Guide to Studying English

What is English?

  • English as a language we would recognise today was first spoken in early medieval times, and is now one of the most spoken on earth. As well as the UK, it is the official language of the USA, Canada, Australia and Ireland.

Why study English?

  • You get to read novels and poems instead of textbooks and reports. If you're someone who spends their summers with their nose in a book or writing short stories, you already know this is for you.
  • Of course there is more to English than just reading your favourite books, and if you've never read anything more complex than Harry potter then you may want to expand your mind. Analysing takes brainpower.
  • In English degrees, you won't have contact time in double figures, and may in later semesters have almost none at all. If you enjoy independent learning - doing your own thing basically - English could be the one.
  • English is more than crusty old volumes of Chaucer and Shakespeare. There will be opportunity to study modern literature, theatre, film, or even do a bit of creative writing yourself. It's a malleable degree.

Coursework, assessment and exams

  • Assessment consists of primarily coursework, with at least two essays a semester for each module on virtually every worthwhile degree out there.
  • There will also be presentations, projects, and most have examinations at the end of each semester. It is usual in an English degree to do a third year dissertation, but not always compulsory.

What degree can I get? 

  • BA English Literature, or Language, or both
  • BA English and Theatre
  • BA English and a modern foreign language
  • BA Film and English

What qualifications do I need?

  • Most combinations of A-levels will get you on an English course, but requirements are different at each university or college.
  • Always confirm the entry requirements for the particular university/course you are interested in.

Use the CUG Course Chooser to search through English courses.

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

  • There is an exciting range of taught MAs and research degrees at postgraduate level.
  • Examples include a straight MA in English Literature, as well as Creative Writing, American Literature, Ancient Literature, English Language Teaching, Linguistics, Black Literature, Children's Literature, and many more.

Graduate job prospects



*Professional employment refers to a job or occupation which normally requires a degree.
**Non-professional employment refers to a job or occupation which doesn't normally require a degree.

What are the job opportunities?

  • Despite its reputation and lack of obvious career pathways English graduates have strong prospects, and there are a lot of applicable and relevant jobs.
  • Particular job areas include editorial assistant, english teacher either at a home or foreign school, lexicographer, journalist, author, librarian, advertising, admin and HR work, and PR.
  • Several professional organisations offer specialised positions for English graduates, such as the Arts and Humanities Research Council.