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Durham University


QV21 English Literature and History BA Undergraduate  2021


Please note: 2020-21 courses may be affected by Covid-19 and are therefore subject to change due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Summaries of course-specific changes resulting from the impact of Covid-19 will be provided to applicants during August 2020.

For the latest information on our plans for teaching in academic year 2020/21 in light of Covid-19, please see

UCAS code QV21
Degree BA
Mode of study Full Time
Duration 3 years
Location Durham City
Typical Offers A Level
International Baccalaureate
Please also check Requirements and Admissions.
Alternative qualifications
Contextual Offers You may be eligible for an offer which is one or two grades lower than our standard entry requirements. Find out more.
More information Still have questions?
Department(s) Website

Course Summary


Joint Honours in English and History is a cross-disciplinary course, which develops and assesses skills that are common to both disciplines alongside others that are specific to each. The course offers you the opportunity to acquire a range of both literary-critical and historical knowledge, develops the ability to deploy and contextualise a number of subject-specific skills in each discipline, and locates these skills and forms of knowledge in relation to one another.

Year 1

In the first year, you will take three modules in English Literature and three modules in History.

Examples of optional modules in English:

  • Introduction to Drama
  • Introduction to the Novel
  • Introduction to Poetry
  • Romance and the Literature of Chivalry
  • Myth and Epic of the North
  • English: Language, Use, Theory
  • Classical and Biblical Backgrounds to English Literature.

Examples of optional modules in History:

  • Beyond the Northlands: The Vikings and their World
  • Decline and Crisis: Europe 1300-1500
  • Early Modern England: A Social History
  • Society and Culture in China under Ming and Qing Dynasties
  • Reformation Europe
  • The Century of Revolution
  • Making History
  • The Birth of Western Society, 300-1050 AD.

Year 2

In English, you have a wide choice from among lecture and seminar modules, but must take either Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism or Shakespeare. In History, you are offered modules that provide time-depth and focus on a closely defined period, and modules that are broader and more wide ranging, typically offering a widely delimited chronological and geographical approach.

Compulsory modules in English:


  • Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism
  • Shakespeare

(although both may be selected).

Examples of optional lecture modules in English (taught by weekly lectures and four one-hour tutorials):

  • Chaucer
  • Old English
  • Old Norse
  • Old French
  • Renaissance Literature
  • Victorian Literature
  • Literature of the Modern Period
  • American Poetry.

Examples of optional seminar modules in English (taught by fortnightly two-hour seminars):

  • Jane Austen
  • Arthurian Literature
  • Germanic Myth and Legend
  • The Australian Legend
  • Toni Morrison: Texts and Contexts
  • The Brontës
  • Evelyn Waugh
  • Shakespeare’s History Plays
  • Romantic Plays and Players (a maximum of one may be selected).

Examples of optional modules in History:

  • Conversations with History
  • Hard Times: British Society, 1818-1902
  • Robin Hood
  • The Book of Hours in Medieval Life and Art
  • The Court: Art and Power in Early Modern Europe
  • Selling the Tudor Monarchy
  • Political Culture in Japan since 1688
  • Soviet Socialism in the Cold War: The USSR, 1945-1991
  • From Vikings to Crusaders: The Formation of the Scandinavian Kingdoms, 900-1200
  • Colonial British America, 1600-1776.

Year 3

In English, the combination of a range of optional lecture modules and Special Topics is designed to broaden and deepen your knowledge base and analytical skills. In History, the syllabus encourages the detailed study and analysis of historical events, trends and problems by means of a Special Subject (requiring close study of a highly specialised topic using primary source materials) and a Dissertation. The third year also includes the possibility of choosing ‘reflective’ modules which oblige students to study a particular historical problem that will lead them to reflect upon the problematical nature of the historical enterprise, on its technique, historiography and subjectivity.

Compulsory modules:

One from:

  • Dissertation in English
  • Dissertation in History (40 credits).

Examples of optional lecture modules in English (taught by weekly lectures and four one-hour tutorials):

  • Old English
  • Old Norse
  • Old French
  • Restoration and 18th Century Literature
  • Literature of the Romantic Period
  • Post-War Fiction and Poetry
  • American Fiction
  • Medieval Literature.

