BA English Language and Literature

Studying the literature and language of English in combination allows you to explore the ways in which the English language has shaped and been shaped by culture throughout our history and continues to do and be so in the present day.

You will gain an understanding of the multitude of ways in which society is formed, communicates and reflects itself, both in practical everyday situations and in its creative literary output.

This single honours programme gives you a thorough grounding in both disciplines and encourages you to explore the interconnections of the two, with one of the largest concentrations of Language and Literature specialists in the country. You will be inspired and supported in your studies by our internationally renowned staff, specialising in areas from language use in new media to the cultural impact of Shakespeare. 

Zoe Nelmes

Zoe Nelmes

“Doing BA Language and Literature, I can study both sides of English but also intertwine them. Writing is a way of expressing yourself and the Literature side of my degree enables me to write passionately about topics which interest me. The Language side of my degree allows me to delve into interesting aspects such as how foreign languages are learned, or how language is acquired in children. The university has a beautiful campus and that alongside the facilities makes it an inspiring place to learn. ”

This programme allows you to combine an interest in ways in which language is used in everyday situations with an enthusiasm for the in-depth study of literary texts.

There is an equal balance between the two disciplines throughout the three years.

On the Language side you will have the opportunity to study the ways in which the English language has developed over time, variation in language use, the ways in which language is acquired by both native and non-native speakers, and the study of language use in different social contexts.

On the Literature side you will have the opportunity to explore a range of approaches to the study of literature, gaining a good grounding in all genres and periods of literature and will also have the opportunity to take a module in an area of creative practice such as Creative Writing, Film or Drama.

On both sides you will be able to specialise in areas of interest as you progress and there are many opportunities to interrelate the two sides of the programme through module choices and research projects, this being a connection upon which we place great emphasis and which we are always keen to explore. 

Why study this course

  • Excellent reputation - Birmingham is one of very few universities in the UK that offer large concentrations of expertise in both English Language and English Literature. Over 85% of our academic research judged to be ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ in the Research Excellence Framework 2014. Our staff teach and research across the entire span of the disciplines, from Medieval poetry and the history of the English Language to twenty-first century digital literary culture and the way in which social media is impacting upon our language use.
  • Exciting Year Abroad Opportunities - you will be able to spend a year abroad at one of our carefully selected partner universities, where we have close personal ties with academic staff.
  • Guest lectures - you will be able to enjoy regular guest lectures and readings from visiting writers. Recent guests have included novelist David Lodge, poet and writer Jackie Kay, poet Simon Armitage, playwright Simon Stephens, theatre director Greg Doran and poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy.
  • Shakespeare Institute and RSC collaboration - we have a unique provision for the study of Shakespeare: the Shakespeare Institute, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, is a world-leading centre for international Shakespeare scholarship. You will also benefit from our exciting five-year collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) which will see the reinstatement of the iconic studio theatre, The Other Place. You will be able to access creative and teaching spaces at The Other Place, as well as the expertise of RSC artists and practitioners; you will also have the opportunity to attend RSC productions and events.
  • Stratford Residential - You will have the opportunity to take part in our very popular residential study trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, which includes lectures, creative workshops, theatre trips and other cultural activities, offers academic and creative inspiration and the opportunity to socialise with staff and fellow students.

Open day talks

Two full videos on YouTube of recent open day talks relevant to this course:


The optional modules listed on the website for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.

First year 

First-year language modules cover the essentials of English Language for undergraduate study: the technical and conceptual analysis of language (‘Theories of Language’ and ‘Sounds, Structures and Words’) and the key skills in carrying out language research (‘Investigating Language’).

Your Literature modules (‘Poetry’, ‘Prose’ and ‘Plays and Performance’) will introduce you to a range of genres and periods and help you to develop the close reading skills needed to analyse all kinds of texts from medieval plays and early modern poetry to nineteenth-century novels and contemporary drama.

