10 Reasons to Study English at University

Considering studying English at university? Need further convincing as to why you should? Discover these 10 compelling reasons to study this subject.

Katie Broadbent - 08 June 2021 · 14 min read

Thinking about your future? Haven't decided exactly what you want to study at university yet?

English - being a core subject - is a classic and also well-respected degree programme for several reasons. And one that if you have an interest in, should definitely be considered as a subject you could pursue at university.

Not only does it celebrate the historic art of storytelling, but it also teaches students to be analytical, imaginative, and to think critically. Merging context with wider cultural movements in psychology, philosophy, politics and more, you’ll have the opportunity to examine some of the greatest literary works of all time and their impact on the period in which they were written in. 

As you can imagine, studying English at university is an enriching opportunity, giving you the chance to dive head-first into a subject you’re passionate about, while also shaping a slick set of skills for future employment. 

 

Should I Study English at University?

Choosing what to study at university can be a really difficult decision, especially when you’re torn between two completely different subjects. 

English, with its roots in many different subject areas, is a great pursuit for students considering it as one of their university degree options. 

The skills, subject knowledge and understanding of the wider world will give you a great set of transferable skills for future employment, while the long reading lists, flexibility on module choices, and varied assessments make it a great opportunity for students with a flair for creativity to pursue a subject they admire at greater detail.

Need more convincing as to why you should consider it as an option? Discover ten reasons why you should study English at university. 

1. Pursue a subject you’re passionate about

Now, it may seem obvious. But one of the most important reasons for choosing to study English at university is because you have a genuine passion and interest in the subject. And what better way to immerse yourself in your passion than spending three or four years studying it at university?

If you’re already studying for your A-Levels, you’ll understand how much of a time commitment each of your subjects are. But once you reach university level, you’ll soon realise that this steps up even more as you focus on one subject in much greater detail. Therefore, it’s very important that you choose to study a subject that really fascinates you. 

In addition, English is very much an independent subject to study; you’ll typically have less classroom hours timetabled than students in, say, the Science subjects - mainly because of all the reading and writing work you need to complete. You need to be really passionate about it in order to find the motivation to get up each day and complete all your work.

What you read for pleasure will also be part of what you study; studying English at university will fuel you as a dedicated reader, and as a person for the rest of your life. We cannot stress how important it is to study a subject you’re really committed to in order to succeed. University has the ability to shape your entire future career, so you want to make sure you’re spending the time studying something that truly inspires you.

2. Enjoy the flexibility that comes with studying English Literature at university

Research any course at almost any university and you’ll find that every student has to complete a set number of core modules during their course. Typically, this happens in the first year of study or first semester of the academic year, ensuring that all students have a mutual understanding and basis of knowledge for which to explore further. 

But as you look towards your second or third year at university, you often have the opportunity to pick your own modules around areas of the subject which interest you. And for English, there’s often lots of options to choose from.

Interestingly, a degree in English offers a lot of freedom and opportunity to pursue areas of the subject that interest you the most. Where more technical or niche subjects may require you to cover a much more specific range of modules, English, being a core subject, offers far more options. 

As a subject, English is rooted in so many other subjects and areas of interest - and can be applied to almost anything. This means when you study it at university, you can often choose from an extensive range of modules and pick those which interest you the most. 

With centuries of literature to choose from, you’ll be sure to find at least one area of speciality which inspires you and makes all that heavy reading list a whole lot easier. Take the time to research all the different modules that universities have to offer, and you’ll find it much easier to find a course that matches your areas of interest.

3. Improve your reading and writing skills

Now, you may be wondering why you would need to improve your reading or writing skills. After all, if you’re already studying English at A-Level, then you probably have a pretty strong set of skills in these areas. 

But, if you want to really master these skills and gain a competitive edge over your peers in future job prospects, then you should consider studying English at university. You’ll be surprised at how much this subject ‘steps up’ at degree level.

Studying English at university demands a lot of research, reading and writing. Over the three or four years of study, it’s likely that you will complete a lot of essays and even a long-form dissertation (usually around 10,000 - 12,000 words). All of these require lots of planning and research, including completing the necessary preparatory reading around the topic. 

