BA English Language and English Literature

Join one of the largest concentrations of English specialists in the UK with a range of expertise across English Literature and English Language. Our BA English Language and English Literature programme allows you to benefit from distinctive, engaging and globally recognised teaching and research across the full span of the discipline. You will study equal proportions of language and literature and as a result you will have a wide range of modules to choose from. The programme draws on the department’s many strengths including corpus linguistics, literature of all periods, stylistics, Shakespeare and applied linguistics.  English Language and English Literature graduates from Birmingham benefit from a high rate of employability for the subject, with 90% going into work or study within six months of graduation. They have secured work in areas including advertising, recruitment consultancy, marketing, editing and teaching at every level.

Undergraduate places available for 2014

Course fact file

UCAS code: Q30A

Duration: 3 Years

Places Available: 12

Applications in 2013: 76

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

Start date: September


In this programme, you will study half of your modules (60 credits) in English Language and half in English Literature (60 credits).


First year


English Language: First-year modules cover the essentials of English Language for undergraduate study. 


  • The module English Language: Development, Discourse, Diversity introduces various aspects of language in use, covering child language acquisition, language variation, standardisation, language education, and text and discourse analysis. 
  • In English Language: Sounds, Structures, and Words, students are introduced to the descriptive aspects of language. It provides grounding in the phonology, morphology, grammar and lexis of English, including the concepts and technical terminology used to describe the characteristics of the language. 
  • Investigating English Language introduces the key skills and methods required to carry out language research, including critical reading; writing a literature review; questionnaire design, interview techniques and corpus analysis. The module provides a strong foundation for further independent research in the second and third years.



English Literature: The first-year literature modules introduce students to a range of kinds and periods of literature and a lively variety of critical and theoretical approaches. 


  •  Literary Aesthetics after 1800 (20 credits) introduces some key notions of form, style and genre in literary texts written after 1800. You will study three major focal texts (or groups of shorter texts) of different genres, and will develop skills in the close analysis of passages and in essay writing.


  •  Literary Aesthetics before 1800 (20 credits) introduces key notions of form, style and genre in texts written before 1800. You will study three major focal texts (or groups of shorter texts) of different genres, for example, Malory, Morte D’Arthur; revenge tragedies of the 16th and 17th centuries; and selected verse satire of the 18th century.


  •  The Critical Practice module (10+10 credits) focuses on the key knowledge and skills central to English Studies. You will be introduced to strategies for engaging with primary and secondary sources for literary study, methodologies in literary criticism, and the extensive resources Birmingham provides for English students. This module is closely related to Literary Aesthetics after 1800 and Literary Aesthetics before 1800.


Second year


English Language: In this year you can choose to take either: 


  • Two linked modules, English Grammar  and English Phonology and Morphology, which follow on from first-year modules to provide a thorough grounding in technical aspects of the language; 
  • Or you can choose two modules from a range including History of the English Language, Language Acquisition and Literacy, Analysing Written Language and Sociolinguistics
  • 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. 



English Literature: In this year, you take modules that address topics in three major periods of English literature, and which are informed by theoretical as well as textual and historical approaches. You will study:


  • One Option module in Medieval/Early Modern literature (20 credits) chosen from a list of options.


  • One Option module in Modern literature (20 credits) chosen from a list of options. Examples might include Writing and the World in the Nineteenth Century or Victorian and Decadent Literature: The Modern, the Aesthetic, and the Gothic or Making it New: Modernism and Literary Innovation in the Early Twentieth Century or Literature in Britain Since 1945.


  • One Transhistorical Literature Option (10 + 10 credits). Examples may include Satire or Colonial and Postcolonial Literature or Hacking the Book.


Third year


English Language: 


  • You choose two modules from a wide range of options on such topics as The Politics of English, Discourse and Society, English Language Teaching, Language and the Mind, Narrative Analysis, Ordinary Creativity, and Words
  • You undertake the final research module, a 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, your potential for immediate employment. 




English Literature: In the final year you choose two from a number of special option modules, taught by experts in those specialisms, and also undertake a dissertation in which you demonstrate sophisticated understanding of the issues in literature that you have been studying over the last two years. You will study:


  • Literature Dissertation (10 + 10 credits). You will write a 5,000 word dissertation on a subject of your choice.


