English at Russell Group Universities

(101 Posts)
GinWorksForMe Thu 09-Jan-20 07:51:49

DD (Year 12) is thinking of applying for English Literature (or possibly Lit & Lang) for 2021 entry. She has a strong set of GCSE results and is loving English Literature A level, but suffers from anxiety and is worried about interviews.

Has anyone recently applied for English Lit and have any insight into which universities will definitely interview (do any offer without interview for English?) and how best to prepare for interviews? So far she has shortlisted Exeter, York, Nottingham but hasn't visited anywhere yet and is open to all ideas.

Thanks in advance for any help/guidance.

OP’s posts: |
Serin Thu 09-Jan-20 08:11:55

DD applied for 5 for English Lit and all offerred without interviews.
In the end she chose Bangor as she also plays harp and they have excellent harp teachers there.
UEA has a great reputation for English.
My personal favourite of the ones she got offers from was Edinburgh.

Moominmammacat Thu 09-Jan-20 08:57:16

My DS got Exeter for English without an interview. I don't think interviews are that common. It might also help to address her interview anxiety by doing a few mock run throughs with a supportive friend because it's something she will come up against sooner or later. Good luck.

BubblesBuddy Thu 09-Jan-20 10:44:34

Oxbridge interview. No one else interviews as standard for English. Look at the web sites of the universities. They won’t mention interviews. Why did you think they would interview?

GinWorksForMe Thu 09-Jan-20 11:22:34

Thanks all!

BubblesBuddy, I just haven't had a chance to look into any of it yet. I have a DS who is in Y13 and currently going through applications, but for Maths. I thought maybe Humanities subjects interviewed more widely but didn't know. I will definitely be getting on the university and UCAS websites to look into it all, and so will she, but I knew I'd get quicker answers from all the knowledgeable Mumsnetters!

Thanks again.

OP’s posts: |
mimbleandlittlemy Thu 09-Jan-20 11:55:08

Friend's dd has applied for English and not had in interview anywhere - Birmingham, Newcastle, Exeter, Nottingham and Edinburgh were her five. She has had offers without interview from everyone but Edinburgh so far (Edinburgh are a bit slow as far as a couple of friends' children's applications this year).

Only interview for English I know of was another friend's dd who had an Oxford interview and that's that this year.

SirTobyBelch Thu 09-Jan-20 13:12:34

Why Russell Group, OP? She's excluding some universities that have a good reputation for English, and including some that don't. Is she intending to move on to graduate programmes where the name of her university is important?


BeyondMyWits Thu 09-Jan-20 13:20:42

Would also second the question "Why Russell Group?" The course is more important than the institution.

What do they want to do after uni?

My DD (at Swansea - which is non Russell, but right between Liverpool and Cardiff on the rankings for subject) wants to go teach English as a foreign language in the far East for a while. Some courses facilitate that more than others. Her course fit her ambitions, her lecturers encourage her ambitions and have contacts in the places she wants because they have done similar.

Xenia Thu 09-Jan-20 13:25:13

This is quite a good list of where London trainee solicitors come from in terms of universities and you could probably sustitute most higher paid graduate jobs and get much the same list too www.chambersstudent.co.uk/where-to-start/newsletter/law-firms-preferred-universities-2019.

Exeter York and Nottingham are all good - one of my daughters went to Nottingham for her BSc and is now a London lawyer for example and 3 of my children chose Bristol over Durham when it came to having to have a first choice - obviously Durham is great too. I wouldn't worry about RG or not but do look at that list if she wants the most life chances.

Spikel Thu 09-Jan-20 15:21:20

Made up story.

GinWorksForMe Thu 09-Jan-20 15:54:33

Xenia - DD has absolutely no idea what she would want to do for a career!

SirTobyBelch and BeyondMyWits - I only mentioned Russell Group universities because in the first conversation about higher education her school have advised her that she should look at those. She will certainly be looking at a wider range of universities, as my older son did, and making a shortlist based on course structure/content then visiting as many of her shortlisted universities as possible.

Thanks again to everyone for the help.

OP’s posts: |
Xenia Thu 09-Jan-20 17:24:45

Yes, lots of them don't but if they want high paid jobs of any kind at all that list of universities I gave is one of the best to use as your filter. Employers have so many applicants they tend to narrow it down a little bit to a relatively short list of universities. Some parents think all universities are equally well regarded by employers but that is not so.

BeyondMyWits Thu 09-Jan-20 17:56:45

High pay is only one of a number of criteria to be considered when planning for the future.

cryinglightning Thu 09-Jan-20 19:25:11

Interviews seem to be extremely rare. Have known a number of English Lit and Lang applicants - none were interviewed that I know of. Only one friend of DD's has been asked to come to an interview for English Lang and that is at Southampton; she received offers from Warwick, Cardiff Kent and Sussex with no interview.

ssd Thu 09-Jan-20 20:26:47

I'm surprised St Andrews isn't on xenias list

SarahAndQuack Thu 09-Jan-20 21:52:49

That list is, obviously, not very helpful for English, given it is from a law context.

I say this all the time, but a very important thing is to check the content of the course, and the way it is assessed. There's a lot of variation with English. In some places, you could spend much of your degree studying texts written in non-modern English (ie., Old/Medieval English and foreign languages) - this can really put off people who dislike that. In other places, you'd do a lot of theory and would be expected to work hard on that. In some places, most of the emphasis is on exams taken over a very short period; in others, it's mostly (or, occasionally, all) judged on coursework.

