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Carleton University Undergraduate Bachelor of Humanities (Great Books)
Carleton University Undergraduate

Bachelor of Humanities (Great Books)

Ottawa, Canada

4 Years


Full time

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* Portfolio deadline: March 3


In the Bachelor of Humanities, students read the world’s most influential books and explore the world’s most exciting ideas in art, philosophy, history, literature, classics, music, religion and science.

In this interdisciplinary Liberal Arts program, students study the world’s greatest ideas, books, and artworks produced by thinkers from the span of recorded world history— from ancient Mesopotamia to modern America. The emphasis of the program is on ideas, explored through small discussion groups and writing assignments. The typical Humanities student loves to read and is excited about sharing ideas with students and professors.

The Bachelor of Humanities can take you anywhere you want to go. Humanities students graduate with outstanding research, writing, and communication skills, and they normally rise very quickly in their chosen professions. Humanities students can ask to be paired with a professional mentor and can gain insight into the workplace before they graduate. Graduates may go on to rewarding careers in law, journalism, teaching, medicine, business, policy analysis, foreign service, international relations, public service, writing, and research.

The Carleton advantage

The curriculum

The BHum curriculum invites students to think deeply about what it means to be human by guiding them through the successive conceptions of humanity that have shaped our culture. The Humanities program has its own teaching and study space. Students encounter perennial ideas, such as love, justice, creativity, and wisdom, as well as the darker aspects of humanity, such as evil, violence, cruelty and the abuse of power.

The centerpiece of the BHum curriculum is a four-year sequence of core seminars that offers a chronological and thematic study of the world¹s great books. Whereas many Great Books programs begin with Greek philosophy, the BHum first-year seminar examines religious traditions from ancient Israel, India, and China. The second-year seminar then looks at the emergence of Greek philosophy and its fertile encounter with the rise of Christendom up to the Middle Ages. The third-year seminar examines the great artistic and literary works produced during the Renaissance and Enlightenment and the fourth-year seminar explores the character of modernity and the real-world ramifications of the critiques of modernity.

Each core seminar is taught by two professors, includes small discussion groups run by the professors, and is restricted to students in the Humanities program.

In addition to the core seminars, each year includes a carefully integrated set of relevant courses in a variety of subjects, including history, philosophy, literature, religion, classics, art history and the history of music. Students also choose courses from a limited set of electives and free electives.

A close-knit creative community

The small size of the Bachelor of Humanities program means that the students form an intimate, dynamic community and form lifelong friendships during their four years. Humanities students are also known personally by their professors, receiving a level of attention and personalized instruction that is hard to find elsewhere. The Humanities program has its own precinct at Carleton, consisting of a beautiful lecture hall and seminar room, and a comfortable common room solely for the use of BHum students.

The capital advantage

Carleton’s location in Ottawa gives students ready access to a wealth of resources. Institutions such as Library and Archives Canada, the Canadian Museum of History and the National Gallery of Canada all contribute to the cultural advantages of studying in the nation’s capital. Ottawa also has a lively and long-established artistic community offering many opportunities to attend theatrical events, literary readings and musical performances. Many nationally and internationally renowned speakers and dignitaries visit our city and students can hear them speak at public lectures, conferences and in Parliament.

Public Lectures

The College of the Humanities regularly hosts public lectures and seminars so that students can engage with some of the most distinguished thinkers of our time. In recent years, the College has sponsored public talks by the following:

  • Ursula Franklin
  • Charlotte Gray
  • Samuel Huntington
  • Mark Kingwell
  • Alberto Manguel
  • Seyyed Hossein Nasr
  • John Ralston Saul
  • Margaret Somerville
  • Charles Taylor

The program

Students may choose one of the five-degree programs: the Honors, the Combined Honors, the Humanities with a Study Year Abroad, the Humanities and Biology degree, or the Journalism and Humanities degree.

