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Durham University


Q300 English Literature BA Undergraduate 2021


Please note: 2021-22 courses may be affected by Covid-19 and are therefore subject to change due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Applicants will be informed of any changes which we are required to make to course entries as a result of Covid-19.

UCAS code Q300
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


Single Honours in English Studies offers a comprehensive syllabus, which combines traditional areas of literary study with new and developing areas of the discipline. It aims to develop your conceptual abilities and analytical skills by exposing you to a variety of literary critical approaches, to promote and develop clarity and persuasiveness in argument and expression, and to enable you to develop, to a high degree of competence, a range of skills which are subject-specific and transferable. A degree in English Studies will equip you for a wide variety of professions and employment, as well as for advanced postgraduate study of English and related disciplines.

Year 1

There are three compulsory modules in Year 1 – Introduction to Drama, Introduction to the Novel, and Introduction to Poetry – each of which introduces you to representative works in the major literary genres. There are also four optional modules, from which you may select one, two or three. Previously these have offered the possibility to study important influences on English literature (Classical and Biblical Backgrounds to English Literature), early literature (Romance and the Literature of Chivalry and Myth and Epic of the North) and the history of the English language (English: Language, Use, Theory).

This year will focus on advancing skills of critical analysis and argument you have already acquired at A level, critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts, such as the awareness of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature and of the affective power of language, and on the introduction of more advanced concepts and theories relating to literature.

Compulsory modules:

  • Introduction to Drama
  • Introduction to the Novel
  • Introduction to Poetry.

Examples of optional modules:

Up to three of the following, selected from a range which has previously included (or up to two open modules offered by other departments):

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

Year 2

Year 2 builds on the knowledge and skills developed in first year by broadening the range of literary texts and periods with which you will engage. You will study a substantial number of authors, topics and texts and gain awareness of the range and variety of approaches to literary study. The second year also develops your ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to literature, as well as your powers of critical argument and command of written English. You will develop your capacity for autonomous learning and independence of thought by, for example, exploring, selecting from, and drawing together in an appropriate way, specific texts and topics chosen from a wide syllabus.

You must take the modules Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism and Shakespeare in Year 2 and choose up to three lecture modules and a seminar module. Some lecture modules cover historical periods, such as Renaissance Literature and Victorian Literature, while others focus on key literary figures, themes or language, such as Shakespeare, Chaucer, American Poetry, Old English, Old Norse, and Old French.

Compulsory modules:

  • Shakespeare
  • Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism

Examples of optional lecture modules (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 (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.

Year 3

In the final year you will be able to demonstrate a comprehensive and detailed knowledge of the subject, together with mature awareness of the variety of ideas relating to it. You will be able to demonstrate an ability to make connections and comparisons within your extensive range of reading. You will have developed the ability to interpret different ideas and values represented in literature, to test the ideas of others and to pursue ideas of your own. You will have acquired mature critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts, confident powers of critical argument and a developed command of written English. You will appreciate the importance of scholarly standards of presentation and of writing accurately, clearly and effectively.

The final year includes a compulsory 12,000-word Dissertation on a subject of your choice related to English literature. The Dissertation involves guided research on a self-formulated question, the gathering and processing of relevant information and materials, and results in work of sustained argumentative and analytic power.

In addition to the Dissertation, you may choose up to three lecture modules and up to two ‘Special Topics’, which develop the skills introduced in seminar modules at Level 2.

Compulsory modules:

  • Dissertation (40 credits).

Examples of optional lecture modules (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 (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
  • W. 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.

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 to BA (Hons) English Literature 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 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

If 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, you will take six lecture modules (three compulsory), which cover the main genres, historical periods, contexts and backgrounds to English literature. You may take up to two external modules. Weekly lectures are supplemented by small-group tutorials (an introductory meeting plus seven tutorials per module ). 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 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. Of this, recommended reading for lectures will occupy at least 3 hours per module per week: a total of 18 hours per week. Preparation for each tutorial typically involves at least 4 hours of directed reading and assignments; and research and writing of formative essays typically involves at least 8 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. In addition to lectures and tutorials, four plenary sessions support and develop your 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. You will take the compulsory lecture modules, ‘The Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism’ and ‘Shakespeare’. You may take up to three further lecture modules (organised for optimum historical coverage over Years 2 and 3) and a seminar module, which may be author- or theme-based, with a strong research component. Seminar modules are taught in 2-hour, fortnightly seminar sessions, which often include 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 lecture modules typically involving four tutorials and individual meetings with tutors for essay feedback, in which individual writing and analysis are developed. The average 7 hours of weekly contact time in Year 2 requires extensive directed learning and independent research of c. 34 hours per week: typically 14 hours recommended reading for lecture modules; 10 hours reading and preparation for special topic modules; 10 hours tutorial preparation, research and essay writing.

The average contact time in the third year is 5 hours per week. You will take four taught modules in the third year, in addition to a compulsory, double-weighted dissertation. Taught modules comprise lecture modules (up to three may be selected), which are delivered through weekly lectures and supported by tutorials (four per module); and research-focused Special Topics (up to two may be taken), delivered through fortnightly 2-hour seminars. The key focus of the third year is the further development of independent research, analysis and writing skills, which are emphasised in the Special Topics and find their fullest expression in your dissertation, a large research project which offers the possibility for extended creative and advanced research and literary analysis at a very high level on a topic of your choice and which forms a key element in the Department’s emphasis on undergraduate research and independent learning. While the emphasis is on independent research and writing, all students typically receive four 30-minute sessions of individual specialist supervision, and four 1-hour plenary sessions covering choice of title, research methods and skills, structure and presentation, researching, writing and referencing the dissertation (6.5 hours of supervision in all). Individual learning is also supported by the cumulative skills acquired over the three years in literary theory and analysis, close reading, essay writing, and research methods and resources. You are expected to spend at least 37 hours on independent directed learning per week: typically 8 hours on the dissertation, 14 hours on recommended reading for lectures, 5 hours on special topic reading and preparation, and 10 hours on tutorial preparation and researching and writing essays.

Throughout the 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 to you at the beginning of the course.

Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

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

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

IB Diploma score38 with 666 in higher level subjects, including 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
  • If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take an International Foundation Year pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre
  • We welcome enquiries regarding applications for deferred entry which may be considered in special circumstances. Please contact our Admissions Secretary.

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

Of those students who graduated in 2018:

  • 93% are in paid employment or further study 15 months after graduation across all our programmes

Of those in employment:

  • 72% are in a professional or managerial job
  • Average salary of £24,000.

(Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey. The survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing 15 months after graduation. Further information about the Graduate Outcomes survey can be found here

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 2021.
  • 2nd in The Guardian University Guide 2021.
  • 3rd in The Complete University Guide and The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021.


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.