As a key feature of the first year, you will have the opportunity of combining the study of the two disciplines in the module ‘Language for Literature’ which allows you to explore how these disciplines enrich each other.

Details of first year modules

Second year

On the Language side you will continue to develop your research skills in the core ‘Research Skills in English Language’ module and will choose two modules from a list of options such as:

  • Grammar
  • History of the English Language
  • Language Acquisition and Literacy
  • Phonology and Morphology
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Psycholinguistics
  • The Language Poets Use
  • Voices in Fiction

On the Literature side of your course you will be able to choose between modules in ‘Histories of Literature’, with options such as:

  • Chaucer and his Legacies
  • Popular Fiction before the Novel
  • Songs and Sonnets
  • Epic Ambitions
  • Stories of the Novel
  • Writing the Restoration
  • Romantics and Romanticism
  • Victorian Literature
  • The Fin-de-Siècle
  • Making it New
  • Literature after 1945
  • Twenty-First Century Literature

You will also have the opportunity to engage with Shakespeare’s work in two exciting modules (‘Elizabethan Shakespeare’ and ‘Jacobean Shakespeare’) taught in collaboration with Birmingham’s world-leading Shakespeare Institute, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, and working closely with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Alternatively, you will have the option of exploring one of our 'Themes in Literature' modules, from a list such as:

  • The Gothic
  • Tragedy
  • From Plato to Postmodernism
  • Shakespeare’s Sisters
  • Writing Fiction
  • Modern Drama
  • North American Cinemas
  • The Language Poets Use
  • Transatlantic Literary Relations
  • Colonial/ Postcolonial

Details of second year modules

Final year

In your final year you will undertake independent research which will be the culmination of your development as an undergraduate researcher. This can either be a 20-credit Language Investigation and a 20- credit Literature Extended Essay, or you can choose to complete a 40- credit Dissertation in one discipline.

Apart from this, your final year modules are entirely optional. You will choose two Language Special Subjects from a list such as:

  • Discourse and Society
  • English Language Teaching
  • Health and Discourse
  • Language and the Law
  • Language and the Mind
  • Language, Gender and Identity
  • Linguistic Theory
  • Ordinary Creativity
  • Words

You will choose two Literature Special Subjects from a list such as:

  • Chaucer: Pre-Modern Writing and Post-Modern Reading
  • Contemporary North American Writing
  • Fantasy and Fandom; Gossip, Scandal and Celebrity
  • Imagining the Digital; Last Year’s Novels
  • Literature and the Law
  • The Modernist Novel
  • Paradise Lost: Texts and Contexts
  • Postcolonial Poetry and Poetics
  • Postmodern Historical Fictions
  • Remembering World War One
  • Shakespeare’s Afterlives
  • Victorian Literature and Science
  • Bringing Out the Bodies: Technology, Transhumans and Skin
  • Utopia and Its Discontents
  • The Pre-Raphaelite Circle
  • Hardy and Lawrence
  • Politics and Terror in the Age of Revolutions
  • Senses of the Past: Nineteenth-Century Literature and History
  • Henry James and Edith Wharton
  • Religion and Literature in Renaissance England
  • Nation and Identity in Nineteenth-Century America
  • World Comics

Details of final year modules

Study Abroad

You will have the option to take a year abroad between your second and final years as part of your course 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.

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:
Typical offer:
Required subjects and grades:
Grade A in A level English Literature or A level English Language and Literature is required.
General Studies:
not accepted

International baccalaureate update

Please note that we have reviewed our policy on the IB Diploma for 2016 entry and our offers will now focus on performance in Higher Level subjects. For more information and details please read our 2016 IB Diploma 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 study English in combination with other disciplines on our Joint Honours degree programmes. Within the English side of your course you can choose either the Language or Literature pathway.

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.

University of Birmingham students are part of an academic elite and learn from world-leading experts. We will challenge you to become an independent and self-motivated learner, qualities that are highly sought after by employers.

