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  • Number of students per year: seven to nine
  • Typical offer: A*AA or equivalent
  • Essential subjects: A Level English Literature or equivalent English Literature ( or English Language/Literature)
  • Useful subjects: Any other subjects at A-Level or equivalent are welcome.

Jesus College is an exceptional environment for studying English.

We take around eight or nine students per year. Our students tend to form close knit groups, and a lot of our most exciting and challenging teaching is designed to get them thinking and learning together.

Detailed close reading is an important part of the course; our students have weekly classes in 'practical criticism' throughout their time here. English is a subject that allows you to ask big questions, but also trains you to pay attention to the very smallest details of language. At Jesus, we value both of those things!

Our five Fellows in English have very diverse interests, and teach our students at different points in the course: 

  • Dr Christopher Burlinson researches 17th century poetry and also teaches Shakespeare and tragedy. 
  • Dr Fiona Green researches and teaches American literature, specialising in poetry.
  • Dr Rod Mengham researches and writes on 20th century English fiction, and also contemporary poetry. 
  • Professor Stephen Heath researches and writes on 19th and 20th century literature and criticism, and on the history of film.
  • Dr Jessica Berenbeim research and teaches medieval literature and visual culture.

There's no single type of English student at Jesus: we encourage all our students to develop their own literary, critical, and creative interests, and provide everyone with a supportive and challenging intellectual environment.

We value independence of thought, a desire to read attentively and thoughtfully, and above all an engagement and joy in reading, talking, and thinking about the literature, language, and culture of all periods—right up to the present day.

Our students have a particularly rich creative life. They have their own literary magazine, Eliot’s Face, regular poetry workshops and readings, and a number of literary and writing societies of their own.

They also organise and run an annual Arts Festival with performances, curated exhibitions, and readings, and Jesus College also has a permanent, unique sculpture collection and regular art exhibitions, which encourages all our students to explore the connections between literary and visual art.

Our students go on to a range of rewarding careers — in writing, journalism, teaching, the arts and media, law, charities, and the voluntary sector. Many others go on to do further study in English or other disciplines.

Find out more on the University webpage.


Our typical conditional offer is an A* and two A grades at A-Level or equivalent. Qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) and Scottish Advanced Highers are welcomed.

You must have studied English Literature to A Level or equivalent. We are happy to consider applicants who have studied a combined A Level (or equivalent) in English Language and Literature, though if you have the choice between a combined qualification and a single qualification in English Literature, we would encourage you to choose the single Literature qualification.


If you're thinking of applying to study English, the most important preparation is to read more literature — and to read beyond your school syllabus. We don’t expect you to have read any specific books, and there is certainly no required reading, but we want to see that you are challenging yourself, and that you’re eager to discover new things.

Remember that most of the texts that our students read, for at least the first two years of their course, were written before the 20th century, so you may want to read some older texts as well as contemporary ones. A good way to begin doing this is by browsing anthologies of poetry, such as the Oxford Book of English Verse or Norton Anthology of Poetry, or online collections such as Poetry Foundation or Luminarium. Read more texts by the authors that you already know, and discover others for the first time.

If you have read some plays by Shakespeare at school, you might want to read one or two others. But remember, the most important thing is to find literature that excites and challenges you, and which you would enjoy thinking and talking critically about.

Written assessment

You'll need to take the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) at an authorised local centre, most likely your school or college. This usually takes place in November. The ELAT will help us assess your skills in reading and writing about literary texts.

It isn’t a test of your knowledge, so you don’t need to worry about whether or not you know about any specific literature, but it helps us to see how you think, read, and respond to texts. You can find out more on the University undergraduate English pages.


In light of Covid we are currently reviewing whether we shall be holding virtual or College-based interviews and will provide further details in the future.

In order to minimise COVID-related risks to our applicants, students and staff, all 2020 interviews were held online. A typical virtual interview for English usually consists of two 30 minute online interviews with the Director of Studies for English and subject Fellows. You might be asked to read a short poem or other piece of writing, and comment on it in detail, and there may also be some discussion of your wider reading, possibly based on your personal statement. The interviews aim to assess your intellectual ability, enthusiasm, and commitment to the subject. However, this format may change depending on government guidelines for 2021.

We aren’t looking for any specific knowledge, and we certainly don’t look for particular ‘right’ answers in our interviews: we just want to see that you read thoughtfully, independently, and carefully, and that you enjoy reading challenging literature.

There is the possibility that interviews this year could take place in College or virtually once more. We will provide further details as soon as we are able.

Written work

You'll need to submit two essays (of any length) that you wrote as part of your English Literature course. One of the pieces of writing can be an extract of coursework instead of an essay.

Deferred and post A-Level entry

We're happy to consider applications for deferred entry in English, you would normally have already achieved A*AA at A-Level. Students choose this option quite frequently and spend their gap year acquiring valuable experience and reading widely.

Find out how to apply to study at Jesus.


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