BA English Language

We all use language every day, but how many of us stop to think about it? The study of language demands discipline, observation, exploration and imagination. Some aspects, like phonology and grammar, ask for particular attention to detail, accuracy and logical argument. Other topics, such as child language development and language variation, demand an ability to collect, analyse and evaluate your own data. They are all valuable skills that will make you a much-sought-after graduate in the world of work. The wide range of posts our graduates have secured includes roles in journalism, law, publishing and teaching at every level. 

On the English Language programme at Birmingham, you will have a chance to specialise in linguistics and join the ever-growing number of students who want to study this fascinating subject. The course draws on the University’s particular strength in corpus linguistics, grammar, stylistics, discourse analysis and applied linguistics, and you will be challenged to sharpen your own ideas about your own use of spoken and written language.

Course fact file

UCAS code: Q310

Duration: 3 years

Places Available: 40

Applications in 2013: 144

Typical Offer: AAB (More detailed entry requirements and the international qualifications accepted can be found in the course details)

Start date: September


Admissions Tutor: Dr Suganthi John

Admissions and Recruitment Co-ordinator: Sophia Robertshaw

Telephone enquiries: +44 (0)121 414 5511



On this degree programme you will gain a broad knowledge and understanding of the English language. You will engage with its structure and character, including phonology, lexis, grammar, and discourse; the ways in which English varies according to time, place and context; processes of learning language; theories about language; and methodologies and practices of linguistic research. You will also have the chance to use new resources such as computer-held databases of linguistic data, and we expect you to be open-minded about both language and technological advances in the study of language.

First year

In your first year you will be introduced to a range of topics in English Language study, including the phonology (sound system) of English, its morphology (word formation) and grammar; children’s language development; discourse analysis, both spoken and written; and social issues, such as attitudes towards language and its role in education. You will be introduced to the field of corpus linguistics and you will learn how to use corpus analysis software to investigate a variety of existing spoken and written corpora, and how to build small corpora for analysis. You will have the opportunity to develop your study and essay writing skills, and gain in-depth knowledge of different genres and appropriate tools for genre analysis, which you will then be able to employ in your own writing as well as learning how to carry out research on English language topics. You will also take a module outside your main discipline (MOMD).

Second year

Building on your first-year work, two core modules will provide you with a thorough grounding in technical aspects of the language, concentrating on English phonology and morphology, and then English grammar. You will be able to choose two further modules from a range including History of the English Language; Language Acquisition and Literacy and Sociolinguistics. In addition, you will take the module Research Skills in English Language , which is designed to develop your group and individual research skills by guiding you in such tasks as carrying out a literature review, collecting and analysing data, and presenting your results orally, as well as reporting on your research in writing. You will also take a module outside your main discipline (MOMD).

Third year

Your final year offers a choice from a wide range of optional modules such as Discourse and Society; English Language Teaching; Language, gender and identity; Language and the Mind; Ordinary Creativity; and Words . It also includes the final research strand of the degree, either as a 10,000 word Dissertation or 5,000 word Language Investigation, in which you will carry out an independent research project of your choosing with staff supervision: you will select your own topic, collect data, assimilate relevant literature and construct a substantial report on the project, showing judgement and persuasiveness. Ideally this will be of a standard which shows your eligibility for postgraduate study, or, if that’s not your goal, for immediate employment.

Study Abroad opportunities

As a student in the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics you can spend either a semester or a year abroad at one of our carefully selected partner universities, where we have close personal ties with academic staff and a good knowledge of their programme in English Language. Potential destinations include, but are not limited to, the University of Bari, Italy, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA, the University of Melbourne, Australia and the VU Amsterdam, Holland.

Why study this course

Consistently rated highly in the UK teaching and research rankings and ranked 39th in the world in the QS World Rankings, the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics at Birmingham is widely respected and attracts a high calibre of undergraduate talent.

The English Language programme is rooted in the University of Birmingham’s long tradition of English Language teaching and research. English Language has been a core element of the Birmingham English BA since 1965 and students have been following Joint Honours combinations in English Language since 1998. We launched the Single Honours BA English Language in 2010 in recognition of student demand for a specialist programme utilising our expertise and experience.

We have had several renowned linguists at Birmingham - John Sinclair, Malcolm Coulthard, David Brazil and Michael Hoey, to name but a few. We are known for our leading work in corpus linguistics and have a dedicated Centre for Corpus Research. The Collins Cobuild English language textbooks, which are internationally recognised as high quality English language training materials, were designed here. We continue to contribute internationally to research in corpus linguistics, discourse studies and English language teaching. Students can attend the annual John Sinclair lecture which is hosted at the University.

