Teaching and Learning

What You Learn in English at Liverpool

Many of our greatest pleasures as human beings – as well as our most serious responsibilities – come from learning to understand what other people are saying to us. By studying English Language, we look at all forms of spoken and written communication: the way it works in the varied contexts of our lives, the effect and implication of different kinds of language-use (for example slang, or dialects), the ways we learn and teach the English language to others, and what that tells us about both the language and ourselves. But people also speak to us in specific written forms, which can fire the imagination, communicate our shared experiences, or even transport us to other worlds; and by studying English Literature, we can listen to those speaking to us across time as well as space, in some of the best and most complex forms we have developed for that purpose. We can also speak to others that way, through creative writing of our own. To learn English is also to immerse yourself in a range of academic disciplines (history, psychology, politics, philosophy), all grounded in a real conversation about what it’s like to live them.

In our Department, everyone is engaged in this study in some way. Academic staff are all researchers in their various fields: meaning that we are publishing books and articles, just as our students write projects and essays. It is all part of the same activity, the activity of learning our subject, which unites our whole community, staff and students alike. 

At undergraduate level, you can opt to study a BA (Hons) in English Language or a BA (Hons) in English Literature. Alternatively, you can study a BA (Hons) in English, where you decide how best to balance language and literature study as you go along. Our undergraduate degrees begin in Year 1 with foundational studies designed to teach you the skills you need to study English and help you to develop your own critical voice; they continue in Year 2 with major core options introducing you to key areas of the subject (worth 30% of your final degree mark); in Year 3 you get the chance to more fully develop your own research interests through more specialised modules, (worth 70% of your final degree mark), with the option to write a dissertation or do a work placement. You can also study abroad for a semester at a number of partner institutions around the world. As a postgraduate student at Liverpool, you can specialise further through a range of MAs in both literary and linguistic subjects.

Whatever aspect of English you choose to study, the focus will always be on your own critical and creative development. Small-group tutorials are at the heart of all of our English programmes. Each week you’ll have the chance to discuss texts with your tutor and a small group of your fellow students: to express and argue for your own opinions, and to listen and respond to the ideas of others. Tutors are there to guide you, but it’s really our students who make tutorials what they are, an exciting opportunity to be actively involved in shaping your own learning.  

In addition to tutorials, you will engage with topics through lectures, workshops, and seminars. Sessions may also involve discussions with poets and novelists (some of whom are staff in the Department), visits from directors and actors from the Everyman & Playhouse Theatres, or trips to the library’s Special Collections to examine rare texts and manuscripts. Each teaching experience will give you the chance to think about English literature and language in new and different ways.

The ways we assess your progress are varied: we still place importance on essays and exams, but also offer students the opportunity to give presentations, make videos, create portfolios, or write creative pieces. Assessments are, like classes, driven by your ideas. Whatever form they take, we always aim to encourage you to work on the texts and topics you are passionate about. All staff have dedicated academic support and feedback hours each week, meaning that you will always have the expert guidance and advice that you need to become a more confident and independent reader, writer, and researcher.