Examples of optional special topics in English (taught by fortnightly two-hour seminars):

  • Literature, Cinema and Neuroscience
  • Shakespeare on Film
  • Resistance in South Asian Postcolonial Literature
  • Writing Prose Fiction
  • Reading Joyce’s Ulysses
  • B. Yeats
  • Keats and Shelley
  • Elizabeth Bishop and Twentieth Century Verse
  • Nonsense Literature
  • Creative Writing Poetry
  • Writing Mountains in the Early Twentieth Century
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Jewish American Fiction
  • Science and the Literary Imagination
  • Mind and Narrative.

Examples of optional modules in History:

  • A World Turned Upside Down: Radicalism in the English Revolution
  • From War to Cold War: US Foreign Policy, c. 1944-1948
  • Politics and Polemics: Medieval German Kings and their Chroniclers, c. 1024-1125
  • Revolution and History
  • The Ruin of the World: Roman to Barbarian Gaul, 400-500
  • Medieval Iceland: Settlement, Sagas, Civil War
  • Popular Cultures in Early Modern England 1500-1640. 

We review course structures and core content (in light of e.g. external and student feedback) every year, and will publish finalised core requirements for 2021 entry from September 2020.

Study Abroad

You may apply to study abroad for an additional year between Levels 2 and 3 (transferring from BA Hons in English Literature and History to BA Hons English Literature and History with a Year Abroad). Supported by the International Office and the Department’s International Co-ordinator, you can put yourself forward for the following study abroad options:

The Overseas Exchange programme university-wide links with institutions in North America, the Far East, Australasia, and so on). A list of the University’s current partners is available here:

The Erasmus programme (Departmental link maintained with universities in EU countries). At present, English has exchanges with the following institutions (subject to change/renewal)

  • Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.
  • Phillipps Universität, Marburg, Germany.
  • Ruprecht-Karls-Universität, Heidelberg, Germany.
  • University of Iceland, Reykjavík, Iceland.
  • Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland.
  • Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland.

The year abroad is designed to promote and develop the knowledge and understanding of other cultures and languages via an approved placement. It also helps to promote and develop an advanced knowledge of the national, regional and/or international frameworks in which literature is produced and categorised.

Successful year abroad applicants will take a course of study chosen in consultation with the International Co-ordinator and the host institution. Modules relating to literary study should normally comprise a minimum of 50% of those taken. There should not be significant overlap between modules taken on the Year Abroad and modules taken in Durham.

Placement Year

You may be able to take a work placement. Find out more.

Course Learning and Teaching

When you study English Literature at Durham you will typically receive 8 contact hours per week in the first year (lectures and tutorials), 7 in the second year, and 5 in the third year (lectures, tutorials and seminars) per week. In addition, the course requires a very considerable amount of directed independent learning: a minimum of 30 hours per week, comprised of reading primary and secondary sources, writing formative and assessed essays, and preparation of tutorial and seminar assignments. From the outset the Department cultivates an ethos of research-led teaching and the acquisition of specialist study skills, as well as transferable skills. Throughout, particular emphasis is placed on small group teaching and individual academic development. The balance of contact hours across the course reflects individual progression in research, analysis and writing.

In the first year, a choice of six modules provides an induction into the disciplines of literature and advanced historical study. English modules cover the main genres, historical periods, contexts and backgrounds to English literature, while History modules offer engagement with different periods and approaches to the study of the past, and experience of the way in which History, as a community of practice, encompasses the diversity of the human experience. Weekly lectures are supplemented by small-group tutorials and seminars. Specialist research, analytical and writing skills are developed in formative essays and individual feedback sessions, which play a key role in the delivery of the English degree and in academic progression. The average contact time of 8 hours per week is supported by directed reading, tutorial preparation and essay research and writing, comprising at least 30 hours per week. Teaching methods are designed to support the directed learning model, for example, through the provision of reading lists, assignments, presentation briefs and online materials. Directed learning is also supported by the Durham University online learning environment (DUO). In addition to lectures and tutorials, four plenary sessions support and develop directed learning and study skills throughout the year and prepare you to make module choices for your second year.

