Top login menu

Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge


Main page content

English at Cambridge

The English course at Cambridge is internationally renowned for the quality of its students and its teachers. It offers a wonderful opportunity to study a huge range of literature in an intellectual environment that both challenging and supportive. In the first two years (Part I) undergraduates study literature in English from Chaucer's time to our own. In the third year (Part II) they build on this broad, chronological grounding with a compulsory paper on Tragedy, and choices from a list of more specialised and/or comparative options - such ‘Literature and Visual Culture’, ‘American Literature’, ‘Lyric’, or ‘Contemporary Literature’. One important element of English at Cambridge - Practical Criticism, which really just means close analysis of texts - is taught throughout the course, and thus has a special centrality. Students also write a dissertation of their own choice in both Part I and II.

Full details about the structure and content of the course can be found at the Faculty website.

English in Murray Edwards College

We welcome around 10 undergraduate students in English each year, and there are three Fellows in English:

  • Dr Jenny Bavidge (who has written on Eco-criticism and the literature of London, and who teaches nineteenth and twentieth-century literature)
  • Dr Raphael Lyne (who has written on Shakespeare and renaissance poetry, and who teaches sixteenth and seventeenth-century literature, and Tragedy)
  • Dr Leo Mellor (who works on war writing and Modernism, and who teaches nineteenth and twentieth-century literature).

The core of a student's work is the ‘supervision’ (often taught by the experts in college, but also by specialists from other colleges). Here the student meets, usually once a week as one of a pair, with a specialist supervisor who provides individual direction for a particular paper and discusses the week’s essay in detail. All undergraduates reading English at Cambridge follow this general pattern of study. They are all students in the Cambridge English Faculty, attending lectures and classes on the main Arts lecture site and using the rich resources of the English Faculty Library and the University Library itself, one of the great research libraries of the country.

Our students have achieved very good results in recent years, with the overwhelming majority getting 2.1 or 1st class results. Our aim is to encourage students to find their own critical approaches and to develop their interests. One of the great things about English as a subject is that there are many ways of doing well. One recent student put it like this:

‘English at [Murray Edwards College] is a wonderful, powerful and compelling subject. It allowed me to explore my passions for Literature and then to structure them into clear essays and arguments. I could not have imagined studying anything else anywhere else.’

Applying to study here

We look for students who are enthusiastic about their subject, motivated to learn more and have achieved highly in their examinations to date.

The first requirement for anyone intending to read English at university is a passion for reading. Without that there is little point in committing oneself to three years in which one is required to do little else but read, reflect on, and write about seven centuries of poetry, drama and prose. Plainly, not everyone who simply ‘enjoys reading’ will be a suitable candidate for an English degree. Students reading English at Murray Edwards College need to be able to reach beyond impressionistic, personal responses to works of literature on the one hand, and dependence on received critical views on the other. In our interviews we will hope to talk to you about the things you have read, and the ways you have pursued your interests.

All our students have chosen to study English at A-Level or an equivalent qualification within other education systems. At Murray Edwards College we have students from a wide variety of academic backgrounds. In selecting for admission we attach more importance to the qualities of mind which are needed to enable students to get the most out of the course than to any particular choice of A-Level subjects.

Like all applicants for English, you will need to take the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT). With ELAT in place we will no longer require students to sit a College ‘at-interview’ English test.

We usually set typical/standard offers in A-levels or their equivalent ie usually A*AA.  Full details of entry requirements and selection processes in English across all colleges can be found on the central University webpages.

Moving into your career

Our students follow a wide range of careers when they leave: some will want to stay closely involved with their subject interest, as teachers in schools or in academic research, while others will be keen to apply the skills and attributes they have developed while studying here to a wide range of opportunities.  Recent students have gone on to be solicitors, comedians, management consultants, novelists, publishers, actors, charity administrators, screenwriters, political speechwriters, and many other things  too.

We support students in developing their skills and in exploring varied career options through our Murray Edwards Gateway Programme.

Find out more

Many students find it helpful to contact us by email or to visit us to find out more. You are welcome to do so.

Fellows in this subject