It really matters to look at these details as there is no standardization with university courses.

Any perspective on that list is bound to be subjective, but my quick thoughts are:

- York came very high in the REF last time for English (top, IIRC), and has an excellent department; better than some universities above it there. It's only very recently Russell Group, FWIW.

- Oxford has a charming reputation but has a very particular kind of course. Definitely worth knowing you like older varieties of English before committing to that one.

- Exeter. Meh; LSE, extremely meh.

I've taught at two universities on that list, FWIW, and am familiar with most of them.

Xenia Fri 10-Jan-20 09:46:59

St Andrews is small so that's one reason it is not on the list - the text around my link says

"This survey doesn’t account for the numbers graduating from each institution. For example, Manchester and Nottingham’s undergrad enrolments are much higher than that of St Andrews’. This will skew the results in favour of the larger, less specialist institutions."

However I don't agree it is a good list only for law. If you went into any leading bank, accountancy firm, management consultants in London and any other job with high pay and the list will not be too far wrong.

SarahAndQuack Fri 10-Jan-20 10:05:47

Do a lot of English grads want to go into banking, accountancy, and management consultancy, @xenia?

Indeed, are a lot of English grads qualified to go directly from undergrad degrees into accountancy? (I don't know; perhaps they are)

MarchingFrogs Fri 10-Jan-20 10:06:41

It's only very recently Russell Group, FWIW.

Well, coming up to 8 years, isn't it? And none since thought good enough to be invited to play / have heeded the call (whichever it is).

York was 'elevated' to RG status at the same time as Durham, Exeter and QMUL.

Now, hands up, all those who didn't realise that the first two hadn't been members from the off? And hands up, all those who realised that the last one was?

SarahAndQuack Fri 10-Jan-20 10:28:04

Oh, gosh, I don't think Russell Group matters in the slightest!

8 years feels recent to me, because (like you) my reaction was 'huh, didn't know it wasn't already'.

My intention in pointing out it's a fairly recent addition is more to indicate that this isn't the most helpful way to view universities.

It's a tricky issue, in that xenia is right that prestige sometimes counts for more than the actual quality of the undergrad experience. It makes me cross, but I know perfectly well that there are universities that provide excellent undergrad degrees, but which employers get snooty about. And then there are also places that coast along on their reputations a bit.

But, I would say, if you're a student looking to study English, then the first thing to do is to think about what sort of course you want to do, and then think about whether it matters to you that this university is prestigious, or whatever else. There is absolutely no point in going to Fancypants Uni of the Year, only to discover you absolutely hate 90% of the syllabus and can't cope with the model of assessment, because unless you are incredibly determined and brilliant, you will end up doing much less well than you should.

I think this is very different from degrees that are more directly vocational (eg., medicine), because there the syllabus is pretty tightly linked to the job, and you'll have a more similar experience wherever you go.

BooSulley Fri 10-Jan-20 11:15:49

My daughter is at Cardiff doing English lit, first year. She originally had a place at Bath, for a course she liked with her expected Grades, no interview. She did better in her A levels than predicted and went through adjustment in August and was offered a place at Cardiff, doing a course she enjoys and offers a non exam based course, except for one area, as she thrives under continuous assessment. It should be the course not the University. She was offered Royal Holloway, Kingston, Leicester, Bath and Winchester without interview.

MarchingFrogs Fri 10-Jan-20 12:31:45

8 years feels recent to me, because (like you) my reaction was 'huh, didn't know it wasn't already'.

TBH, having been an' gorn an' come out the other side from a university before it even attended the inaugural coffee morning / sherry party at the Hotel Russell, I had never even heard of the ^Russell Group^grin.
When DS1 accepted his offer from Birmingham back in 2015 and one of my (younger) friends went, Ooh - Russell Group!, I had to go and look it up. And there's me having spent years working really quite closely with an assortment of academics from all over the place, renowned in their respective fields, not to mention all the clever folk at work with PhDs etc. The only specific institution particularly revered was LSHTM. Not a single time did anyone suggest that this Principal Investigator's department was inferior to that one's, because the latter was a leader in their specialism based at e.g. UCL and the former a leader in theirs at e.g. Leicester.

SarahAndQuack Fri 10-Jan-20 12:35:46

I think it's snobbery that affects some employers more than others, isn't it? It is dodgy, but I know if I apply for a job, some people will care where I got my degree. Sometimes they'll care because they recognise all degrees aren't created equal, but sometimes again it will be sheer snobbery, and most worryingly, sometimes it'll be ignorance that thinks it's informed awareness of which degrees are 'best'.

Piggywaspushed Fri 10-Jan-20 19:17:19

OP, I'm an English teacher with an English degree (from York) and a PGCE (from Nottingham) and many years experience of helping student gain access to a very wide selection of unis.

The Personal Statement is important for English as it remains a competitive course.

Last year, Manchester was interviewing for English.

My school is in an area which affects uni applications and skews them a bit to a geographical zone but recently popular unis for English Lit for our more above have been Birmingham, Sheffield, York, Nottingham and Lincoln (it's a Carol Ann Duffy thing plus it does Creative Writing). UEA is increasingly popular on MN.

I am sure Exeter, Bristol , Newcastle, Lancaster and Durham etc are also great for English but kids form my school think they are too far.

Piggywaspushed Fri 10-Jan-20 19:21:07

That should say more able

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