At Birmingham, you’ll benefit from an intellectually challenging and stimulating environment for your undergraduate studies. The Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics works hard to ensure that you are a fully supported and active learner. Our unique degrees are designed to provide both academic excellence and vocational development - a balance that’s highly sought after by employers in today's intellectual and creative industries. The courses are also very flexible, allowing you to specialise more and more as you progress, culminating in a final-year dissertation that allows you to carry out in-depth, individually supervised research into topics of your choice.

You will part of a vibrant staff and student community in the Department, with  guest lectures from renowned linguists and regular social events such as end of term parties and summer balls. You will also benefit from the School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies’ visiting writer talks; recent guests have included the short story writer and novelist Bernard MacLaverty and playwright Simon Stephens.

Fees and funding

Standard fees apply 
Learn more about fees and funding
Learn more about our scholarships and awards

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required: 3

Typical offer: AAB

Required subjects and grades: We prefer an A level in English Language, or English Language and Literature, at grade A. We also consider other candidates who demonstrate an interest in and aptitude for the study of language. In this case, A levels in English Literature or a foreign language - or both- would be an advantage.

General Studies: not accepted

Additional information:

International Baccalaureate Diploma:  35 points, including a minimum of 6 points in English at Higher Level (English Language specifically at Higher Level preferred, but not essential).

Other qualifications are considered – learn more about entry requirements

International students:

We welcome applications from international students and invite you to join our vibrant community of over 4500 international students who represent 150 different countries. We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in the Birmingham Foundation Academy, a specially structured programme for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on the foundation academy web pages.

How to apply

Apply through UCAS at

Learn more about applying

Joint Honours combinations

You can also combine the study of English Language with other disciplines on our  Single Honours English Language and Literature programme, or on the English Language pathway of our Joint Honours English programmes:

Key Information Set (KIS)

Key Information Sets (KIS) are comparable sets of information about full- or part-time undergraduate courses and are designed to meet the information needs of prospective students.

All KIS information has been published on the Unistats website and can also be accessed via the small advert, or ‘widget’, below. On the Unistats website you are able to compare all the KIS data for each course with data for other courses.

The development of Key Information Sets (KIS) formed part of HEFCE’s work to enhance the information that is available about higher education. They give you access to reliable and comparable information in order to help you make informed decisions about what and where to study.

The KIS contains information which prospective students have identified as useful, such as student satisfaction, graduate outcomes, learning and teaching activities, assessment methods, tuition fees and student finance, accommodation and professional accreditation.

Learning and teaching

As a Birmingham student you are part of an academic elite and will learn from world-leading experts. At Birmingham we advocate an enquiry based learning approach, from the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner, qualities that are highly sought after by employers. We want you to be challenged and will encourage you to think for yourself.

Your learning will take place in a range of different settings, from scheduled teaching in lectures and small group tutorials, to self-study and peer group learning (for example preparing and delivering presentations with your classmates).


To begin with you may find this way of working challenging, but rest assured that we will enable you to make this transition. You will have access to a comprehensive support system that will assist and encourage you, including personal tutors and welfare tutors who can help with both academic and welfare issues, and a formal transition review during your first year to check on your progress and offer you help for any particular areas where you need support.

Our Academic Skills Centre also offers you support with your learning. The centre is a place where you can develop your mathematical, academic writing and general academic skills. It is the centre's aim to help you to become a more effective and independent learner through the use of a range of high-quality and appropriate learning support services. These range from drop-in sessions to workshops on a range of topics including note taking, reading, writing and presentation skills.

From the outset, you will be assigned your own Personal Tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies, providing academic and welfare advice, encouraging you and offering assistance in any areas you may feel you need extra support to make the most of your potential and your time here at Birmingham.

The Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) will provide you with individual support from an academic writing advisor and postgraduate subject-specialist writing tutors. You will receive guidance on writing essays and dissertations at University-level which can be quite different from your previous experiences of writing. Support is given in a variety of ways, such as small-group workshops, online activities, feedback through email and tutorials.

Student experience

Supporting you throughout your transition to University, offering research opportunities and study skills support and helping you develop and prepare for your post-University careers - our Arts and Law Student Experience Team strive to help you get the most out of your academic experience.

Assessment methods

Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching. You will be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with the subject and find things out for yourself. We will enable you to make this transition to a new style of learning, and the way that you are assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time at Birmingham.

You will be assessed in a variety of ways, and these may be different with each module that you take. You will be assessed through coursework which may take the form of essays, group and individual presentations and formal exams (depending on your chosen degree).

During your first year you will undergo a formal 'transition' review to see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you need support. This is in addition to the personal tutor who is based in your school or department and can help with any academic issues you encounter.

