Knowledge and skills: what you can offer

knowledgeIf you are thinking about studying English at university, then you’ll naturally be interested in the knowledge and skills you will acquire in the process.  Whilst there are many types of degree programme in English, each with its own characteristics and emphasis, the sorts of subject knowledge you would expect of any English graduate are set out below.  (These are drawn from a more detailed and extensive document known as the English Benchmark Statement.

Subject knowledge

  • knowledge of literature and language: for literature this includes a substantial number of authors and texts from different historical periods. For single honours literature students this is likely to include pre-1800 texts; for single honours language students this will include a broad knowledge of the history and development of the English language.
  • knowledge and understanding of the distinctive character of texts written in the principal literary genres, fiction, poetry and drama, and of other kinds of writing and communication
  • experience of regional and global English
  • knowledge of the structure, levels and discourse functions of the English language
  • appreciation of the power of imagination in literary creation
  • awareness of the role of critical traditions in shaping literary history
  • knowledge of linguistic, literary, cultural and socio-historical contexts in which literature is written and read
  • knowledge of the relationship between literature and other media such as film
  • knowledge of useful and precise critical terminology and, where appropriate, linguistic and stylistic terminology
  • awareness of the range and variety of approaches to literary study, which may include creative practice, performance, and specialisation in critical and/or linguistic theory
  • awareness of how literature and language produce and reflect cultural change and difference

Subject-specific skills

English graduates acquire a range of complementary literary, linguistic and critical skills, although the particular abilities and skills you acquire will of course depend on the course and modules you choose. The following sets out in general terms the sorts of subject-specific skills you will acquire from studying English literature or language.

  • Skills in the detailed, balanced and rigorous examination of texts or spoken language and the ability to articulate this knowledge and understanding to others
  • Sensitivity to how communication is shaped by circumstances, authorship and intended audience
  • Sensitivity to the power of language and its role in creating meaning: an ability to go beyond the surface level of words and to discover hidden or intended meanings
  • A broad vocabulary and ability to use critical terminology appropriately
  • Skills in the accurate and appropriate presentation of academic work
  • Awareness of how different social and cultural contexts affect the nature of language and meaning and influence questions of judgement
  • Appreciation of the complexity of literary languages and how research can help understand them

Generic graduate skills

The key transferable skills which English graduates possess, and which make them attractive

to employers, are:

  • Oral and written skills in effective communication and argument
  • The ability to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of communication
  • The ability to plan, negotiate and carry out individual and group projects and presentations and to do so to deadlines
  • The capacity for independent thought, reflection and judgement
  • The ability to comprehend and develop intricate ideas, apply a variety of theoretical positions and weigh the importance of alternative perspectives
  • A working sense of the nuances and ambiguities of words and symbols
  • Research skills, including the ability to gather, sift and organise quantities of diverse material and evaluate its significance
  • IT skills, especially the ability to work with and evaluate electronic resources and communication (such as hypertext, conferencing, e-publishing, blogs and wikis)

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