Average student intake: 9 (including Joint Schools)
Course length: 3 years
English at Hertford is characterised by intellectual seriousness and literary enjoyment. If you choose to study here, we will encourage you to develop your own academic interests, to relish working hard and independently, and to take pleasure in your work. We are proud of our supportive college community and the excellent academic results of our students. If you decide to apply, you should be intellectually able, ambitious, and really enjoy reading widely and thinking about what you read. In return, you will find an intellectually-stimulating and unpretentious academic atmosphere where you will be supported to develop your independent thinking and critical skills.
English at Oxford involves a large amount of self-directed reading and independent study. Much of your academic workload will involve reading primary and critical texts, in preparation for essays and tutorials. We have a great library here at Hertford which you can use at any time of day and night, while just next door is the University’s Bodleian Library which houses one of the world’s greatest collections of printed books and manuscripts. The English Faculty Library is a ten minute walk or short cycle from college, and is also where many of your lectures will be held.
Teaching and learning
Oxford’s English course was ranked as best in the world by the QS World University Rankings in 2020. Studying English here means that you will be immersed in a wide-ranging, historical course covering literature in English from its earliest origins to the present day.
As a member of the University’s English Faculty, you will be able to attend scores of weekly lectures and seminars where you can access cutting-edge research by academics across the Faculty and beyond, regardless of which college you belong to. At Hertford, we’ll organise your small group teaching sessions and provide you with a personal tutor who will usually meet with you once or twice a term to discuss your overall academic progress.
Our most important teaching method is the weekly tutorial – a pair of students with a tutor, working through essays and readings you have prepared during the week and developing your thought, understanding and expression. You will also attend classes with the rest of your year group. Your tutors here at Hertford will deliver most of the core syllabus.
Through both university-wide teaching and college tutorials, you will study prose, poetry and drama from a huge range of historical periods. You will have the opportunity to work alongside expert researchers, especially when completing your dissertation and other assessed work in your final year. As there are no compulsory authors for exam papers, you will be able to explore the writers and ideas which inspire you the most.
Because you will be able to develop your writing, time-management and independent research skills, an English degree from Hertford is an extremely flexible basis from which to launch your career. Some of our former students have taken professional qualifications in law, journalism and teaching, while others use their experiences to build careers in publishing, advertising, charity, arts and media organisations.
The Hertford English Society is our network of former students who can give you careers advice during your degree – it currently includes novelists and academics, as well as a diplomat, a winemaker, an opera director and a spy!
Making an application
We take all aspects of your application into account when making admissions decisions. Alongside your UCAS form, you’ll need to sit the ELAT admissions test at your school or other authorised test centre. The test does not require any special teaching or preparation, but you can look over past papers online. We also ask you to submit a marked essay from school or college.
If you are shortlisted, you will have two 20 minute interviews at Hertford (and possibly at another college too). An hour before your first interview, we’ll give you a selection of poems from which you can choose one to discuss. This will probably form the main topic of discussion in your first interview. In your second interview, we might ask you about your submitted work and personal statement – if we don’t, rest assured that we have will have given them due consideration and weight as part of your overall application.
We’re looking for applicants who will benefit most from our specific teaching style and assessment methods and therefore take a holistic view of your application.
Joint Schools: English and Modern Languages
4-year BA including a year abroad
This is an extremely flexible course, allowing you to tailor it to your own interests. On the English side, you’ll be able to choose from courses covering everything from Anglo-Saxon literature to contemporary world literature. The Modern Languages side supplements this with practical linguistic training and a focus on language and literature as a broader field of study.
Both our English and Modern Languages Faculties are among the largest in the UK, offering you a huge range of study subjects, expert tutors and extensive resources. You’ll have access to the English Faculty Library and the Taylor Institution Library (for languages). Both are a short distance from Hertford, and support the resources of the Bodleian Library and 24-hour college library on our doorstep.