At the beginning of each module, you will be given information on how and when you will be assessed for that particular programme of study. You will receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done. You will be given feedback on any exams that you take; if you should fail an exam we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is made available to enable you to learn for the future.


Admissions Tutor: Dr Suganthi John

Admissions and Recruitment Co-ordinator: Sophia Robertshaw

Telephone enquiries: +44 (0)121 414 5511



[Video above - Professor Jeannette Littlemore discusses careers and employability during the English Language open day presentation]

Studying for an English Language BA at Birmingham is an unparalleled opportunity, not only to engage with a diverse cultural, textual and linguistic discipline, but also to develop skills in intellectual analysis, critical thinking and articulate expression – skills that last a lifetime and qualify you for many possible careers. You will also be encouraged to acquire practical skills that you’ll find just as useful in your future career, including oral presentation, professional documentation, group work and the uses of information technology.

The structure of the English Language programme allows you to pursue potential career areas by developing relevant skills and expertise that will be relevant to future employers. There are four possible pathways, although you are not committed to a particular one, which allow you to make informed choices in your module selection in the second- and third-year of the course.

50% of vacancies advertised for new and recent graduates don’t specify a degree subject, and English Language graduates enter a wide range of careers including advertising, journalism and media, government, law, publishing and teaching at every level. About 19% of English graduates pursue postgraduate study to specialise in an academic area or prepare for careers such as law and teaching.

English Language graduates from the University of Birmingham have excellent prospects after graduation. 92% of our English graduates go into work or study within six months of graduation, with 75% immediately entering managerial and professional roles, which is amongst the highest percentages for graduate employability in this subject. Our graduates have started careers with employers including media companies, educational institutions, local councils, publishers, charities and a wide range of large commercial organisations, in roles such as marketing coordinator, editorial assistant, creative advertising account executive, recruitment consultant and parliamentary caseworker.

Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal. This is a unique careers guidance service tailored to your academic subject area, offering a specialised team (in each of the five academic colleges) who can give you expert advice. This includes individual careers advice and events to give you insight into the professions and employers of interest to arts graduates. Our ‘Creative careers’ series is always popular with our students, and features events with employers and professionals from areas such as advertising, PR and communications, careers in journalism, publishing and writing, and careers in the theatre.

As a School, we also hold events covering careers in teaching, event management, marketing and working with charities; we’re developing links with local arts organisations to create some amazing opportunities for students; and you can even apply for our ‘Global Challenge’ to work overseas on an expenses paid placement during your summer vacation. We also encourage all our students to apply their skills in the workplace by undertaking internships in the summer; the work experience bursary scheme enables students to apply for funding for those career areas where placements are often unpaid.

Our English alumni profiles

Extra-curricular activities

To enhance your career prospects even further, you will need to think about engaging in some extra-curricular activities while you're at university to broaden your skills and your network of contacts. This can include the many societies at the Guild of Students and also the many voluntary opportunities offered with local arts organisations. Our employer-endorsed award-winning Personal Skills Award (PSA) recognises your extra-curricular activities, and provides an accredited employability programme designed to improve your career prospects.

Our College of Arts and Law undergraduate research scholarship scheme enables interested students to work on a current academic research project being run by one of the College's academic researchers. Undergraduate research scholars gain work experience over the summer after their first or second year and have the chance to develop skills in both collaborative and independent research.

Cultural Internships

Our innovative Cultural Internships offer graduates the opportunity for a six month paid internship at a leading cultural institution in the West Midlands. These internships are a unique opportunity to learn fundamental, transferable business and interpersonal skills, through experience of real work in an established cultural institution. Our current partners include Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Birmingham REP, Birmingham Royal Ballet, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust and the Library of Birmingham. We have plans to expand the scheme to include our own major cultural assets, such as Winterbourne House, the Lapworth Museum, and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. This scheme will give you professional experience to set you apart in a competitive graduate market.

We also offer voluntary work which complements your studies by helping you gain practical experiences in occupational settings while contributing back to society. This can bring new skills that will be useful throughout your future and can make a positive impact on your learning whilst at university. Volunteering enables you to develop skills such as communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork, self-confidence and self-discipline all of which can be transferred into your studies.

Your Birmingham degree is evidence of your ability to succeed in a demanding academic environment. Employers target Birmingham students for their drive, diversity, communication and problem-solving skills, their team-working abilities and cultural awareness, and our graduate employment statistics have continued to climb at a rate well above national trends. If you make the most of the wide range of services you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.

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Admissions Tutor: Dr Suganthi John

Admissions and Recruitment Co-ordinator: Sophia Robertshaw

Telephone enquiries: +44 (0)121 414 5511