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English BA

UCAS code
Year of entry
Course length
3 years full time
English »

From Beowulf to the Booker Prize, BA English offers you the opportunity to study the full historical range of literature in English as well as the latest developments in the field, and even to pursue your own creative writing.

On this course you can discover the earliest works in English, deepen your knowledge of Shakespeare, find out what is great about Renaissance literature, darken your view of the 18th century, and unpack the Victorians. You can study Modernism, Postmodernism and American literature, explore literary criticism, develop your own creative writing, and analyse the latest developments in global literatures in English.

Studying at one of the UK's most dynamic English departments will challenge you to develop your own critical and expressive faculties. The course's structure allows you to develop a sound understanding of key periods, genres, authors, and ideas as well as choosing from a huge range of options: Medieval Romance, Drama and Witchcraft, Sensation Fiction, World War I Poetry, Science Fiction, Children's Literature, African-American Literature, the Literature of Migration, Queer History and many more. In your third year you can write a dissertation on a specialist subject of your own choice.

Course units are taught by nationally and internationally known scholars who write prize-winning books, talk or write in the national media, or advise the Globe Theatre.  This means the course covers the most up-to-date ideas, whether in creative writing, Victorian literature, Shakespearean studies or contemporary literature.

  • You will gain a solid knowledge of the whole range of English literature from its beginnings to its latest developments, ranging from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Salman Rushdie.
  • Study unusual, non-traditional subjects such as the body in the 18th century or time in modern literature or courses incorporating visual arts and cinema.

Core modules

Year 1

Introduction to Medieval Literature

This module introduces you to the earliest literary writings in English, covering a span of eight hundred years, from 700 to 1500. You will cover an extensive range of genres and texts - from Beowulf to Arthurian romance, and dream vision to religious drama, and think about issues of vital concern and interest to medieval writers and audiences: religion, love, violence, the supernatural, and kingship and society.

Critical Foundations - Thinking as a Critic

The aim of this module is to help you make the transition into university level work by introducing you to reading, writing and thinking as a critic. The module focuses on developing the abilities and skills of literary criticism and introducing the concepts, ideas and histories that are central to English as a discipline, including questions about interpretation, periodization, form, genre, canon, value, intention, narrative, voice, framing and identity. 


This module facilitates a deeper - as well as a more pleasurable and rewarding - understanding of the range of Shakespeare’s work.  You will be encouraged to think about the plays as theatre as well as printed literature, although a main feature of the course will be its close attention to the extraordinary fertility and force of Shakespeare’s dramatic language.  While paying close attention to Shakespeare’s very different historical context in the Renaissance, the module will be equally concerned with the question of whether the plays are still relevant to us today.  

Re-orienting the Novel

This course introduces you to the origins, developments and innovations of the novel form through a range of contemporary, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels. Organised thematically, the module considers earlier novels in relation to contemporary examples. 

Introduction to Poetry

This module is designed to introduce you to a variety of major poems in English from the Renaissance to the present day. By the end of the course you will be able to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of a wide range of poems from Shakespeare to the present; a familiarity with a variety of poetic forms; an understanding of how poetry functions; and the necessary skills for analysing poetic technique.

