reading each week, adding up to more than 200 pages of readings per week. 

The thing is, a lot of students don’t do their readings, which can make tutorial discussions very dry and quite awkward (please don’t be one of those people!). 


These bad boys are a combination of a tutorial and a lecture. They go for 3 hours and are used to both introduce and interact with course content.

Courses that offer seminars will generally offer a few different class times so that there aren’t too many people in one room, generally totalling 30, similar to a tutorial size.

What are the assessments like?

Students of a Bachelor of Arts at UNSW can write an essay in a pinch, mostly because they form the bulk of all assessments. As a general rule, most courses will prescribe 2 small writing tasks (1000 words each), an annotated bibliography (or maybe a group presentation), a final essay (2000 to 3000 words) and maybe some small quiz style examinations in between based on lecture content. 

Of course there are variations to this, but as a general rule you will be reading and writing a lot! 

Skills That You Will Build


The Bachelor of Arts at UNSW is built to provide you with a broad range of skill sets so that you are prepared for a career in a variety of industries (namely writing and communication-focused positions). It will teach you to articulate effectively, collaborate efficiently with others, communicate complex ideas, exhibit leadership and more.

Many employers actively seek out graduates of Arts degrees because of the development of these qualitative skills. Though they are not measurable on paper, these skills are extremely attractive to employers. 

What’s the Faculty and Culture Like?

One of UNSW’s biggest selling points is its university culture. UNSW is known for being diverse and super inclusive. 

The Bachelor of Arts at UNSW is home to one of the nicest and most welcoming faculties at the university. The degree attracts socially conscious and open-minded students, meaning you’ll always be greeted with a friendly smile at every lecture you go to (so don’t be afraid to sit next to someone you don’t know!).

The Faculty

The faculty is quite small, compared to others, but it houses some of the greatest professors and academics the university has to offer. 

William Clapton is one of the standout lecturers for International Relations. Along with being extremely knowledgeable in his discipline, he’s known for crafting IR memes and shamelessly plugging his own published works, making lectures all the more enjoyable.

Some more notable mentions are Nicholas Apoifis, Tanya Jakimow and Susanne Schmedil. In saying that, you will definitely have an amazing experience with almost any lecturer you come across in the Arts faculty.


Because there’s so much flexibility in a Bachelor of Arts, it can be hard to stay in the same course as friends you’ve made in previous ones. This is where societies come in – societies are a great way to meet new people and to bond over shared interests!

The UNSW Arts Society (ArtSoc) is aimed at all students studying any UNSW Arts or Social Sciences Degree. It provides engagement and support through mentoring, regular barbeques, parties and much more. Arc (UNSW Student Life) also hosts 300 different societies so you’re bound to find at least one that’s a good fit. 

So what are you waiting for? Start your application now!

Curious about the pros and cons of this degree? Check out our article here!

Cody Williams is a Content Writer at Art of Smart Education. While Cody studied a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and French Studies at UNSW, he quickly realised that his dream job would have him sit happily behind a keyboard. Cody’s digital writing career started with an internship at Bauer Media where he was writing for ELLE and Harper’s BAZAAR’s online publications. Once he had a taste for writing he never looked back, moving to Brisbane soon later to work as a Producer for Channel Nine Queensland. After a year in television media, he dusted off his online writing shoes so he could put them to good use, stamping out some scorching-hot career and educational resources at AOS.

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