English at Cambridge
Over the centuries, many writers have studied in Cambridge: Spenser, Marlowe, Milton, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Tennyson, Forster, Plath, Hughes, Byatt and Zadie Smith. When established, the Cambridge course was considered daringly innovative and this ethos continues to shape teaching and research.
Today’s course balances a strong grounding in the core of English literature with the chance to explore literature from around the world, other art forms, the English language, and related intellectual traditions.
Teaching and resources
You are taught by some of the most eminent writers and thinkers who, between them, teach and research almost every aspect of literature. We have no set approach beyond instilling the valuable skills of critical thinking, scholarly rigour and good writing.
You have access to the vast resources of the University Library, and to the Faculty library, which houses around 80,000 books and provides computer facilities, skills training and welcoming features such as ‘Tea @ 3’. Our modern Faculty building also includes a drama studio and garden.
Socially, many English students pursue interests in creative writing, journalism and the performing arts.
What we’re looking for
English students need an intellectual curiosity which drives them to try new things and ask probing questions. We look for reading beyond the syllabus, and for independent, well-informed critical thinking.
Additional course costs
There are no compulsory additional course costs for English. Prior to arrival, students may be required to undertake some preparatory reading (depending on papers taken). Often, students choose to purchase their own copies of certain texts relevant to the papers they take, the cost of this is approximately £50-100, depending on texts chosen. New students are provided with a recommended list of texts. Full course details are available on the Faculty of English website and if you have any queries about resources/materials, please contact the Faculty (see fact file, right).
To be able to change course, you need the agreement of your College that any change is in your educational interests, and you must have the necessary background in the subject to which you wish to change – in some cases you may be required to undertake some catch-up work or take up the new course from the start/an earlier year. If you think you may wish to change course, we encourage you to contact a College admissions office for advice. You should also consider if/how changing course may affect any financial support arrangements.
Our students develop the skills of critical thinking, close reading and effective communication. Many draw directly on their subject and pursue careers in arts management or information management, or go into academia or teaching.
Those same skills are valued by employers in many other professions too, such as the Law, the Civil Service, industry, accountancy and social work. And, unsurprisingly, many graduates go on to work in the media, theatre and film – such as Jeremy Paxman, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Sam Mendes – or become poets, novelists and playwrights.