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BA English Literature (4 Years Including Foundation Year)

Why we're great

  • We equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed at Essex and beyond.
  • Our international students benefit from a single visa for all four years of study.
  • Small class sizes allow you to work closely with your teachers and classmates.

Course options

UCAS code: Q320
Duration: 4 years
Start month(s): October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: International Academy
Fee (International): £11,350
Subsequent years will be charged at the standard undergraduate degree fee for international students.

UCAS code: Q320
Duration: 4 years
Start month(s): January
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: International Academy
Fee (International): £11,350
Subsequent years will be charged at the standard undergraduate degree fee for international students.

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666

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About the course

Are you an EU or international student who wants to study literature in the UK? Do you need to improve your English language and academic study skills?

On our four-year BA English Literature (including foundation year), we work with you to improve your language skills, to develop your subject-specific knowledge, and to improve your academic skills. You receive a thorough grounding in these areas during your foundation year (known as Year Zero) to prepare you for a further three years of undergraduate study at Essex.

You are an Essex student from day one, a member of our global community based at the most internationally diverse campus university in the UK.

At Essex, you don’t just study English Literature, you study world literature in English. Alongside the English literary canon, you read some of the most important novels, poems and plays from the United States, the Caribbean and Europe.

Other topics you can choose from include:

  • Modernist cityscapes in literature
  • Victorian literary realism
  • The Romantics
  • The American deep south
  • Translating novels to the screen

Our course offers a varied, flexible and distinctive curriculum, focused on the study of world literature, but also enabling you to take options from the other courses within our Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies including creative writing, filmmaking, journalism and drama.

We are ranked top 20 in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2015), and our students are some of the happiest in the country; we are consistently ranked among the top in the UK for student satisfaction.

Our expert staff

At Essex, we have an impressive literary legacy. Our history comprises staff (and students) who have been Nobel Prize winners, Booker Prize winners, and Pulitzer Prize winners.

Our Department are committed to unlocking creative personal responses to literature. This distinctive environment is possible because we are a community of award-winning novelists, poets and playwrights, as well as leading literature specialists.

Our academic staff specialise in a range of areas including modernism, comparative and world literature, Shakespeare, the Renaissance, travel writing, nature writing, translated literature, cultural geography, Irish and Scottish writing, and the history of reading.

Specialist facilities

By studying within our International Academy for your foundation year, you will have access to all of the facilities that the University of Essex has to offer, as well as those provided by our Academy to support you:

  • We provide computer labs for internet research; classrooms with access to PowerPoint facilities for student presentations; AV facilities for teaching and access to web-based learning materials
  • Our new Student Services Hub will support you and provide information for all your needs as a student
  • Our social space is stocked with hot magazines and newspapers, and provides an informal setting to meet with your lecturers, tutors and friends

Our Department Literature, Film and Theatre Studies also offers excellent on-campus facilities:

  • Meet fellow readers at the student-run Literature Society or at the department’s Myth Reading Group
  • Access the University’s Media Centre, equipped with state-of-the-art studios, cameras, audio and lighting equipment, and an industry-standard editing suite
  • Write for our student magazine Albert or host a Red Radio show
  • View classic films at weekly film screenings in our dedicated 120-seat film theatre
  • Learn from leading writers and literature specialists at weekly research seminars
  • Our on-Campus, 200-seat Lakeside Theatre has been established as a major venue for good drama, staging both productions by professional touring companies and a wealth of new work written, produced and directed by our own staff and students
  • Participate in regular workshops at the Lakeside Theatre which help you to improve your performance skills
  • Our Research Laboratory allows you to collaborate with professionals, improvising and experimenting with new work which is being tried and tested

Your future

Many employers want graduates with critical thinking skills who can think logically and creatively about practical problems.

Our students are in demand from a wide range of employers in a host of occupations, including law, PR, journalism and the media, the Civil Service, charity work, banking, and the NHS. Our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies.

Philosophy develops your transferable skills, providing you with:

  • The ability to understand all sides of a dispute objectively and without forming a premature opinion
  • The ability to work in a team, taking a collaborative approach to problems
  • The ability to interpret dense text and to communicate effectively
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills

We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.

Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 0

How did Plato and Aristotle influence Western political thought? How do you study class or gender today? What impact does globalisation have? Examine the history of social and political theory, critically analysing current issues. Understand key topics in politics and sociology for further study of the social sciences and humanities.

Britain has experienced unprecedented changes in the last 100 years. What has brought about these changes and how have they affected the Britain of today? This course will outline political, economic, social and cultural change in the UK during the Twentieth Century and beyond and offer an insight into Britain’s place in the modern world.

Want to study Hamlet? And contemporary works by Angela Carter or Kazuo Ishiguru? Interested in World War One poetry? Study a range of drama, poetry and prose fiction. Describe, analyse and reflect on key texts from Shakespeare to the present day. Become familiar with the crucial terms for assessing literature.

What can we know? How should we live? Study two important areas of philosophy – epistemology and ethics. Examine the work of key thinkers and understand the major themes in Western philosophy. Analyse contemporary issues using philosophical arguments. Become confident in the expression of your own thoughts and ideas.

