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  • Number of students per year: up to two
  • Typical offer: A*AA or equivalent
  • Essential subjects: none
  • Useful subjects: English (Literature or Language), Mathematics, an arts and science mix, or a language (ancient or modern)

Jesus College has an unusually high profile in Linguistics, with two resident Fellows whose primary interests are in the subject – Brechtje Post, a specialist in phonetics and phonology, and James Clackson, a historical linguist – and a large number of postgraduate students.

We're fairly unique in having such a vibrant Linguistics community. We encourage our students to develop their own interests within a supportive and challenging intellectual environment.

For instance, at our termly Language and Linguistics Forum we discuss a research topic over food and drinks. In this way, our undergraduates have the opportunity to broaden their horizons and develop independence of thought and pleasure in intellectual debate, while the postgraduates get an opportunity to hone their presentation skills, and get feedback from a range of linguists with very different interests.

Undergraduates and postgraduates also meet at various social events, and the postgraduates often help out with undergraduate teaching.

The College has first rate study facilities, such as the Quincentenary Library which has an excellent stock of textbooks and more advanced readings in Linguistics and related areas, as well as a number of anatomical models that are useful for the study of language production and comprehension.

Our Linguists find employment in a very wide range of professions because they develop a variety of skills that are very popular with prospective employers, like the ability to analyse quantitative data and construct abstract models.

Recent graduates have gone into management consultancy, language teaching, and outreach work as schools liaison officers, but others have pursued careers in finance, in speech and language technology, in speech therapy, and in the Diplomatic Service. We're also very pleased to be able to welcome some of our graduates back as postgraduate students.

Find out more on the University webpage.


Our typical offer is for an A* and two A grades at A-Level or equivalent.

The main requirement for studying Linguistics is that you are curious about language. Linguistics is an interdisciplinary degree so specific subjects are not required. We welcome anyone with a strong academic profile, whether you lean more towards sciences or the arts.

Subjects that could serve as a good preparation are those that include some formal study of language, as well as maths or another science, since they can help you to develop logical thinking and critical analysis skills.


No specialist knowledge is required, but we expect you to have explored your interest in the subject. The most obvious way to do this is through reading, but some applicants do a project on a topic in Linguistics as part of their school work. You could also consider taking part in the UK Linguistics Olympiad.

Here are our suggestions for some useful introductory books:

  • Aitchison, J. (1996/2000) The Seeds of Speech: Language Origin and Evolution. Cambridge University Press.
  • Crystal, D. (1997) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge University Press.
  • Crystal, D. (2006) How language works. Penguin.
  • Matthews, P. (2003) Linguistics: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press.
  • Pinker, S. (1995) The language instinct. Penguin.

Written assessment

You'll need to take the Cambridge Linguistics Admissions Test before the interview (if called for interview).  You don't need to have any specialist knowledge, but it will help if you've done some introductory reading, and if you've explored some problem sets of the type offered on the UK Linguistics Olympiad website.


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 Linguistics usually consists of two 30 minute online interviews with the Director of Studies for Linguistics and subject Fellows. The interviews aim to assess your intellectual ability, enthusiasm, and commitment to the subject. They usually include some exercises designed to assess your ability to think creatively and logically about language, but no prior knowledge is needed. However, this format may change depending on government guidelines for 2021.

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 won't need to submit any written work.

Deferred and post A-Level entry

We're happy to consider applications for either immediate or deferred entry in Linguistics, or from applicants who have already taken their A-Levels or equivalent qualifications. The College also welcomes applications from mature students.

Find out how to apply to study at Jesus.


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