English Degree advice

(13 Posts)
reallybusymummy Wed 30-Dec-15 21:02:30

Oh I need some advice please. .

Our eldest daughter has been thinking about going into publishing after university. She's thinking of taking a history degree,but has started to consider an English degree. What's putting her off, is that she thinks that each university offers the same English degree (ie. Each will contain Medieval History ). I have just ordered the Sunday Times University Course guide, but can anyone offer advice on how we can find out more about different English degrees?

She's been blogging for the past 12 months and has built up 1000 readers a month, so if she could turn her passion into a degree and a job that would be great.

Thank you confused

Themodernuriahheep Wed 30-Dec-15 21:44:52

Publishing is a business and a cut throat one that is constantly changing at that. It's prob more important yo display you understand that than which degree you read. But what's really important us that she likes her chosen subject enough to spend three years doing it.

I'm surprised you can't find more about the options, but why not email the HEIs concerned.

She might also be interested at looking at those HEIs that have sub courses in publishing. Oxford Brooke's, for example, used to.

greengreenten Wed 30-Dec-15 21:58:13

I would look online at each uni and the course options. Some publish the module options but not all of them as they change each year. Maybe identify ten that interest and email them?

If she's academic I would go for a classic subject such as English or History. They both demonstrate to an employer that you have research and analytical skills. She sounds motivated so will source her own work experience I think.

NiceCardigan Wed 30-Dec-15 22:12:37

The main content for most English degrees will be on each universities websites no need to email anyone. When DS was applying he found that the coures were all very different and not the same at all.

eatyourveg Wed 30-Dec-15 22:29:09

ds is reading English (currently in his 3rd year)

English courses vary hugely - ds was looking for specific modules and found that he could easily narrow down choices by looking at the course details. Also worth looking at is the flexibility of the modules, core versus optional. Some courses he looked at didn't offer any optional modules in the first year so no choice whatsoever. Its a matter of trolling through each uni's website to see what they cover.

Your dd needs to think about what aspect of English she likes best ie does she want a course that includes elements of creative writing? Does she want to focus on modern literature from other countries, children's literature, poetry, Shakespeare, feminist literature etc etc - there are so many different elements, no two courses anywhere will offer the same combination.

In addition to looking online at the modules available, your dd can always email the department for a copy of the current reading lists to get a flavour of what is on offer though modules can change from year to year although that isn't always a given. Has she considered a joint or major/minor hons - is there anywhere that offers Publishing and/with English?

JeanneDeMontbaston Thu 31-Dec-15 09:39:44

I don't know much about publishing but I do know about English, since I teach medieval literature.

Does she mean an English Lit degree? If so, 'medieval history' is a separate subject. Studying medieval literature requires a bit of history, but not masses.

Degrees vary. Some (eg., Oxford) place quite a bit of focus on medieval literature, and will allow you to study quite a lot of it over a long time period. That may not be her thing. Others (eg., Cambridge) include one module (ie., roughly 8 weeks' teaching, one term) on medieval in the three-year period. However, this is studied in the original language. Others again (eg., York, Leeds), include a module, but it's optional and/or contains some texts in the original and others in translation. I mention the issue of language because for many students, this is what's a bit off-putting.

But I wonder if there's a side issue here. What is it about 'medieval history' she's not keen on? Is it the worry about learning dates/facts? Does she think it'll be all religious and serious? Etc. Get her to try to figure out what's the problem here.

The thing is, while you can find an English Lit degree that doesn't include a medieval module, you can't really avoid doing some 'history' type study. Because if you don't do it for medieval, you'll do it for Shakespeare. I do not know of any English Lit degree (there may be one) where you can avoid studying Shakespeare. And Shakespeare was born at the very end of the medieval period - his language and culture is still pretty distant.

But, again, different degrees have different amounts of focus on the 'history' side - some are more focussed on culture and literature, others on language, others again on skills like 'close reading' or generic questions like the role of drama or poetry or whatever.

The best way to find out is slow - sorry! She needs to look at each university's course description on its website. But, because this is slow, the first thing to do is to really think what it is about the course she would like or dislike, and why.

Hope any of that was helpful! Btw, cheekily, I will point out I blog about medieval literature, so if she wants to find that (and it might reinforce her hatred of it, but it might not), she can google my name. grin

MrsBartlet Thu 31-Dec-15 16:54:47

What does she want to do in publishing? Generally, either History or English would be fine along with some internships, which I am afraid is the norm these days.

horsemadmom Thu 31-Dec-15 17:12:05

Ex-publishing person here! A good degree from a well regarded uni and internships are very important. We only looked at candidates from top universities and sifted through piles of them for each spot. It is very, very competitive. It also helps (unfair but true) to know someone in the business. Those candidates were put on top of the pile.
Your DD may think Medieval English won't be to her taste but a first from Oxbridge, Durham or UCL which require the study of the development of language will be advantageous.
Your DD should ask herself, though, if publishing is really her goal. It is very poorly paid and not the 'three martinis at lunch' industry that it was. Literary publishing especially is like paying for your job. For the first few years, after travel costs and rent, I had virtually no take home pay. People either did it because they were passionate about literature and willing to live on air or had family money.