In the second year, in keeping with the Department’s policy on academic progression, an increasing emphasis is placed on the development of critical and analytical skills. The curriculum continues to require you to engage with a range of periods and styles of literary and historical study, with modules introducing new problems in a more specific framework. You will take at least two, and up to four, modules in each discipline. This may include a seminar module in English, which may be author- or theme-based, with a strong research component, taught in 2-hour, fortnightly seminar sessions, often involving individual or group presentations. Seminars involve significant preparation (c. 10 hours), typically reading assigned texts and secondary material, preparing assigned topics, and researching and preparing presentations. Individual consultation sessions allow for discussion of a plan of the first assessed essay with seminar convenors. Overall, the small group ethos is maintained in second year. The average 7 hours of weekly contact time in Year 2 requires extensive directed learning and independent research of c. 34 hours per week.

The average contact time in the third year is 5 hours per week and you will be expected to take further responsibility for managing your own time. The curriculum, while continuing to offer support and guidance, will require you to use the skills in independent study and time management you have developed in the two preceding years. This will culminate with the dissertation, a large research project undertaken in either the History or English Department, giving you the opportunity to engage, at an advanced level, with creative cutting-edge research at the forefront of the discipline.

In addition to your dissertation, during the third year you will have the opportunity to take a Special Topic and further lecture modules in the English Department. You will also undertake further modules in History, which may include a Special Subject module based around a seminar group which meets each week to discuss the interpretation of chosen primary sources and to interrogate the secondary literature. You will be expected to spend at least 30 hours each week in independent study.

Throughout the undergraduate degree, you are encouraged to participate in the Department’s extensive programme of research-related activities, including public lectures, special guest lectures, and lectures, readings and workshops by visiting UK and overseas academics and creative writers. Postdoctoral and postgraduate students regularly offer seminars and study days. In addition, you are invited to attend regular lectures and workshops on personal development and employment prospects, organised jointly by the Department and the Careers and Enterprise Centre. In addition to College mentors, who offer pastoral support, academic support is available from module tutors, seminar leaders, and module conveners, in addition to an Academic Advisor, allocated at the start of the course.

Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

A level offerA*AA including History and English Literature (or the combined English Literature and Language).

BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma/OCR Cambridge Technical Extended DiplomaD*DD and A level requirements as above.

IB Diploma score38 with 666 in higher level subjects, including History and English Literature or English Literature/Language.

In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:

  • We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or from those who may have had a break in their study.
  • We welcome enquiries regarding applications for deferred entry which may be considered in special circumstances. Please contact us using

Science A levels

Applicants taking Science A levels that include a practical component will be required to take and pass this as a condition of entry. This applies only to applicants sitting A levels with an English examination board.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Information relevant to your country

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £21,730.00 per year
Home Student £9,250.00 per year
Island Student £9,250.00 per year
International non-EU Student £21,730.00 per year

The tuition fees shown for home students are for one complete academic year of full time study and are set according to the academic year of entry. Fees for subsequent years of your course may rise in line with an inflationary uplift as determined by the government.

The tuition fees shown for overseas and EU students are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding 

Career Opportunities

English Studies

Durham has an excellent graduate employment record. Surveys by the CVCP for the last twenty years have shown Durham consistently in the top five places of the employment league table. Our graduates have gone on to careers in the media, law, the Civil Service, teaching, higher education,research, management, publishing, and the arts. Partly because of its supportive collegiate structure and its strong departmental teaching, the Durham University is regularly among the country's top performers in graduate employment, and the Department of English Studies is very highly regarded by employers. Many of our students choose to continue their studies with our Taught MA in English Literary Studies.

Embarking on a career with the BBC after graduation I found that Durham University is held in very high esteem amongst employers. The University name provided me with an association of prestige which helped to give an edge in a competitive market.

Of those students that left in 2017:

  • 90% are in employment or further study

Of those in employment:

  • 84% are in graduate level employment
  • Median salary £22,000

(Source: Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey of 2016/17 graduates. The DLHE survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing six months after graduation. Full definitions for the DLHE Record can be found

Employment development opportunities

The Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre works extremely closely with the English Department to ensure that current students receive information and vacancies relevant to their needs. Innovative talks take place by a Careers Adviser and external speakers to ensure that the students receive the most relevant and up to date advice about professions that English students are attracted too.

