Choosing a Uni
The majority of universities in the UK offer an English degree, so you have a lot of freedom in deciding where to go. Of course, you probably already know what’s important to you personally: location, campus environment, sports, or bursaries, for example. However, there are some specific things that are especially important for English students.
As a prospective English student, you should research each uni that you’re interested in to find out:
- the structure of the English course: does it offer the right balance in terms of literature, language or creative writing for example? For more information about different courses, go to the ‘What you study’ page
- module subjects: do they cover the things you may want to specialise in? can you take modules from other departments?
- the teaching approach: is the mix of lectures, seminars, independent study and online learning right for you?
- class sizes and the availability of personal tutors
- lecturers’ publications and interests, as these are reflected in the classroom
- the size and breadth of the library service
- extracurricular opportunities, like a literary journal or drama club
- whether you can combine English with another subject to follow a 'joint honours' programme
The English department website and the university’s site can help you to answer these questions. Some are more student-friendly than others, but it is worth taking the time to find the information you need.
Department websites also try to tell you what it’s like to study in the department and what’s expected of students.
You might want to skim through the current academic calendar and timetable, which list the modules offered in each year. Most universities post this on their website under a section for current students. But remember that there is no guarantee that the same modules will run next year. Because of the wide variety of topics and periods covered by English studies, it is possible that different programmes will appeal to quite different interests.
Finally, the website will tell you the grades you’ll need for admission to the school, and, usually, the number of available places.
If you can’t find the information you’re looking for on the website, the department will typically have a staff member who is assigned to answer questions of prospective students by email, phone or in person. You should also schedule to attend an Open Day at the campus.
Once you’ve selected a few interesting universities, you should visit their campuses on Open Days. These events give you an opportunity to get a feel for the campus and to ask more in-depth questions about the program of a staff member.
Here are some examples of specific questions you might ask:
- What is the range of modules available?
- How many modules are compulsory and how many optional in each year?
- How often are new modules introduced?
- What is the mix of lectures and seminars?
- How much teaching takes place online?
- How big are seminar groups?
- How many contact hours (face-to-face teaching) are there per week?
- What is the student:staff ratio?
- How many hours of private study are expected per week?
- How often can I see lecturers and personal tutors outside classes?
- What proportion of degrees awarded are firsts and upper seconds?
- What do graduates do? What proportion are employed or engaged in further study 6 months after graduating?
- Are there any work-related learning opportunities which might support my application for a job afterwards?
A complete schedule of university Open Days is available at opendays.com. You need to book in advance to attend.
There are no hard and fast rules about choosing a uni. But you will be spending three years of your life in the course, so it pays to know as much as possible about your choice.