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BA English Language and Literature

Why we're great

  • Tailor your degree to suit your interests and career goals thanks to our wide range of optional modules
  • You are taught by lecturers who are internationally recognised for their language research.
  • You join our diverse community of students from all corners of the globe - the world in one place.

Course options2017-18

UCAS code: QQ23
Duration: 3 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Language and Linguistics
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: QQ32
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Language and Linguistics
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: QQ35
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Language and Linguistics
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666

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About the course

How has English literature changed since the time of Shakespeare? What are the differences between literature written in the UK and literature written in other English-speaking countries? How has social and geographical mobility given rise to the formation of new accents and dialects of English?

An understanding of our language enhances our self-awareness, inspiring us to address fundamental questions about our communication as human beings; and this is epitomised in literature.

Our course provides a sound foundation in linguistic and sociolinguistic aspects of the structure and use of modern English, and offers you the chance to study a range of literary genres and approaches to literary criticism. This is a very flexible degree, with the opportunity for you to explore a wide range of topics including:

  • Language disorders
  • The relationship between language and society
  • Literatures of the United States and the Caribbean
  • English (and European) literature of the 15th-17th centuries
  • Writing science fiction

We are one of the largest and most prestigious language and linguistics departments in the world, a place where talented students become part of an academic community in which the majority of research is rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, placing us firmly within the top 10 departments in the UK and among the top 150 departments on the planet (QS World University Rankings 2016).

Meanwhile, our Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies is ranked Top 20 in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2015).

“My time at Essex helped me to become a more confident and independent person. In my final year I was offered an internship with a partner university in Germany, and experiencing a new culture was fantastic. I’m now working with a charity, helping migrant workers improve their English language skills.”

Natilly Macartney, BA English Language and Linguistics, 2013

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond our University campus. We support you extending your education by offering you an additional year at no extra cost. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend your third year studying abroad or employed on a placement, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.

Placement year

On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry.

Our expert staff

Our English Language staff are internationally recognised for their language research (REF 2014). Their books dominate the reading lists at other universities. We maintain excellent student-staff ratios, and we integrate language learning with linguistics wherever there is synergy.

At Essex, we also 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 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, U.S. and Caribbean literature, and the history of reading.

Specialist facilities

  • Our Languages for All programme offers you the opportunity to study an additional language alongside your course at no extra cost
  • Our ‘Visual World’ Experimental Lab records response times and eye movements when individuals are presented with pictures and videos
  • Our Eye-Tracking Lab monitors eye movement of individuals performing tasks
  • Our Psycholinguistics Lab measures how long it takes individuals to react to words, texts and sounds
  • Our Linguistics Lab has specialist equipment to analyse sound
  • 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
  • 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

Your future

Studying language and literature allows you to develop your research and IT skills by collecting and analysing linguistic data using state-of-the-art technology, and a combination of team-work and independent projects enhances your communication, problem-solving, and management skills.

Our graduates have gone on to have careers in a wide variety of fields, including teaching (in the UK and abroad), journalism, branding, advertising, marketing, travel, communications, publishing, speech and occupational therapy, interpreting, translating and media.

For example, one of our department’s recent graduates is now a Learning Support Assistant at a High School in Suffolk, whilst another is a Speech and Language Therapist with the NHS, and another teaches English in South Korea.

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 1

What are your skills? And how do they fit in with your career plans? Build your employability skills through this non-credit bearing but obligatory module. Attend workshops and events, engage in activities to raise your employability and build your knowledge of the graduate job market.

This module introduces you to the production of language sounds and their distribution in words, in particular, but not exclusively, in English. You will study the basic principles of phonology and develop the knowledge required to understand and begin to analyse sound systems. You will also discuss phonological processes and investigate the context and motivation of occurrence.

Develop three important skills for your future studies in this mixture of lecture and lab sessions: Tools of the trade – brush up on your ICT skills; Presentational skills – get to grips with talking in front of an audience as well as presenting written ideas; Analytical skills – refine your analytical skills for academic and non-academic work. By the time you’ve completed this module, you will be equipped with a skill set will see you through your studies and beyond.

Discover the role of variation in language systems, and learn the techniques and concepts needed to study the way language varies. You will look at geographical, social and historical dialects, explore language myths, and cover topics such as measuring language variation, social patterns and functions of language variation, speaker variables, and the relationship of language variation to language change. At the end of this module, you will have gained a clear understanding of the role variation plays in language systems, and will be able to look critically at the social functions and values of dialects and vernacular language usage.

Discover how to describe and analyse the structure of words, phrases, and sentences in this introductory half module. With topics including the English parts of speech, word structure and the distinction between inflection, derivation and compounding, and the identification of phrases, you will gain a solid grasp of the foundational material for the study of English linguistics, whilst developing useful analytical skills.