Year 2

All modules are optional

Year 3

All modules are optional

Optional modules

In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Year 1

Only core modules are taken

Year 2

Middle English Poetry

Medieval Drama

Tolkien's Roots

Medieval Dream and Vision

Strange Fictions

The Gawain-Poet

Myths of Origin in Old English Literature

Old English Riddles

Intensive Shakespeare - Comedy, History, Tragedy

Witchcraft and Drama

Theatre and The City - 1590 to 1625

Early Modern Bodies

Paradise in Early Modern Literature

Gender and Writing in the 18th Century

Eighteenth Century Bodies

Reading Tristram Shandy

Fictions of Sensation

Creative Writing - Structure and Style

Modernist Fiction - James, Conrad, Ford

Writing Migrant Identities

Enivornmental Literatures

Four National Poets

Literature of The Fin de Siecle

British Drama from Shaw to Priestly

Dark Reform - Scandal and Satire in American Culture

Philosophy and the Arts

Love, Honour, Obey' - Literature 1525 to 1670

Age of Oppositions

Victorian Literature


Contemporary Debates in Literary and Critical Theory

Modernist Literature

Year 3

James Joyce - Revolutions of the Word

Marriage of Minds

Special Author Project - Conrad

Special Author Project - Woolf

Special Author Project - Chaucer - The Canterbury Tales

Special Author Project - The Brontes

Special Author Project - Donne

Special Author Project - Dickens

Special Author Project - Thomas Hardy

Special Author Porject - Coetzee

Special Author Project - Samuel Beckett

Special Author Poject - Christopher Marlowe

Special Author Project - Oscar Wilde

Of Circumference - Reading Emily Dickinson

Rewriting Mythologies in 20th Century Literature

Character - Literary Persons, Selfhood and Interiority in Early Modern Literature

19th Century Literature and Culture

Special Topic - The Girl in the Book

The Post-Colonial Novel

The Pre-Raphaelite Movement

Byron, Modernity and Europe - 1780 to 1830

Sex, Death and Celebrity

African-American Literature

Science Fiction

The Literature of Chicago

Theatre and the city - 1590 to 1730

Visual and Verbal in the Long Nineteenth Century

The New York Schools

Popular Music

The Nineteen Thirties, Fiction and the Road to War

Vernacular Writing

Shakespeare on the Global Stage

Tolkien's Roots

Old English Riddles

Witchcraft and Drama

Paradise in Early Modern Literature

Middle English Poetry

Strange Fictions

Beowulf and the Critics

Literature and Philosophy

Fictions of Sensation

Writing Migrant Identities

Advanced Romanticism - The 18teens

Children's Literature

The Art of Noise

The Lives of Writing

Ethics and Aesthetics in the Novels of J.M. Coetzee

Reading Beowulf

Medieval Dream

Myths of Origin in Old English Literature

Advanced Shakespeare - The Problem Plays

Early Modern Bodies

Medieval Dream and Vision

Painting / Writing

Gender and Writing in the 18th Century

Reading Tristram Shandy

Everyday Literature

Queer Histories - Contemporary Gay and Lesbian British and Irish Fiction

Rites of Passage - The Male Bildungsroman Since 1945

Odysseus' Scar - Time in Modern Literature and Film


Visual and Verbal in the Long Nineteenth Century

The Great American Novella


Literatures of Genocide and Atrocity

Sheakspeare in Stages - Sheakspearean Adaptation Across Four Centuries

Special Topic - Ideas in Contemporary Fiction

Poetic Practice

The Brontes

Reading the Wasteland


You’ll be taught through a combination of lectures and seminars, and participate in study groups, essay consultations and guided independent study. In your first year, you will also work in small groups of just four or five students focusing on study skills such as close reading, essay writing and presentation and self-editing. As you progress through your degree, these tutorials focus on your own personal development, for instance working on your CV. Private study and preparation are essential parts of every course, and you will have access to many online resources and the University’s comprehensive e-learning facility, Moodle. When you start with us, you are assigned a Personal Tutor to support you academically and personally.

You will also take a study skills course during your first year, designed to equip you with and enhance the writing skills you will need to be successful in your degree. This course does not count towards your final degree award but you are required to pass it to progress to your second year.

All undergraduate degree courses at Royal Holloway are based on the course unit system. This system provides an effective and flexible approach to study, while ensuring that our degrees have a coherent and developmental structure.

We use a variety of assessment methods, including long and short essays, formal examinations at the end of each year, online tests and exercises, presentations, commentaries and portfolios of creative work.

Study time

Proportions of study time will vary depending on modules taken, but typically:

Year 1

You will spend 16% of your study time in scheduled learning and teaching activities, and 84% in guided independent study.

Year 2

You will spend 17% of your study time in scheduled learning and teaching activities, and 83% in guided independent study.

Year 3

You will spend 13% of your study time in scheduled learning and teaching activities, and 87% in guided independent study.


