Best Majors for Study Abroad In England

by Stephanie Sadler

Study abroad in England is recommended to anyone — it’s one of the top study-abroad destinations in the world, for lots of good reasons. But students pursuing these majors in particular would get the most out of an academic year or semester in England.

Unique view of Big Ben in London, England
Art, architecture, world history: it’s all essential to England. Photo by Stephanie Sadler

History. From crumbling castles to a multitude of museums, England’s rich history is everywhere. Near Salisbury, the prehistoric Stonehenge still stands tall. In London, you could spend a lifetime exploring historical sites, from quirky Victorian gasholders still dotted around the city to East End stories of immigration and flower stalls passed through generations. Studying history in London would naturally include trips to the Natural History Museum, the Houses of Parliament, and the Tower of London. Liverpool is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the National Trust protects historic buildings all over the country.

English & Literature. Charles Dickens. Mary Shelley. George Orwell. Virginia Woolf. J.R.R. Tolkien. Zadie Smith. English majors can rattle off a dozen more with ease: the list of influential English writers from every era is endless. Hello — Shakespeare, anyone? Literary jaunts include seeing a performance at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, or visiting one of five houses associated with the Bard in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. Drive through England on the Jane Austen trail set by the National Trust. Yes, you can find Platform 9¾ from J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series in London’s King’s Cross (but unless you’re magical, don’t try running into the barrier!). Walk the Agatha Christie Mile in Torquay. The literary landscapes that inspired writers like Beatrix Potter are found in the Lake District, and Leicester claims the roots of modern English.

Business, Finance, & Technology. England has shifted its focus from traditional industry to modern technology. Studying technology in London is particularly exciting now, since London’s Tech City is set to rival the U.S.’s Silicon Valley. Though New York and Hong Kong loom large, London remains the leading global center for high finance. Birmingham just launched the United Kingdom’s largest city-center enterprise zone, one of 24 being created around England. English business-people to inspire include Dame Anita Roddick of The Body Shop, Virgin’s Richard Branson, and Lord Alan Sugar, a self-made business magnate and the big boss on BBC-TV’s The Apprentice.

The London Eye in London, England

The London Eye on the South Bank of the River Thames

Hospitality & Tourism. Last year, more than 70 million passengers traveled through London’s Heathrow Airport. Nearly 100 other airports of various sizes throughout England welcome visitors, and after the 2012 Olympics, tourism grew even further. More than 70,000 sites offer accommodation in the U.K. There are more than 110,000 restaurants, over 25,000 yearly festivals, exhibitions, conferences, and concerts, and more than 2,500 travel operator businesses and tour guides in England.

Theater. Just be prepared to spell it “Theatre”! England is a hotbed for actors, actresses and playwrights, and studying abroad in England will expand any theater major’s horizons. The theatrical offerings go way beyond Shakespeare and the latest musicals to hit London’s West End (though those alone are two excellent reasons to study theater in England). From Noël Coward to Mike Leigh to Tom Stoppard, there are plenty to inspire. Don’t miss London’s National Theatre or Sadler’s Wells, but also head north to Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre — this is one of England’s best theater experiences. You’re also a short train journey from the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

International Relations. As an academic subject, International Relations was developed in the U.K. just after World War I. About 13 percent of the U.K.’s total population was born abroad. In London alone, 37 percent of this global city’s inhabitants were born outside the U.K., and 24 percent are non-U.K. nationals. There is a distinct global mindset in much of England. There are international companies and non-governmental organizations in abundance, and plenty of internships for international relations majors. Plus, most major U.K. cities link to Brussels and the European Union headquarters by train.

Anthropology & Sociology. England’s compact diversity — and intense pockets of different nationalities, religions, and social expectations that develop in this small country — make it a fascinating place to study anthropology or sociology. In Bradford, for example, 20 percent of the population is Asian. This reflects in language, food and many other everyday aspects of life. In London, Chelsea is full of American accents, and Brixton’s high streets are lined with Caribbean and African restaurants. Edgware Road in London’s city center has more signs written in Arabic than in English. Studying the dynamics of the country’s large immigrant population and British culture could keep you busy for years.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, England

The Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol.

Art, Architecture, Fashion & Design. With world-leading arts institutions such as Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, England is constantly on the forefront of cutting-edge design. The new Shard building spikes impressively above London’s skyline; and London Fashion Week is a global showcase featuring British designers and design houses such as Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, and Vivienne Westwood. The London Design Museum is one of the world’s great venues donated to contemporary design. Beyond the creative capital, Salts Mill in Yorkshire holds one of the largest collections of David Hockney’s art. Street scenes in Manchester and Liverpool inspired LS Lowry; and Bristol is the home of Banksy, whose street art sells for millions in auction houses.

Politics & Law. Winston Churchill said “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” England’s long political history is well documented, and its governmental structure used as an example for other democracies. The U.K.’s inclusion in the European Union opens up a new dimension of politics. Oxford, Cambridge, and the London School of Economics are top universities for law students. Nottingham’s Galleries of Justice Museum is a popular attraction, and London is where it all unfolds. Studying politics in London includes trips to Westminster Palace to 10 Downing Street, and witnessing peaceful protests in Parliament Square and fiery street orators at the “Speakers’ Corner” in Hyde Park.

Languages. Though English is the national language of England, it is by no means the only language. More than 300 different languages are spoken in London alone, so you have plenty of chances to hear and speak almost any language you want to learn. Because you can still navigate your daily life in English, yet be exposed to other languages, England is particularly great for beginning language students. Build confidence in your language skills, and then you’ll have the rest of Europe a short flight or train ride away where you can practice with locals.