Over the centuries, many writers have studied in Cambridge: Spenser, Marlowe, Milton, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Tennyson, Forster, Plath, Hughes, Byatt and Zadie Smith.

Today's course balances a strong grounding in the core of English literature with the chance to explore or specialise in literature from around the world, other art forms, and related intellectual traditions.

You're taught by some of the most eminent writers, teachers and visiting Fellows who, between them, teach and research almost every aspect of literature. We have no set approach beyond instilling the valuable skills of critical thinking, scholarly rigour and good writing.


Teaching for English at Homerton takes three main forms: supervisions, seminars and lectures.

Supervisions, one-hour, weekly meetings between a supervisor and 1-4 students, are arranged by the Director of Studies. The supervisor is very often a Fellow in English at Homerton College, although students will also see experts from other colleges for some subjects. Students will normally write an essay on a different topic each week.

Seminars, groups of 10-15 students, are also offered for many papers, particularly at Part II. While led by a Faculty member, with set reading, discussions are relatively informal, and undergraduate contribution is encouraged.

Lectures are arranged centrally by the Faculty. Lecture courses take the form of four to eight lectures, in consecutive weeks of full term, each lasting about fifty minutes, and relating to the supervision courses run that term. Some are on general topics, others are on particular authors or specific texts. Students may attend lectures offered by any other tripos (ie, History, Philosophy) if they wish.


There are three dedicated Fellows in English at Homerton:

  • Dr David Clifford  Nineteenth-Century and Contemporary Literature.
  • Dr Louise Joy, Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Literature.
  • Mr Steve Watts, Drama, Modernism and Contemporary Literature.

We also draw on the expertise of Homerton Fellows in Education, Drama and Children’s Literature for specific topics, especially for the supervision of examinable dissertations.


Homerton makes offers to between ten and twelve students for English each year. While the majority are British nationals whose first language is English, Homerton has accepted several overseas students over the years, and regularly hosts European students on the Erasmus exchange programme. Students come from a broad range of social and educational backgrounds, including an exceptionally high proportion of high-achieving state-educated students. Graduates in English from Homerton College have gone on to pursue successful careers in law, journalism and other media, theatre, copywriting, business, teaching, publishing, the church and stand-up comedy. A significant number of Homerton graduates have also continued academic study to PhD level, and now lecture and research in English at universities themselves.

Educational requirements

Homerton makes the standard Cambridge A-level offer of A*AA for students taking English. We would normally expect one of the A-levels to be in English Literature, though successful candidates have applied with Language and Literature. English Language on its own is unlikely to be sufficient. Many offer-holders exceed the A*AA offer. Worthwhile companion subjects to take alongside English might typically include History, a foreign or classical language, Classical Studies, Religious Studies, Philosophy, Psychology, Art and Design or Theatre Studies, though successful candidates have also applied with companion A-levels in Mathematics and the sciences, Economics, Sociology or Geography. International Baccalaureate candidates should expect to achieve a score of at least 42, with English scoring 7. All applicants for English at Cambridge must now sit the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT), for which you are required to write on unseen texts under exam conditions.


As the possible variety of A-level combinations indicates, there is no single template for a successful English student, and the best students will be able to forge persuasive connections between different ideas and concepts. Good writing is essential, distinguished by clarity and economy rather than breadth of vocabulary (though a broad vocabulary, judiciously deployed with style and grace, will do you no harm). You will need to think creatively, and render your knowledge of texts and contexts into plausible interpretations about their meaning, quality and significance. An honest passion for reading – significantly beyond your school curriculum – will be a strong foundation. Persuade us of the nature of that passion when you apply.

Amongst our Honorary Fellows we have two Poets Laureate (Carol Anne Duffy and Andrew Motion), and the college hosts Poetry by Heart.

Applicants for English will take a pre-interview written assessment in their schools or colleges in the October/November of the year of application. The ELAT is a shared test with Oxford and it is assess literary critical analysis and response rather than knowledge. Further information about the date, format and content for this assessment is available here: http://www.admissionstestingservice.org/for-test-takers/elat/about-elat/

Homerton may still continue to ask for written work in advance of interview. This should be one or two already marked school essays that you would be happy to discuss further in the interviews, if asked. They should be as recent as possible, to showcase your abilities more readily, but should not be specially written for this purpose. There will normally be two interviews and for each of these it is likely we will ask you to read a short, previously unseen, passage in advance to be discussed during the interviews. The interviews may also cover your further reading and interests as well as texts studied and work submitted. Interviews are dialogues so although we will ask similar questions of all interviewed students we expect your responses to these to help determine their direction. The interview is the last but not the most important element in our selection; we look at all applicants as individuals and at every part of each application. At the end of our discussions we make conditional offers (or academically unconditional offers to those applying post-qualification) to 10 to 12 students. Some of these will be to direct applicants and some to those taken from the intercollegiate pool. Our offer is usually the Cambridge standard Arts, Humanities and Social Science subjects offer of A*AA or IB 40-42 pts  with 7,7,6 in Higher Level subjects; or the equivalent in other qualifying examinations.