MultishirkingAgain Fri 01-Jan-16 14:01:25

English degrees can vary hugely in quality. Your DD needs to delve into the Departmental website. NOT the one which advertises the courses for UCAS applications, but the actual information used each day by the Department. I generally find that these are very difficult to locate for post-92 universities; the better ones are much easier to find.

In my experience (from teaching EngLit over 25 years) the better the research rating for a Department, the more demanding the course will be. The better the A levels of the applicant, the better the course she can aim for. I think EngLit is one subject where the REF is really significant for standards of teaching and the ambitions of staff for students. It's a subject where all teaching staff (including part-time tutors and graduate teaching assistants) need to be at the cutting edge of their subject. Otherwise it can be pretty mediocre teaching & students aren't taught with ambitions to generate their own knowledge, or take intellectual risks, because the staff don't generally know how to, or aren't given the opportunities to do so (ie no research leave).

In an excellent Department, the thing you can be pretty sure of is that in each of the 3 years you'll be taught by people writing the books that you'll need to read - that is, further reading & reseaerch for your essays. So I'd be looking for a combination of good teaching ratings with a good REF result.

I'd also be looking at what the academic staff have published - books with good university presses (eg Cambridge University Press, Oxford UP, Routledge, Palgrave Macmillan), not just "Gave a conference paper on XYZ 2 years ago."

I'd also be looking at what the Department website says about PhD students. Are they present on the website? Is there information about their research? What topics are they writing & researching? A good PhD culture means a good teaching culture, and in my experience, PhD students in EngLit can make fantastic tutors for undergraduates (I did it myself!) They're usually younger, closer to the undergrads' experiences, and usually very enthusiastic about teaching & engaging with the undergrads in small group teaching. It's not a bad thing to be taught by a PhD student in EngLit, in conjunction with permanent staff of course! In EngLit, good communication skills are now an important part of what we look for in selecting staff - there really are very few "absent-minded professor" types left in the sector in this discipline.

Don't set your heart on particular modules. Most Departments circulate and rotate optional modules over the years of a degree. I'm about to be on leave, so the 3rd year module I usually teach will be rested for a year. It won't be taught by anyone else, as it's based on the work from my last but one book, so it's truly "research-led teaching."

But do look at the core compulsory modules across 1st to 3rd years. Think about the coverage of literature. The degree course I taught throughout my PhD had a huge First Year survey course from 16th century poetry to late 20C fiction - great fun to teach, and really stretched the undergrads coming from the very piecemeal approach of their A levels (even 20 years ago). Lots of reading: the equivalent of a novel a week. You need to like reading and want to read to do a course like that.

As for publishing - as others have said, an EngLit degree is not an automatic route to publishing: your DD is as likely to be just as successful with a History degree. It'll be a LOT about ambition, and sensible extra-curricular activity: get involved with the student newspaper, write for it, edit it, get internships and work experience in the publication industry, and don't be snobbish if it's in Marketing (the main Commissioning Editor I work with at my publishers started as a marketing assistant).

I did both a History degree and an English degree (Double rather than Combined Hons) - loved them both, although English was far easier. But they go well together as a Combined programme, so your DD could look for a combined Hons degree.

I think that if you have the choice of the best English departments by dint of 3 A to A* at A2, then the choices may be about type of university: city, green fields, country, etc etc

Letseatgrandma Fri 01-Jan-16 14:06:57

I'm confused by your post-your daughter wanted to do history then is now thinking about English, but is worried it might have too much history in it?! Does she like history or not?

Figmentofmyimagination Mon 04-Jan-16 09:04:20

She might be pleasantly surprised by the ancient stuff, and the way it links us to our past as storytellers.

Even if she doesn't really enjoy it, she will quickly find there is something she is not so keen on in every English degree, but plenty that engages her. E.g. My DD has spent Christmas wrestling unhappily with Joyce's Ulysses. She showed me one page, which was enough for me. Medieval literature seems accessible by comparison!

MultishirkingAgain Mon 04-Jan-16 10:39:09

Exactly figment. I still find Ulysses a slog, and can live without reading Paradise Regained again (the obvious sequel to Paradise Lost ). But you need to learn to read stuff you don't warm to, or positively dislike such as anything written by D. H. Lawrence. And you need to learn to understand it and think about how it works. Sometimes, actually, not warming to a writer or a text can be a great way into working out how it works.

If you can't face that, then don't do an English degree.

happymum1972 Wed 27-Jan-16 14:59:23

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now