Updated: Aug 5, 2021
Thinking of applying to study English at university? There are many things to take into consideration when choosing a degree course. To give you a bit of guidance, here are Genevieve's picks of the top five most interesting English degree programmes.
1) University of Birmingham
Heading first to a large midlands city, Birmingham has a beautiful campus which even has its own train station. Requiring AAB (or ABB with an A in EPQ), UOB keeps creeping up the english league tables, and is now up to a prestigious ninth in the Complete University Guide.
In terms of the course, first year modules include core poetry, prose, plays and performance modules. These are aimed to help you develop the skills to analyse all different kinds of literature. As well as this, there is a unique ‘Language for Literature’ module, which helps you out with the language analysis that is essential to studying of literature.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this course are their less traditional modules: you can sample modules in disciplines such as creative writing, film, or drama. You also take a ‘Widening Horizons’ module outside of your course – a great way to try something new, or revisit something you studied at ‘A’ Level.
If you’re interested, you can register your interest in the module here, and use their helpful offer calculator to see if you would be likely to get an offer.
2) Aberystwyth University
Now moving to a very different location: Aberystwyth is in mid-Wales, and right next to the beach. Aberystwyth is surprisingly a hub of the arts, with more going on than you might expect. For instance, the award winning Aberystwyth Arts Centre is one of the UK’s largest arts centres, and the largest library in Wales is situated next to the campus.
Aberystwyth has a very flexible degree course, with even the first year only having two core modules, and lots of somewhat quirky modules to choose from such as ‘Literature And The Sea’.
Statistics show the teaching quality to be extremely high: 100% of students agreed that staff are good at explaining things, and that staff have made the subject interesting. In fact, Aberystwyth gained a Gold award in Teaching Excellence and Student outcomes Framework in 2018.
While Aberystwyth might not be a university you have considered so far, the high student satisfaction and employability statistics might persuade you that it’s worth a visit. They currently ask for ABB-BBB in ‘A’ levels.
3) University of Warwick
Heading back inland to the Midlands (pretty much as far as you can get from the coast!) the University of Warwick has an excellent reputation. If a campus university is what you’re interested in, Warwick may be the place for you. The home of the renowned arts centre, Warwick is a particularly stimulating environment to study the arts. It is also the home of the award winning Warwick Writing Programme. You can easily take a module from the creative writing programme, and attend the weekly ‘Warwick Thursdays’, which host publishers and authors from around the world.
The University of Warwick requires AAA in ‘A’ Levels, and has a fairly rigorous first year. It offers four core modules that allow you to really get a grasp of the whole canon of English Literature – spanning from Medieval to contemporary literary theory. There is also an emphasis on World Literature at Warwick: it is a requirement of the degree programme to have studied literature from somewhere in the world that is not England.
After the first year, however, the degree is placed more in your hands. There are a couple of compulsory modules, such as a research project in final year, and a Literature in Theory module in second year. The modules are generally taught by one lecture and one seminar per week.
4) Royal Holloway
Part of the University of London, Royal Holloway is also a campus-based university, and the main campus is stunning (definitely check out the pictures on the website) and only a short train ride away from London. Royal Holloway therefore offers a more relaxed alternative to the usual London university experience.
Generally being a well-regarded university, the English department is particularly cutting-edge, with a very interesting assortment of modern modules to choose from. Like most courses, there are a lot of core modules in year one, but significantly, all modules in second and third year are optional. Some of the most interesting modules are: Drama and Witchcraft; Queer Histories; Children’s Literature; The Digital and Creative Industries.
A strength of Royal Holloway is their small tutorial groups: in first year, there are study skills seminars of just four or five students. This is not something you often find in English courses, so it might be something to consider.
Royal Holloway requires ABB in grade requirements, but may be lowered if you offer an EPQ.
5) King's College, London
If you are keen to have the whole London university experience, then King's might just be for you. London offers a simulating intellectual environment for an English student, with the British Library and Globe Theatre in easy reach. In the Complete University Guide, the English department is ranked at number 17, with particularly high student satisfaction. King's also offers study abroad programmes to all students, and requires AAA in ‘A’ levels.
King's has a fairly relaxed, but highly reputable course structure, with the first year involving mostly compulsory modules, from American literature to medieval English culture. You are also able to pick some optional modules from a wide range.
Generally, they offer a balanced course structure that allows you some flexibility to choose your own modules, but requires you to fulfil certain criteria to ensure that you are spanning a suitable range of genres and time periods. Just imagine – you could graduate King's having been able to study what you love, but also feel like you are an expert on all areas of Literature!
Where to look next:
· Unistats – this website will help you to compare statistics on different universities.
· League tables – different league tables might help you in your search for universities. The Complete University Guide have a guide specifically for English courses, while The Times University Rankings can give you a good overall picture of the university as a whole.
· Check out the online prospectuses of your chosen universities, or order their printed copies.
· Most importantly, book your places at a few open days, and go and see the universities for yourself!
Blog Post Crafted by Genevieve
Born in Coventry, she now tutors English SATs and GCSE in her free time, as well as working for the university as an outreach ambassador in local schools.
She also enjoys playing piano and flute, and often performs as a backing singer at local gigs.
Whenever she has a moment to spare, you might find her driving to the beach or catching up on her reading!