Year 1

What techniques are required for critical writing? How is “the essay” a specific form of writing? Improve your essay-writing by preparing short assignments on a single literary text. Practise the skills needed (planning, use of terminology, constructing an argument, presenting evidence, secondary reading, footnotes and bibliography etc) for academic writing.

Which writers re-worked Homer’s Odyssey? Or borrowed ideas from Dante’s Inferno? Examine how key literary texts and genres have been used by successive generations of writers up until the present day. Shift from classical text to a more modern example, studying the long cultural traditions that exist.

How do you read a text closely? What is involved in close reading? With emphasis on you to active do the close reading, learn how this approach can contribute to your appreciation of meaning and significance in a diverse range of texts.

What is contemporary writing? And how is it characterised? Don’t just study known “traditional” genres of literature, what about the emerging new genres of writing that are challenging readers? Analyse contemporary English writing, published within the last ten years, looking at themes, forms, issues and language.

How have Hobbes and Locke shaped modern politics? What were the American Revolution’s formative moments? Does Wollstonecraft still matter to modern feminists? Study the explosion in European thought and knowledge from the seventeenth to eighteenth century. See how this provided a foundation for topics like politics, law, sociology, and feminism.

Year 2

How useful is the term “early modern”? What about “medieval” or “Renaissance”? Study literature from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Glimpse cultural structures and behaviour that prefigures our own, as well as an exciting “otherness” of the many worlds represented in the variety of texts chosen.

What is modernity? How did it change our perception of the world? What impact did it have on literary culture? Study major pieces of poetry, drama and fiction from the 1790s to the 1970s that engage with challenges and inventions of modern life, negotiating transitions between old and new.

How can texts be read and interpreted using the thinking of Marx? What about Freud or de Saussure? Or Derrida and Said? Study literature, theatre, and film using these key thinkers. Analyse their approaches both historically and institutionally, and understand the importance of theoretical and methodological material to your studies.

What are the major US texts since 1850? And what problems are connected to them? Study a varied spectrum of US literature, looking at issues such as the relationship between American writing and history, American “difference” and differences within American society, nationalism and regionalism, and conflicts of race and gender.

Final year

How did literature respond to scientific and technological developments during the Victorian period? What about urbanisation and the growth of industrial cities? What impact did the British Empire expansion have? Explore a range of poetry and prose to understand how writing evolved during sixty-four years of unprecedented vitality and change.

How has the American identity and purpose changed since World War Two? And how is this reflected in literature? Gain answers to these questions via a range of American texts. Analyse these works using a variety of critical approaches, considering social, political and cultural contexts since the Second World War.

How was the history play invented in early modern England? And why? Examine Shakespeare’s English and Roman history plays, as well as works by Marlowe, Jonson and Ford. Understand how the Elizabethan history play responds to the radically different kinds of history being written and translated in early modern England.

What is the history play? Why is it attractive to writers from the Enlightenment right up until the present day? Investigate relationships between drama and history, building knowledge of a variety of historical drama from the eighteenth century onwards. Explore the history play by studying its inventiveness, modernity and politics.

What are the cultural capitals of modernism? How are modernist arts shaped by the metropolitan life experience? Examine literature, film, art and music, studying aesthetic practices and cultural contexts of modernism. Read and discuss cities with vibrant artistic and political activities: New York, Paris, London, Dublin, Vienna, Berlin and Petersburg.

How has the King Arthur legend been used to build or re-build a nation at fraught points in history? Why, in the twenty and twenty-first century, is Arthurian literature now a matter for childrens books? Examine how Arthurian texts have been rewritten and appropriated in various forms by every generation.


  • Innovative ways of engaging with texts include editing 16th century sonnets and archival research
  • Your teaching mainly takes the form of lectures and classes, the latter involving about 20 students
  • A typical timetable includes a one-hour lecture and a one-hour class for each of your four modules every week
  • Any language classes involve language laboratory sessions
  • Our classes are run in small groups, so you receive a lot of individual attention


  • Your assessed coursework will generally consist of essays, reports, in-class tests, book reports, individual or group oral presentations, and small scale research projects

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UK entry requirements

This course is only available to international applicants.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 5.5 overall.

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.

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Visit us

Open days

We hold several Open Days throughout the year so that you can visit our Colchester Campus and find out more about Essex. You’ll be able to tour our campus and accommodation, meet our academics, sample the course you’re interested in and get answers to all the questions you have about becoming a member of the University of Essex.

You can find out more and book your place online. If our dates don’t work for you then don’t worry, you can always book a campus and accommodation tour on a weekday to suit you. Just email to get booked in.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Southend Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. We have a comprehensive list online so take a look and see if we’ll be near you in the future.


Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.

Some of our EU and International students who are still at school or college can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.

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Although great care is taken in compiling our course details, they are intended for the general guidance of prospective students only. The University reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University.

The full procedures, rules and regulations of the University are set out in the Charter, Statues and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.