Proportions of assessment types will vary depending on modules taken, but typically:

Year 1

Written exams account for 55% of the total assessment for this year of study, and 45% will be assessed through coursework.

Year 2

Written exams account for 23% of the total assessment for this year of study, and 77% will be assessed through coursework.

Year 3

Coursework accounts for 100% of the total assessment for this year of study.

Typical offers

Typical offers

AAB-ABB including B in English
How we assess your application:  predicted grades lower than our typical offers are considered.  Read more about what we look for here.

  • Where an applicant is taking the EPQ alongside A-levels, the EPQ will be taken into consideration and result in lower A-level grades being required.
  • Socio-economic factors which may have impacted an applicant’s education will be taken into consideration and alternative offers may be made to these applicants.
Required/preferred subjects

Required: English Literature or English Literature & Language at A Level Grade B

At least five GCSE passes at grades A* to C or 9-4 including Maths and English

Other UK Qualifications
International Baccalaureate 6,5,5 at Higher Level including English Literature  with a minimum of 32 points overall
BTEC Extended Diploma Distinction*, Distinction*, Distinction in relevant subject, including distinction in all
essay units plus grade A in GCSE English Literature
BTEC National Extended Diploma Distinction, Distinction in a relevant subject plus grade B in A Level English Literature or English Language & Literature
BTEC National Extended Certificate Distinction  plus A Level grades A,B including B in English Literature or English Language & Literature
Welsh Baccalaureate

Requirements are as for A-levels where one non-subject-specified A-level can be replaced by the same grade in the Welsh Baccalaureate - Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate.

Scottish Advanced Highers

AAB-ABB including  English Literature or English Lit/Lang

Scottish Highers AAABB including  English Literature or English Lit/Lang
Irish Leaving Certificate

H2, H2, H3, H3, H3 at Higher Level including English Literature or English Lit/Lang at Higher Level

Access to Higher Education Diploma Pass with at least 24 level 3 credits at Distinction and the remaining level 3 credits at Merit. All level 3 English studies units must be passed with Distinction. The Access to Higher Education Diploma is only acceptable if you've had a considerable break from education.

Other UK qualifications

Please select your UK qualification from the drop-down list below

Please select a qualification

Please select a qualification

International and EU entry requirements

Please select your country from the drop-down list below

English language

 IELTS 7.0 overall

  • with 7.0 in writing and minimum of 5.5 in all other subscores. For equivalencies please see here.

For more information about entry requirements for your country please visit our International pages. For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, we offer an International Foundation Year, run by Study Group at the Royal Holloway International Study Centre. Upon successful completion, students can progress on to selected undergraduate degree programmes at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Taking a degree in English sets you up with great prospects for future employability.  On the course itself we place a strong emphasis on your future employability, meaning the skills that you gain won’t just be applicable to the study of English.

Although many of our students go on to further study in literature and other fields, skills such as research, presentation, teamwork, negotiation and communication will prepare you for a wide range of career opportunities.  Recent graduate have gone on to careers in:

  • Accountancy and banking
  • Publishing
  • Law
  • Media, PR and journalism
  • Teaching
  • Theatre and arts

We currently run a structured work placement scheme, placing students with The Daily Telegraph, the Press Association, BBC Newsnight, publishers, literary agencies and media companies in London.  By taking part in the scheme and you will boost your employability, build your CV, and develop real skills to help you choose and prepare for a career.

Home and EU students tuition fee per year*: £9,250

International students tuition fee per year**: £16,500

Other essential costs***: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course

How do I pay for it?  Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.

*Tuition fees for UK and EU nationals starting a degree in the academic year 2017/18 will be £9,250 for that year, and is shown for reference purposes only. The tuition fee for UK and EU undergraduates starting their degrees in 2018 is controlled by Government regulations, and details are not yet known. The UK Government has also announced that EU students starting an undergraduate degree in 2018/19 will pay the same level of fee as a UK student for the duration of their degree.

**Fees for international students may increase year-on-year in line with the rate of inflation. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see fees and funding and our  terms & conditions.

***These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.

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