Durham is a target University for KPMG because of the high calibre, high quality graduates. A degree in English from Durham is a great opportunity for students to develop their skill set to aid them in any recruitment process. To make an impact with colleagues and clients, you must be able to communicate clearly and confidently, both verbally and in writing.


We offer our students exceptional opportunities that will help you become critically and socially engaged graduates of the highest calibre.

As a department we help you reflect academically on your progress as you develop into a mature historian, and develop the many advanced skills you will acquire alongside your degree. These skills can be harnessed for your career, allowing you to articulate your degree-specific skills in an outward-facing manner.

This strategy is at the very centre of our planning, which we have woven into our learning, teaching and planning. It is no surprise, therefore, to find that our graduates have gone on to find successful careers in a wide variety of fields, from the civil service, law, banking and business, to teaching, media, journalism, the military and further study.


When applying for roles many employers will ask you to supply academic references from one of your tutors. We always advise that you should approach tutors who know you and your work well, such as a special subject or dissertation tutor.

To help guide you with this process we arrange for advisors from the Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre provide short presentations to each year group as part of joined up sessions with an Academic Careers Contact and the Head of Undergraduate Studies:

  • Year 1 covers an introduction to developing employability skills.
  • Year 2 focus on internships /work experience.
  • Year 3 focus on graduate schemes /recruitment cycle/ effective on-line applications

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Pre-application open days are the best way to discover all you need to know about Durham University. With representatives from all relevant academic and support service departments, and opportunities to explore college options, the open days provide our prospective undergraduates with the full experience of Durham University.

Please see the following page for further details and information on how to book a place:

Discover Durham Tours

Discover Durham tours offer a brief introduction to the University. The tour begins at one of our undergraduate colleges, where you will receive an introductory talk from a member of college staff, followed by a tour of the college by current students.

Overseas Visit Schedule

Department Information

English Studies


English studies will appeal to people with a sensitivity to language, a love of reading and a sense of intellectual adventure.

Not only does English studies provide a thorough grounding in literary theory and the ‘great tradition’ of English literature – from Chaucer and Shakespeare through to plays, poems and novels written in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – but it also offers a wide range of imaginative and carefully designed modules.


  • World Top 50 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2020.
  • 1st in The Complete University Guide and the Guardian University Guide 2020.


For a current list of staff, please see the English Studies web pages.


The Department is housed in a Grade II listed building, Hallgarth House and in Elvet Riverside.  Both buildings are close to the University’s Bill Bryson Library and the special collections in the Palace Green Library. The Department has strong links with the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, the Centre for Seventeenth Century Studies, the Centre for Medical Humanities, the Centre for Poetry and Poetics, which oversees the archive of the distinguished Northumbrian modernist poet, Basil Bunting, and the Institute of Advanced Study.

These internationally recognised institutions represent just some of the research interests and archive resources within the University. Durham students run their own English Society, which provides many opportunities for theatre visits, especially to the Royal Shakespeare Company season in Newcastle every year. There is also a strong tradition of student drama and music within the Department and the University as a whole.




We have one of the most highly regarded history departments in the UK and our students love being here. This reputation is the product of the quality and commitment of our staff, and the breadth of our teaching, which reflects the research interests of a Department with an international outlook.

We offer modules covering periods from the Middle Ages to the present and many different parts of the world: Chinese, Japanese, African and US history are all taught at Durham University, alongside British and other European history.  Our degree courses reflect the rich variety of modern historical writing, including cultural, media and gender history as well as political, religious, social and economic history. We are proud to attract so many bright and articulate students; our students achieve excellent results, and proceed to successful careers in both the private and public sectors.


  • World Top 50 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2020
  • 3rd in The Complete University Guide 2020.
  • 3rd in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020.


For a current list of staff, please see the History Department web pages.


Located in the historic heart of Durham City, the Department is close to the World Heritage Site of the Cathedral and Castle. We have excellent libraries, containing archives and book collections of international significance and providing access to a huge range of teaching and online resources, which make us a perfect choice for undergraduate study. Teaching takes place in lecture halls in various areas of the University site, and for smaller groups in staff offices and seminar rooms, many fitted with state-of-the-art IT equipment and mostly located in the Department premises at 43 North Bailey.