You will have a diverse learning experience, including:

  • lectures
  • small group tutorials
  • independent study
  • and peer group learning, such as delivering presentations with your classmates


You will have access to a comprehensive support system to help you make the transition to Higher Education.

  • Personal tutors - You will be assigned your own personal tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies. They will provide academic support and welfare advice to enable you to make the most of your time here at Birmingham.
  • Transition review - you will undergo a formal transition review during your first year with an academic member of staff. They will see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you need support.
  • Academic Skills Centre - the centre aims to help you become a more effective and independent learner through a range of high-quality support services. The centre offers workshops on a range of topics, such as note-taking, reading, academic writing and presentation skills.
  • Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) - the AWAS team will provide guidance on writing essays and dissertations at University-level. You will receive individual support from an academic writing advisor and meet with postgraduate tutors who specialise in particular subjects. Support is given in a variety of ways, such as small-group workshops, online activities, tutorials and email correspondence.
  • Student experience - our Student Experience Team will help you get the most out of your academic experience. They will offer research opportunities, study skills support and help you prepare for your post-university careers. They will also organise social events, such as field trips, to help you meet fellow students from your course.

Assessment methods

Assessments - you will be assessed in a variety of ways to help you transition to a new style of learning. At the beginning of each module, you will be given information on how and when you will be assessed. Assessments methods will vary with each module and could include:

  • coursework, such as essays
  • group and individual presentations
  • and formal exams

Feedback - you will receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so you can learn from each assignment. You will also be given feedback on any exams that you take. If you should fail an exam, we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is provided to help you prepare for future exams.

Studying for a Single Honours English Language and Literature degree at Birmingham is an unparalleled opportunity, not only to engage with both the literary and the linguistic dimensions of the discipline of English, 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 will find useful in your future career, including oral presentation, professional documentation, time management, teamwork and the uses of information technology.

English graduates from the University of Birmingham have excellent prospects after graduation. 92% of our graduates go into work or study within six months of graduation, with 75% of those entering employment going straight into professional or managerial jobs. This is above the national average and puts the University of Birmingham into the top five universities 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, and take up roles such as marketing coordinator, editorial assistant, creative advertising account executive, recruitment consultant and parliamentary caseworker. About 19% of our graduates pursue postgraduate study to specialise in an academic area or prepare for careers such as law and teaching.

Developing your career

Employers target University of Birmingham students for their diverse skill-set and our graduate employment statistics have continued to climb at a rate well above national trends. If you make the most of our wide range of opportunities you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.

  • Careers events - we hold events covering careers in teaching, event management, marketing and working with charities to help you meet potential employers and learn more about these sectors.
  • Global Challenge - you can apply to work overseas on an expenses-paid placement during your summer vacation through our Global Challenge initiative.
  • Work experience bursary - we encourage you to apply your skills in the workplace by undertaking internships in the summer. Our work experience bursaries allow you to apply for funding to support you during unpaid internships.
  • 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 will give you professional experience to set you apart in a competitive graduate market. Our current partners include Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Birmingham REP, Birmingham Royal Ballet, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust, Library of Birmingham.

There are also internships available at our own cultural assets, such as Winterbourne House, the Lapworth Museum, and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

Extra-curricular activities

To enhance your career prospects even further, you will need to think about engaging in some extra-curricular activities to broaden your skills and network of contacts.

  • Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme - 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 our 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.
  • Personal Skills Award - 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.
  • Guild of Students - there is a vast number of student groups and volunteering opportunities offered by the Guild of Students, which cover a wide variety of interests.

Birmingham has transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Clubs and societies

The Guild has over 200 Societies, community volunteering groups and associations for you to join; they cover every topic and activity that you can think of - there really is something for everyone.

Student Experience Officers

Our Student Experience Officers will help you get the most out of your academic experience. They will offer research opportunities, study skills support and help you prepare for your post-university careers. They will also organise social events, such as field trips, to help you meet fellow students from your course.


Coming to Birmingham might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and culture, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work.

Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.