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English

  • Director of Studies Dr Rachel E. Holmes
  • Faculty Website

The Cambridge English course (known as the English Tripos) cultivates a deep awareness of literary history from the medieval period to the present day and provides ample opportunities to discover and pursue your literary interests. At ҹѰ we nourish your creativity and curiosity. 

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English at ҹѰ

ҹѰ is one of few colleges, and the only mature (i.e. 21+) college, to have an in-house College Assistant Professor in English who acts as your Director of Studies throughout your degree. What this means in practice is that we get to know your particular strengths and challenges very well and are better equipped to support and inspire you throughout your academic journey.

We teach English through a combination of College supervisions (the Cambridge name for small-group teaching) organised and often taught by your Director of Studies, and lectures and seminars conducted centrally by the Faculty of English. Supervisions, in which students are seen either in small groups or individually, provide opportunities for detailed discussion and explorations of a kind not possible within larger-group Faculty contexts, and they enable the College to keep a keen eye on each student’s development. A student usually prepares an essay for each supervision which will be used as a launchpad for discussion. The exact proportions of these elements depend on the stage of your degree and the paper being studied. In terms of how we teach, we have no set approach beyond encouraging our students to be intellectually curious and instilling the valuable skills of critical thinking, scholarly rigour, and sound argumentation.

The Faculty of English and its library are located on West Road, only a short journey from ҹѰ, as is the University Library (or UL as it would come to be known to you at Cambridge). ҹѰ’s Lee Library and our team of librarians are also fabulous resources, working with your Director of Studies to provide access to many of the set texts you will encounter during your degree as well as our renowned WolfWorks academic skills support.

You can find further information about studying English on the University's course . Detailed information is also available on the Faculty's Prospective Undergraduates .

Shakespeare a lover's complaint

What are we looking for?

Our ҹѰ English community is diverse, ambitious, and egalitarian, welcoming students from all backgrounds and with all manner of interests and passions. We strive to engage students who bring a wide range of personal and intellectual commitments and experience.

Fundamentally, we look to admit students to ҹѰ who love to read, write, think, and talk about literature in all its forms; who are willing to undertake independent study; who would enjoy working both individually and with their peers; and who relish the opportunity to engage in discussion and debate.

We seek to recruit students who are eager to learn to present their ideas clearly, sharply, and accurately, and above all have a desire to develop their ability to think and write analytically.

The best preparation for applying to study English at ҹѰ and for interview is, quite simply, to read as widely as possible. All reading is good reading, so this can be both in literature and in related fields such as history or current affairs, including texts written beyond the British Isles and in languages other than English. There are no ‘set texts’ that we prescribe for this purpose, but we encourage you to begin to extend your reading around what you may have studied at school, and to look beyond it to other periods and places. Follow your own interests and allow them to flourish.

Entry Requirements

It is typically required that applicants should have English Literature as one of their A Level (or equivalent) subjects. However, where straight English Literature is not offered at an applicant’s school or college, the combined English Language and Literature A level is acceptable instead. Alternatively, a distinction grade across all modules of an Access to HE Diploma would also confer eligibility. Beyond these requirements, there is no single combination of subjects or experience that is most beneficial to students wishing to read English. Modern Languages, History, or Classical Studies are also useful, but many successful applicants have equally studied Law, Mathematics, or the sciences. Please consult the University's for further information.

Applications

Applications to study English at ҹѰ are submitted through UCAS. The College additionally requires the submission of written work, a separate written assessment and an online interview, as detailed below.

Written Work

Applicants are required to submit two pieces of written work by 2 November. This should be in a related discipline which the candidate is studying or has studied. For the March round, all applicants must submit their written work by 8 March.

Assessment

Those interviewed will also sit a written assessment around the time of the interview. Further information about the written assessment can be found on our applying page.

Interview

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to be interviewed in December (or late March for those who apply in the March round). There will be one or two interviews (in total lasting 40-50 minutes) which will be conducted online via Zoom.

For more information about making an application, please visit our application webpages

You can also find useful information on our Application FAQs page. 

Annie Voight ms

Student Perspective: English at ҹѰ

I found the supervisions so good, being a fairly equal blend of taught ideas and personal/group reflections on the texts. The supervisor always got us to dig deeper into what we were saying and I thoroughly enjoyed every session.

(second-year English undergraduate)

 

It has been wonderful to get the chance to explore my interests in depth. The teaching I have received has been outstanding, and I think I have improved a lot as a critic over the course of the year.

(final-year English undergraduate)