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Degree type


Course length

3 years full-time


Durham City

UCAS code


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Typical offers

Typical offers
A Level A*AA
International Baccalaureate 38

Course details

If you’re fascinated by literature from different cultures and times and have an interest in the big questions about how the world works and what makes us human, this course could be for you.

The Joint Honours in English Literature and Philosophy is a thought-provoking, cross-disciplinary degree that will challenge the way you think about the world. It develops your skills, knowledge and understanding across the two subjects through the study of a range of philosophical and literary texts, important concepts, questions, arguments and methods. The syllabus is equally weighted between the two subjects with modules such as Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism exploring the intellectual connections between the two areas.

You will be taught by subject experts with wide-ranging specialisms across both disciplines. Course content is informed by the research expertise of teaching staff which keeps the course relevant and up to date.

In the first year you will build a strong foundation in both disciplines. The course broadens out in the second year, offering a wide selection of optional modules that give you plenty of opportunities to tailor the course to your interests.

In the final year you will research and produce a dissertation on an area of your choice in either subject area. You also have the flexibility to choose optional modules from both subjects which allows you to follow your areas of specialisation in greater depth.

You can also apply to add a placement year or a year abroad to your degree; this would increase the course from three years to four.

Course structure 

Year 1

Core modules:

Introduction to Drama introduces the work of, and critical debate about, a wide historical range of drama and dramatists writing in English, typically covering work from the following areas: the medieval, early modern, Restoration and Augustan, Romantic, Victorian, and twentieth and twenty-first century: post-medieval dramatists to be covered might include, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Behn, Gay, Shelley, Wilde, Shaw, Beckett, Kushner and Butterworth.

Introduction to the Novel introduces ways of reading English novels and various contexts for studying them. You will be familiarised with strategies for engaging with fictional texts formally as well as historically, by situating the novels studied in their distinctive cultural environments while also being taught the ways in which novelistic form and technique have changed over time.

Introduction to Poetry introduces a wide range of poems by poets writing in English from the early modern to the contemporary periods including some American poetry. You will develop your understanding of traditional major verse forms, modes of organisation and genres (e.g. blank verse, the couplet, the stanza, lyric, elegy, sonnet, epic, pastoral, ode, open form).

Ethics and Values provides a structured introduction to moral philosophy, including applied ethics, by exploring key moral concepts and showing how they influence moral practices and theories. 

Knowledge and Reality introduces philosophical problems in epistemology (the study of knowledge), and metaphysics (the study of reality and ourselves).

Reading Philosophy allows you to acquire an understanding of the issues of interpretation and comprehension in reading primary authors, through a detailed study of four thematically related texts.

Year 2

Core modules:

Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism introduces the presuppositions and principles of literary criticism and issues of knowledge, value and ideology arising from the practice of reading. You will develop an independent critical sense in your own practice of reading, contextualised against the history of theory and criticism.

Moral Theory examines morals and ethics. It provides a detailed study of important moral theories past and present, covering areas that include consequentialism, contractualism, rights and virtue, morality and personhood, moral realism and expressivism.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Language, Logic, and Reality
  • Early Modern Philosophy 
  • Political and Social Philosophy 
  • Renaissance Literature
  • Victorian Literature
  • American Poetry
  • Modern Poetry
  • Contemporary US Fiction and the Question of Genre

Year 3 (Year 4 if undertaking a placement year or year abroad)

Core module:

The final year includes a Dissertation in either English Literature or Philosophy. The dissertation is an extended creative and advanced research project requiring either high level literary analysis, or intensive critical engagement with your own philosophical position and argument.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Restoration and 18th Century Literature 
  • Literature of the Romantic Period 
  • Old English
  • American Fiction 
  • Twentieth-Century European Philosophy 
  • Applied Ethics 
  • Issues in Contemporary Ethics 
  • Metaphysics

Additional pathways

Students on the BA in English Literature with Philosophy can apply to be transferred onto either the ‘with Year Abroad’ or ‘with Placement’ pathway during the second year.  Places on these pathways are in high demand and if you are chosen your course will extend from three years to four.


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


You will learn through a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials. The course requires a considerable amount of directed independent learning, consisting of reading primary and secondary sources, writing essays, and preparing tutorial and seminar assignments.

Teaching is research-led from the outset, with a gradually increasing focus on the development of your own research skills as you progress through your degree. The contact and independent learning time will typically amount to around 35 hours per week.

Weekly lectures are supplemented by small-group tutorials and seminars. Specialist research, analytical and writing skills are developed in essays and individual feedback sessions, which play a key role in the delivery of the English Literature and Philosophy degree and in academic progression.


Most modules on the degree will be assessed by essays and end-of-year examinations.

The final year will culminate with the dissertation, an independent research project undertaken in either English Literature or Philosophy which draws together the skills developed throughout the course and gives you the opportunity to engage with current research.

Entry requirements

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

Contextual offer – AAB including English Literature (or the combined English Literature and Language or equivalent) is required.

BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma/OCR Cambridge Technical Extended DiplomaD*DD and English Literature/Language (or equivalent) are required.

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 also consider other level 3 qualifications, including T-levels.

  • 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 our Admissions team.
  • 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.

Alternative qualifications

International students who do not meet direct entry requirements for this degree might have the option to complete an International Foundation Year.

English language requirements

Country specific information

Fees and funding

The tuition fees for 2025/26 academic year have not yet been finalised, they will be displayed here once approved.