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.

What is US literature? What makes it different from other writing in the English language, particularly work from the UK? Study classic texts that have established US literature as a distinct tradition in itself and gain an understanding of the issues surrounding this.

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.

Year 2

What are your skills? And how do they fit in with your career plans? Build your employability skills through this non-credit bearing but obligatory module. Attend workshops and events, engage in activities to raise your employability and build your knowledge of the graduate job market.

Continuing from LG110, you will build on your existing knowledge, reinforcing the cognitive aspect of spoken language, the way in which sounds combine to make up words, and the interaction between word formation and phonology, as well as phonology in the wider context of phrases. The theory you learn throughout this module can be used to analyse other languages.

What is 'meaning' as it relates to words and sentences? How is the meaning of a sentence affected by the context it is produced in? These are the fundamental issues you will address in this module. You will examine the relationship between what is said and what is meant, with the first part of the course looking at basic issues in Semantics. The second part of the course will examine the distinction between a speaker's words and what a speaker means by those words – the domain of pragmatics.

Build on analytical concepts introduced in your first year, and investigate a range of key grammatical constructions in English. With an emphasis on description, rather than a particular theoretical approach, this practically orientated module will provide you with a solid foundation for tackling more theoretical options in English linguistics. As well as gaining an understanding of key areas of English grammar and grammatical terminology, you will also equip yourself with analytical, data, and evaluation skills.

Discover the steps involved in undertaking a research project in language and linguistics and develop your own final-year project. Topics include: Reviewing literature; Formulating research questions and hypotheses; Choosing a suitable research design; Data collection; Analysis techniques; Reporting findings. You will learn through a mixture of lectures, seminars and lab sessions to build your knowledge, skills, and confidence in researching, structuring, and writing a research project.

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.

Final year

What are your skills? And how do they fit in with your career plans? Build your employability skills through this non-credit bearing but obligatory module. Attend workshops and events, engage in activities to raise your employability and build your knowledge of the graduate job market.

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.

Can films really tell us what to think? Why was cinema championed as a way to transmit state ideologies in the interwar period? Explore a range of films, studying their production and reception. Learn to assess historical arguments in your critical analysis of films, broadening your perspectives on film studies.

How did the accents and dialects of English develop? What are the differences between them? Become skilful in identifying where speakers are from on the basis of their accent. Gain a sound understanding of the major changes which have affected English over the last 1,000 years.

What fascinates you about linguistics? Work independently on an extended project of your choosing within linguistics, with supervision from our expert staff. Build your subject knowledge, as well as your research skills and project management abilities.

Why do speakers of English initially think that sentences like “The horse raced past the barn fell” are ungrammatical? Why are sentences like “The mouse the cat chased stole the cheese” more difficult to understand than “The mouse stole the cheese and the cat chased the mouse”? Learn about the principles of sentence and discourse processing that guide language understanding. Conduct experiments testing how speakers respond to structurally different types of sentences.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree. Our Programme Specification gives more detail about modules on your year abroad.


  • Teaching is arranged to allow freedom in how you organise your learning experience
  • Innovative ways of engaging with texts include editing 16th century sonnets and archival research
  • Examples of practical work include digitally recording dialect speakers in a small traditional fishing community, or scouring digitised child language databanks
  • Other teaching methods include lectures, demonstrations and learning by teaching others


  • You are assessed through a combination of coursework (assignments, essays and tests) and end-of-year examinations
  • Weighted 50% coursework and 50% examinations
  • Other methods of assessment include graded participation in seminars and classes, presentations, or group work

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UK entry requirements

A-levels: BBB

IB: 30 points. We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.

Entry requirements for students studying BTEC qualifications are dependent on units studied. Advice can be provided on an individual basis. The standard required is generally at Distinction level.

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 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

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

Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. In 2017 we have three undergraduate Open Days (in June, September and October). These events enable you to discover what our Colchester Campus has to offer. You have the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

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 Colchester 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. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to 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.

Our UK students, and 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) or independent applicants in the UK 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.

Visit days and interviews

Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our visit days. These run from January to April and give you the chance to explore the campus, meet our students and really get a feel for life as an Essex student.

Some of our courses also hold interviews and if you’re invited to one, this will take place during your visit day. Don’t panic, they’re nothing to worry about and it’s a great way for us to find out more about you and for you to find out more about the course. Some of our interviews are one-to-one with an academic, others are group activities, but we’ll send you all the information you need beforehand.

If you’re outside the UK and are planning a trip, feel free to email so we can help you plan a visit to the University.

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The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its course finder is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of 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. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep prospective students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

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