Naturally, you’ll become a more effective writer and reader. The more you read and write, the clearer your written and verbal communication will be. The more feedback you receive on your work, the better your grammar will be. It’s simple: the more you immerse yourself in a core subject like English, the better your overall skills and abilities will be. 

These skills will be invaluable throughout your academic career and future job pursuits. Employers are always looking for those with an exceptional level of attention to detail, clear communication, and effective reading and writing skills. You could just be at the top of their wish list! 

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4. Gain transferable skills for a whole range of careers with an English degree

One of the most frequently searched for questions regarding university options is; what careers can you do with English? 

Now, if there’s ever an old wives’ tale, it’s that studying English at university is for those who want to go into teaching. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it does leave lots of students thinking that their future career options are limited with an English degree. But that simply isn’t true.

Skills for the workplace are a constant area of interest, with regular research looking at what employers recognise as the most valuable to their organisation. Often, skills which feature amongst the most valued by companies and organisations include communication, collaboration, critical thinking, resilience, and adaptability. 

And, with English being a core subject on the UK national curriculum, it prepares students with many of these skills for the future. From helping students to identify interesting points of discussion within a text, to collaborating with others on group projects, and even the ability to become better written communicators, there are so many skills crafted over the course of a students’ core education at school and beyond if they choose to study the subject as part of their higher education. 

As such, employers have a great interest in graduates who have an English degree. The versatility of the skills students will develop can open so many doors for students; you can consider so many different careers with an English degree. From journalism to marketing, publishing, teaching, or even Law - studying English at university can help you pursue a career in almost anything that interests you. 

5. Increase your creativity

Another reason to consider studying English at university is the ability to increase and improve your own creativity. While many perceive the study of English Literature at degree level to be based on the analysis of other people’s creative works, it often presents an opportunity for you to create your own. 

If you’re in the initial stages of your university research, then you may not have yet realised that most universities who offer an English degree also offer an opportunity to create your own creative works. 

Often, there are modules which include an element of allowing you to create your own literature, including poetry, prose, or even scriptwriting. And you can choose the areas of creative writing which interest you most and build your degree around that.

But even if you aren’t looking to produce your own pieces of creative writing, there are still so many opportunities to increase your creativity with an English degree. For example, close analyses of your favourite literary works will force you to think of new ideas and points of discussion, while seminar discussions or tutorials will prompt you to think about your subject from a different perspective. All of which will inevitably contribute to the improvement of your own creative thinking. 

When you’re surrounded by inspiring works, great thinkers, and motivated students all-day, everyday, you’re bound to soak up some of this creativity yourself. 

 

6. Enjoy the possibility of studying for a dual honours degree

Stuck between English and another subject? It can be difficult to try and narrow down your options when you’re equally passionate about both. 

But over the past few years, this decision-making process has become much easier thanks to the rise in the number of dual and joint honours degree programmes that have become available. 

A joint or dual honours degree allows you to study two subjects at the same time: either equally, or with your time weighted towards one subject in particular. For students who are struggling to decide between two subjects they’re passionate about, it can be a great avenue to explore.

When it comes to English Literature, there are many different literature and creative course combinations to choose from, including: English Language, Creative Writing, Linguistics, Cultural Studies, Scriptwriting, and more. 

But beyond the realm of core subject studies and variations, English Literature is also a great base subject which can be combined with many different honours. From History and Philosophy to Psychology, Modern Languages, and even Music - there are so many variations to choose from. English bears great foundations across a whole range of subjects, and a great option with which to pair with something else you are equally inquisitive about. 

So, if you’re torn between studying English or another subject at university - you don’t have to be! You could study both subjects in conjunction with one another and really shape your degree around your interests. 

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7. Give yourself an opportunity to study abroad

Over the past decade, it’s become increasingly common for universities to offer a semester or even a whole year for students to study abroad as part of their university course. Currently, it’s estimated that around 1.3 million students are currently participating in some form of study abroad programme in Europe.

Studying abroad is a truly enriching experience, giving you the opportunity to gain an international perspective, add skills and experiences to your CV, and embark on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live independently, make new international friends, and explore a city you’ve always dreamed of.

With its roots in a whole range of disciplines, English as a subject is rather international. As such, most universities offer a variety of modules that give you the opportunity to study abroad. 