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 Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities

English Studies

Academically, we inspire our students to develop as analytic, sensitive and creative readers and writers, yet an English Studies degree is worth so much more. We aim to transform students into independent thinkers with the ability to communicate their ideas clearly and effectively. It’s this skill set, coupled with effective organisational and research skills, that makes them so highly valued across a range of work environments. Outside of the classroom, we offer regular lectures and workshops that focus on personal development and key employability skills.

Graduates progress into a diverse range of careers and sectors, including roles in arts and theatre management, broadcasting, publishing and journalism, technical writing, business, marketing and advertising, teaching, higher education, law, the third sector and government.

Of those students who graduated in 2020-21:

  • 87% are in paid employment or further study 15 months after graduation across all our programmes

Of those in employment:

  • 78% are in a professional or managerial job
  • Average salary of £25,000

(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


Philosophical training  will equip you with a range of theoretical and transferable skills, including critical thinking, problem solving, communication, project management, presenting and researching, that will be of value to employers across a range of industries. 

Our graduates work in a vast range of employment sectors worldwide, including law, the Civil Service and politics, management, public relations, teaching, journalism, media and publishing, marketing, retail and business, IT and financial services. Examples of recent employers include Penguin, Random House Publishing, Save the Children, Amnesty International and The Guardian.

Of those students who graduated in 2020-21:

  • 84% are in paid employment or further study 15 months after graduation across all our programmes

Of those in employment:

  • 80% are in high skilled employment
  • With an average salary of £27,000.

(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

Department information

English Studies

Spanning texts from Chaucer to Shakespeare, from Jane Austen to Virginial Woolf, and American poetry to twenty-first century novels, English Studies at Durham will appeal to those with a sensitivity to language, a love of reading and a sense of intellectual adventure.

English Studies is a popular and highly regarded subject that will give you a broader and more balanced understanding of how the world works, politically, psychologically and sociologically. It also develops the highly transferable linguistic, critical and analytical skills that are sought after in the contemporary workplace. 

An English degree at Durham provides a comprehensive grounding in literary theory. The wide range of modules allows you to explore a variety of literary forms and challenge the way you think about the role of literature in the world, from the classics to contemporary texts. We are home to a vibrant and active research department and take a research-led approach to teaching and learning which informs all levels of academic enquiry, including undergraduate ‘special topic’ seminar modules developed around key research themes and areas of expertise. 

You can choose to focus purely on English literature or combine the study of English with either Philosophy or History. We also offer English Studies named routes through a Combined Honours or Liberal Arts degree. You can further tailor your study with an optional year abroad or work placement in the third year.

We are consistently ranked as one of the leading English departments in the UK, so when you choose to study English at Durham you can be assured of the highest quality learning experience.

For more information see our department pages.


  • 38th in the world in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2023
  • 3rd in The Guardian University Guide 2024
  • 4th in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • Top 10 in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024


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

Research Excellence Framework

  • 90% of our research activity was judged to be ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (REF 2021).


We are a diverse community of around 700 undergraduates, 120 postgraduates and 70 staff from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures. We are located close to Durham city centre with most of the Department’s teaching and research taking place in two buildings: the Georgian listed building, Hallgarth House and Elvet Riverside which stands beside the River Wear.

Students have access to extensive general collections in literary studies which are housed in the University library, and a number of specialist collections and archives in Palace Green, in the heart of Durham city.

Undergraduate students are also invited to attend the Department’s extensive programme of research-related activities, including public lectures, special guest lectures, as well as lectures, readings and workshops by visiting UK and overseas academics and creative writers.


Gain a deeper understanding of this complex world and change your outlook on life with this ancient and fascinating intellectual discipline. Philosophy at Durham covers many of the profound and important questions that arise in all areas of human life.

Philosophy is an ancient and diverse discipline that is fundamental to our understanding of what it is to be human. Amongst the most prestigious departments in the UK, at Durham we pride ourselves on our excellence in teaching and research and we are committed to the pursuit of philosophical knowledge and understanding. Our distinctive, research-led approach to learning means that our undergraduate courses are constantly shaped in line with research and to reflect contemporary study in the area.

We offer a range of single and joint honours degrees with flexible pathways to suit your interests and career aspirations. As well as covering more traditional areas of philosophy, such as ethics and values, philosophical traditions and moral theory, our curriculum also highlights the relevance of philosophy to current issues in the world. This includes modules relating to the ethics of science and medicine. You can further develop your skills and experience with the opportunity to spend a year studying overseas or on a work placement.

During your time with us you will learn as much about how to think about difficult questions, as you will learn about the answers that can be given to them. You will develop the ability to detect a bad argument, whether in politics, in the media, or with the people in your day-to-day life, and an ability to produce better arguments of your own. Whatever you end up doing with your career, philosophy will forever change your outlook on the world.

For more information see our department pages.


  • World Top 50 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2023
  • Top 10 in The Guardian University Guide 2024
  • Top 10 in The Complete University Guide 2024.


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

Research Excellence Framework

  • Top 20 in the UK for the quality of our research (REF 21).


The Department of Philosophy is located at Old Elvet in the picturesque city of Durham. We occupy a listed building in this ancient part of the city, near the medieval Elvet Bridge, and within easy walking distance of the Students’ Union, the colleges and Durham’s historic centre with its Castle and Cathedral.

Undergraduate students are invited to attend the Department’s extensive programme of research-related activities, including weekly lectures and seminars, many of which are given by renowned UK and overseas philosophers. Recent visitors have included Amie Thomasson, Noam Chomsky and Peter Singer.


Find out more:

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