Skip to main content
Degree type


Course length

3 years full-time


Durham City

UCAS code


Ready to Apply?

Typical offers

Typical offers
A Level A*AA
International Baccalaureate 38

Course details

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

The comprehensive syllabus 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. This will promote and develop the clarity and persuasiveness of your argument and expression, enabling you to develop, to a high degree of competence, a range of skills which are both subject-specific and transferable.

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.

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

In the second year, you will build on the knowledge and skills developed in your 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 final year includes a 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 a work of sustained argumentative and analytic power.

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 all or most of 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).

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Romance and the Literature of Chivalry
  • Epic and Literature of Legend
  • Ancient Worlds and English Literature

Year 2

Core modules:

Shakespeare introduces a broad range of Shakespeare’s work, and enables you to analyse in detail a selection of works from different periods of Shakespeare’s oeuvre and in different genres. The module seeks to foster an awareness of the kinds of scholarly, critical and theatrical issues which Shakespeare’s work has generated from the seventeenth century to the present.

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.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Chaucer
  • Old English
  • Old Norse
  • Old French
  • Renaissance Literature
  • Literature of the Modern Period
  • American Poetry
  • Postcolonial and World Literatures
  • Modern Poetry
  • Contemporary US Fiction and the Question of Genre
  • Writing Women: Gendering Literature, c.800-1600
  • Hotel Stories
  • The Brontës

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

Core module:

The final year includes a Dissertation involving guided research on a self-formulated topic, author or genre. The dissertation is based upon the gathering and processing of relevant information and materials, and results in work of sustained argumentative and analytic power. 

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Restoration and 18th Century Literature
  • Old English
  • Old French
  • American Fiction
  • Post-War Fiction and Poetry
  • Literature, Cinema and Neuroscience
  • US Cold War Literature and Culture
  • Post-1945 Black British Writing
  • Life Writing and Mental Health
  • Creative Writing Poetry / Prose Fiction
  • Sexology and the Novel

Additional pathways

Students on the BA in English Literature 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 your application is successful, your studies 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 formative and assessed 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.

Weekly lectures are supplemented by small-group tutorials. 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.


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

You should 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.

In the third year you will write a 10,000-word dissertation on a subject of your choice related to English Literature.

Entry requirements

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

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

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 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.
  • 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 team.

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

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.


Find out more:

Use the UCAS code below when applying:



The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) handles applications for all undergraduate courses.

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Register for an Undergraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
Find out more
Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
Find out more

Similar courses

Ancient History - BA

UCAS Code: V110
Start: September 2025
Ancient History

Classical Civilisation - BA

UCAS Code: Q820
Start: September 2025
Classical Civilisation

Classics - BA

UCAS Code: Q801
Start: September 2025

Classics with Foundation - BA

UCAS Code: Q805
Start: September 2025
Classics with Foundation

English Literature and History - BA

UCAS Code: QV21
Start: September 2025
English Literature and History

English Literature and Philosophy - BA

UCAS Code: QV35
Start: September 2025
English Literature and Philosophy

English with Foundation - BA

UCAS Code: Q301
Start: September 2025
English with Foundation

History - BA

UCAS Code: V100
Start: September 2025

History with Foundation - BA

UCAS Code: V102
Start: September 2025
History with Foundation