The Bachelor of Humanities Honors is the most comprehensive and guided version of the degree. It is designed for students with the broadest interests, and as such includes the highest number of courses specified by the College.

The Bachelor of Humanities with a Combined Honors or a minor allows students to combine Humanities with another subject. Students are free to combine Humanities with any other discipline at Carleton that offers a Combined Honors or a minor, from Philosophy or English to Political Science or Human Rights. Students in this degree program may also study abroad in their third year.

The Bachelor of Humanities Honors with a Study Year Abroad is designed for students who wish to earn credits toward their degrees overseas. By specifying that five of the student’s credits are to be taken abroad, this version of the degree offers the student great flexibility in their foreign course choices.

The Humanities and Biology program is designed for students who intend to apply to medical school upon graduation. This Combined Honors program consists of twelve courses in Humanities and eight courses in Biology, Chemistry, and Biochemistry.

The Bachelor of Journalism and Humanities is for those students who wish to cultivate their love of ideas while training for a career. Students receive professional training in the newspaper, radio, television, and new media while gaining an understanding of world culture and history.

Additional requirements

In many cases, students must also submit a portfolio to be accepted into the program.

Study abroad

Many students in the Bachelor of Humanities spend their third year studying abroad. Carleton has exchange programs with universities in England, Scotland, Wales, France, Germany, Finland, Australia and many other countries. The College strongly encourages students to take advantage of the exchange opportunities offered through the International Student Services Office (ISSO). In addition, the College has a special arrangement with the Institute of Philosophy at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, in Belgium, where up to ten students a year may study Philosophy in English, in most cases completing the majority of a Combined Honors degree in Philosophy.

Cultural and mentor programs

The College also offers both a cultural and a mentor program. The cultural program is organized by a cultural director and Humanities students and includes musical evenings, art displays, poetry readings, a philosophy society, a book club, and visits to see theatre, dance, and films.

The College’s mentorship program links students with people from the community such as senior civil servants, diplomats, Members of Parliament, poets, artists and members of the academic community who not only serve as friends and advisors but also introduce students to the world in which they work. Language requirement Students must have a good knowledge of a second language upon completion of the BHum program. At Carleton, students can choose to study a wide variety of languages including Ancient Greek, Latin, French, Italian, German, Arabic, Russian, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, to name a few.


Humanities students are eligible for Carleton scholarships available to all students, including Entrance Scholarships, which are awarded automatically according to a student’s admission average, and Prestige Scholarships, which require a separate application. In addition, there are three awards available specifically to students in the Humanities program: the Pamela and Richard Joho Bursary; the Lee Valley Entrance Scholarship for a new student; and the Beverly Krugel Scholarship awarded annually to an outstanding student currently enrolled in the College.

Future opportunities

Graduates of the BHum program are able to understand today’s global culture, make free and well-informed judgments, and make significant contributions to civic life. A number of the BHum’s distinctive features give students an advantage as they embark on their chosen career paths.

In completing the BHum curriculum, students learn to analyze complex texts and ideas, and they work closely with faculty in acquiring high-level research and writing skills. In weekly discussion groups, students hone their communication skills, and the College organizes career-related events throughout the year— events such as Alumni Career Nights and meetings with College mentors.

All these special features give BHum students the skills that are necessary for the following careers (some of which require further training or education).


  • Lawyer
  • Researcher
  • Teacher
  • International relations officer
  • Writer
  • Journalist
  • Professor
  • Public servant
  • Policy analyst
  • Foreign service worker
  • Doctor
  • Businessperson

What students are saying about Humanities (Great Books)

"My Humanities program is exactly what I wanted. I get to learn all about the growth of society through history in religion, philosophy, art and much more. I feel worldly and well-rounded from the program because it’s a bit of everything. The small class size allows you to learn course material better through close discussions with your professors and classmates. The rewards far exceed the challenges. I have learned a lot from the program, especially in my writing skills. It’s even better that I get to study in the beautiful city of Ottawa."

Tyra Swick-Blake, Humanities student


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