  • One choice from Literature Options (all 20 credits; see below)


  • Either Shakespeare (10+10 credits) This course, running through the whole of your final year, allows you the opportunity to think widely across all Shakespeare’s texts in their historical, cultural and theatrical contexts; it is taught in a collaboration between English staff and colleagues from the University’s Shakespeare Institute, and students are encouraged to draw on the resources of the Shakespeare Institute Library.


  • Or a further Literature Option (20 credits)


Literature Options available to final-year students have recently included: Ben Jonson; Chaucer: Pre-modern Writing and Post-modern Reading; Contemporary Irish Writing; English Reformed; Fantasy and Fandom; Gossip, Scandal, and Celebrity; Hardy and Wilde; Law and Literature; Literary Modernism; Literature and Politics in the 1930s; Literature, Sexuality, and the Body; Lyrical Ballads; Medieval Manuscripts; Paradise Lost: Text and Context; Shakespeare’s Afterlives; Viragos, Coquettes and Prudes; Voicing Women; Victoria’s Secrets: Literature and Secrecy in the Nineteenth Century; The Works of T. S. Eliot; Utopia and its Discontents.




As a Joint Honours English Language and English Literature student, you will be writing two research essays in your final year, one on a linguistic topic (a Language Investigation), and one on a literary topic (an Extended Essay). However, subject to special permission, you can instead choose to write a single double-length Dissertation (40 credits), on an approved topic specialising in either English Language or English Literature, or in a combined English Language and English Literature project. 

Why study this course

Consistently rated highly in the UK teaching and research rankings, the Department of English at Birmingham is widely respected and attracts a high calibre of undergraduate talent. Part of the School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, the department offers exciting opportunities, first-class facilities and a commitment to excellence in teaching. The Department is one of very few in the UK that offer large concentrations of expertise in both English Language and English Literature.

The English Language side of the 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.

Our distinguished language specialists today are part of a long line of Birmingham linguists who have changed the discipline – 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 also currently contribute internationally to research in corpus linguistics, discourse studies and English language teaching. 

The English Literature side of the programme draws on the expertise of a team of academics whose research expertise ranges from Old English and medieval literature to contemporary literature and theory. Furthermore, our affiliation with the Shakespeare Institute, which oversees the year-long, third-year Shakespeare module, means that our students have access to unparalleled resources for the study of Shakespeare and his times. The Institute, based in nearby Stratford-upon-Avon, is an internationally renowned research institution established in 1951 to push the boundaries of knowledge about Shakespeare studies and Renaissance drama. 

Our students have the privilege of learning from academics at the forefront of research, and benefit from enviable research resources, including the substantial manuscript, print, and electronic holdings of the University library, as well as the collections in the Library of Birmingham, with its world-ranking Shakespeare collection.

Students at Birmingham also benefit from frequent lectures and readings from published authors and industry professionals, including the Birmingham Visiting Writers’ Programme which is hosted by the English Department. This has featured readings and lectures from the poet and writer Jackie Kay, novelist David Lodge, TV and film screenwriter Stewart Harcourt and the acclaimed author Catherine O’Flynn, whose novel What Was Lost won the 2007 Costa First Novel Award.  

English Literature open day talk

Dr Kate Rumbold delivers the 2013 undergraduate open day talk on studying English Literature at the University of Birmingham.

English Language open day talk

Dr Alison Sealey delivers the 2013 undergraduate open day talk on studying English Language at the University of Birmingham.

Joint honours open day talk

Dr Craig Blunt delivers an undergraduate open day talk about studying Joint Honours at the university.

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: Grade A in A level English Literature or A level English Language and Literature is required.

General Studies: not accepted

Additional information: 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

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.

The principal means of assessment for English are coursework essays and written exams.


Studying for a Joint Honours English Language and English 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.

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

English graduates from the University of Birmingham have excellent prospects after graduation. 90% of our English graduates go into work or study within six months of graduation. This is above the national average and puts the University of Birmingham well into the top ten 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.

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 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. The ‘Creative Careers’ series is always popular with our students, featuring events with employers and professionals from areas such as advertising, PR and communications, journalism, publishing and writing, and the theatre.

Our Careers Network also holds events covering careers in teaching, events management, and marketing and working with charities. They are developing links with local arts organisations to create some amazing opportunities for students; and you can even apply for the ‘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 unpaid.

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 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.