MA African Studies


There are good reasons to study Africa. If one gets engaged with the continent at a deeper level, hardly any of the usual recipes turn out to be reliable. Today, the multiple demands put to those who deal with Africa or its people cannot be covered or communicated within a single discipline. Where the usual interpretations fail, new knowledge is called for. In Basel, knowledge about Africa has been accumulating for decades. The Centre for African Studies joins these capacities by offering a specialized interdisciplinary Master's study course in African Studies. For the first time in Switzerland, Africa has become the subject of a course of its own. The duration of the course is four semesters leading to a Master of Arts diploma according to the model of the Bologna convention.


Abilities and Competencies
During the course of your studies, you will acquire a broad, interdisciplinary knowledge about Africa, which will allow you to understand the complex relationships between natural, social, cultural, political and historical circumstances. It will also help you to communicate your findings. 

Professional Outlook
The knowledge and abilities gained in the programme will open up different areas of employment for you:

  • Teaching and doing research at university
  • As an associate or a consultant of multi-or bilateral organisations such as the WHO, UNICEF, UNDP, UNEP, UNAIDS, or national as well as  non-governmental development agencies
  • In journalism and communication (print media, radio, television, film and video production, intercultural communication)
  • In the field of migration and integration
  • In archives and libraries
  • As an associate in projects of research and implementation
  • of environmental sciences
  • As an associate in environmental and ecological agencies


Please note that for students starting from autumn semester 2013 a revised course structure applies. The description below refers to the current study regulations and will be updated by summer 2013. For an overview of the new modules see the new study plan (pdf).

The programme leads you towards a Master of Arts in African Studies in at least four semesters. The course is interdisciplinary; its main areas lie in the subjects of History, Social Anthropology, Epidemiology and Biogeography. You choose two of the three core modules: History, Social Anthropology and Environment and Human Well-Being.

Module Introduction to Interdisciplinary African Studies
. What are the different approaches to Africa practised by the various disciplines? Which issues are they studying? How can these subjects communicate and work with each other at an inderdisciplinary level?
Module History
. What is the relationship between youth and reform movements in Africa, between raw materials, resource crises, and conflicts; between missions and modernity? And what relations did Switzerland have with Africa from the time of the slave trade until the emergence of independent national states? In the module History, you will get to know the methods of African History by asking such questions. In order to look at certain aspects more closely, you will look for evidence in archives and collections in Basel, and elsewhere in Europe, and you will be encouraged to undertake
fieldwork in Africa.
Module Social Anthropology. How are African societies organized socially and culturally? What are the effects of globalization? What does Social Anthropology make
of the weak position of the state in many African countries? The module Social Anthropology teaches you to apply ethnological questions and methods to African
societies and offers you an overview of current research into the Social Anthropology of Africa.
Module Environment and Human Well-Being. What effects do agricultural practices have on the environment and human health? What are Africa‘s major health
problems and how do those affected perceive their illness and situation? How can medical and ecological interventions be organised in such a way as to have a sustainable effect? How are interventions in health and environment linked to poverty and the fight against it? The module Environment and Human Well-Being, will give you a comparative look at health problems and health systems in Africa and their social and political framework. You will also receive an overview of the current research interests and problems concerning the protection of nature, landscape and the environment.
Module Society and Culture. As an interdisciplinary module Society and Culture is an addition to the core modules History, Social Anthropology and Environment
and Human Well-Being. The courses in this module come from the subjects Sociology, Gender Studies, Literature and Linguistics, Comparative Religious Studies, Mission Studies and Islamic Studies.
Module Applied African Studies. This module introduces you to practical research. In field studies in Africa and/or through archival research, you will familiarize yourself with the practices and standards of scientific research. Job internships will give you a look at possible areas of employment, and will allow you to make valuable contacts.

For a detailed description of the study course see the Guidelines for the MA study course African Studies (forthcoming), the Regulations of the Faculty of the Humanities for the MA courses (PDF, in German), the Annexure 31 (PDF, in German) to the regulations or check the current study programme under Courses.

Target Group

Graduate Students with an academic degree (BA, BSc or Lizenziat), who want to acquire or deepen their Africa-specific knowledge and capacities.


a) A Bachelor’s degree in the subjects of Social Anthropology, History, Social Sciences, Sociology, Geoscience or Biology from the University of Basel.
b) Equivalent achievements of 60 credit points from one of the following courses of study from a university recognized by the University of Basel: African Studies, Biology,
Environmental Sciences, Forestry, Geography, History, Political Science, Social and Cultural Anthropology and Sociology.
c) The acceptance of other degrees will depend on their recognition by the University of Basel.
d) Evidence of English competence on Level B2 of the European Language Portfolio. Accepted as evidence are the following internationally recognized language certificates:
Cambridge First Certificate and TOEFL test with the following minimal scores: paper-based testing: 520 points; computer-based testing: 190 points. The evidence of sufficient knowledge of English has to be presented before completion of the course.


Please submit your application for admission through the Student Services (Registrar's Office) of the University of Basel. The deadline for submission of applications usually is end of April for the semester starting in September and end of November for the semester starting in February. We recommend that you contact us beforehand by email to for a preliminary assessment.

International Students

Please note that in the case of international students the letter of admission is often only issued a month before the start of lectures. Since the application process for a study permit can take up to 4 months, international students usually have to postpone the start of their studies to the folllowing semester.

For a successful visa application a proof of sufficient financial means to cover the cost of your living and studying (CHF 2000.-/month) has to be submitted. As a rule the embassy will expect a bank draft of an account in the applicant's name containing the funds required for the first 9 monhts of your studies in combination with a letter explaining in a transparent and plausible way, that funding is sustainable for the chole duration of the studies (24 months).

Contact and information

For further information please do not hesitate to contact the Coordination Office of the Centre for African Studies. We will be glad to answer your questions.


University of Basel
Centre for African Studies
Petersgraben 11
CH-4051 Basel
Tel.: +41 (0)61 267 34 82