If you have an interest in studying abroad, then you should definitely research what options are available at the universities you’re thinking of applying to. It’s your chance to tailor your degree around your travel aspirations, see more of the world, and explore your subject from a wider cultural perspective. 

8. Have your knowledge and understanding assessed in a variety of ways

Finding a university and course that assesses your knowledge and understanding of a subject in a way that best suits your skills, interests and abilities is critical to your success and motivation as a student.

It wouldn’t be worth pursuing a subject like Theatre Studies that requires lots of public performances if you hate performing up on stage. Likewise, you would lack motivation to complete your assignments if you hated handling data and statistics and completed a heavily research-based Psychology degree. 

Another great advantage of studying English Literature at university is that you aren’t bound to one single type of assessment or examination.

As a creative subject, universities typically offer a variety of options for students to be assessed by, including: essays, presentations, coursework, creative writing, reviews, discussions, portfolios, and examinations - albeit, these are used much more rarely than they once were. 

It is worth noting that studying English Literature at university will obviously require significant written assessment, which in turn requires lots of reading and research. It’s unlikely that you’ve reached your GCSEs or even A-Levels and not discovered this, but it’s obviously a huge consideration you need to be aware of when thinking about pursuing the subject for further study. 

 

9. Explore some of the best literature that has ever been published

If you’re contemplating whether to study English at university, then you probably love to read, right? And one of the great benefits of pursuing this subject is that you’ll be spending a lot of your time reading. 

Most English degree programmes cover the entire history of literature. From the historic pre-Chaucer period through the romantic, expressionism and even postmodernist era, you’ll get to read some of the greatest books ever written.

You’ll cover all the must-read classics, and have the opportunity to be introduced to new and emerging young writers. It’s your chance to round your literary knowledge, engage with the very texts that have shaped our history, and immerse yourself in something which you already enjoy doing as a hobby. Not to mention learn to become a fast but effective reader too!

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10. Learn to think critically about wider cultural issues

For those of you looking for a subject that not only teaches about the craft and discipline of writing, but also how to apply it to a whole range of wider cultural contexts and issues, then studying English at university is probably the right subject choice for you. 

English, with its focus on deeper thoughts, ideas, and issues, will broaden your horizons and encourage you to think about wider issues. As well as exploring core modules that focus on particular periods, genres and art movements, you will most likely have the opportunity to explore modules that explore wider cultural issues, including; mental health, moving into adulthood, race, politics, and so much more. 

You’ll look at writers in context from the period of when they were/are writing, and how their work comments on or evaluates the wider cultural context of when they were/are operating. And you’ll develop an appreciation for how different perspectives can often lead to great differences and disputes within art. 

Your years of study at the skills you develop will lead you to become more conscious about real-world issues, dive deeper into the meaning of ‘why,’ and look at complex matters from a rounded perspective. 

Summary

There are so many reasons to consider studying English at university. From developing a thorough understanding of literary history, theory, and criticism, to broadening your horizons on the wider world while studying a subject you love - there’s so many things you can gain from the experience. 

But beyond the lecture hall, studying English is also a highly respected degree, and one which can open many doors for you in the future. As a core subject, studying English will also help you to build a robust set of transferable skills, something which is highly sought after by a wide range of employers. 

Ultimately, your decision of what to study at university should come down to what you’re most passionate about. You’ll be spending three (or possibly four) years of your life immersed in one single subject, and so you want to make sure it’s one that you can see yourself enjoying in the long-term.

Study English Online with Melio

Can’t wait to start your next chapter? Study English Literature and Creative Writing online, with Melio.

Our online English programmes are designed and taught by expert tutors who are committed to developing your subject-specific knowledge, as well as your wider skill set for the future. You’ll learn how to critically interpret the greatest works in the history of literature, while learning how to implement some of their finest techniques within your own writing.

You have the opportunity to study the subject in a totally bespoke way, learning one-on-one with an expert tutor through our English tutorials. Or, if you prefer to study amongst a small group of other literary-curious students and workshop your craft in-class, you can look at our 2-week online English courses

Not sure which is best for you? Contact us for more information about Melio and the different learning opportunities we have available. 

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