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English at Sidney

English at Cambridge

Over the centuries, many writers have studied in Cambridge: Spenser, Marlowe, Milton, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Tennyson, Forster, Plath, Hughes, Byatt and Zadie Smith. When it was first established in the early twentieth century, the Cambridge English course was considered daringly innovative and this ethos continues to shape teaching and research today.

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

The Cambridge English Tripos consists of two parts: for students taking the full English Literature course, Part I lasts two years, while Part II is the final year of the course. Either Part of the English Tripos may be combined with Parts of some other Triposes, subject to approval by the Directors of Studies concerned. Those changing to English from another Tripos are required to take Part II after two years, subject to approval by the Director of Studies in English.

English at Sidney

English students and Fellows at Sidney are a diverse community, with interests across the breadth of the Cambridge degree course (our Fellows research and teach literature from the medieval period to the modern day). We feel that this contributes both to our students' learning experience at Sidney, and to their strong exam performance in recent years. There are also many opportunities at Sidney for extracurricular engagement with the subject, including our New Arcadians drama society, a popular annual reading competition, and the new Sidney Greats lecture series.


Director of Studies (DoS)

Dr Lucy Razzall (External DoS until August 2017), who researches early modern English literature and material culture.


Professor Christopher Page, whose interest is in medieval literature, both English and French, and including medieval Latin and Anglo-Saxon. He is also professionally involved in the performance of medieval music, giving concerts and producing recordings. His books include Voices and Instruments of the Middle Ages, and The Owl and the Nightingale: Musical Life and Ideas in France 1100-1300.

Mr Clive Wilmer, a poet and translator whose research and teaching lies in Victorian and modernist literature, with emphasis on John Ruskin, William Morris, and Ezra Pound. His books include editions of Ruskin, Morris, and D.G. Rossetti; and five books of poetry, including Selected Poems and The Falls.

Dr Edward Wilson-Lee whose research is on late-medieval and early modern English and European literature, including the works and posthumous reception of Philip Sidney.

All of our undergraduate students are allocated a Director of Studies and learn from specialists in particular areas of their subject. From time to time, individual teaching staff may be away on leave.

Typical Intake

5 - 6

Standard Entry Requirements

A*AA at A Level, or 40-42 points in the IB, with 776 at Higher Level (please see the University website for standard entry requirements in other qualifications). Please note that offers are set on an individual basis using all of the information available to us in context of the entire field of applicants.

All Colleges require A-level/IB Higher Level English Literature. At Sidney, we would accept English Language and Literature as a substitute. We consider Classics, Modern Languages and History to be useful subjects for our English course, but students are admitted from a wide range of subject combinations.

Admissions Process

Written work

Two essays, written for A-level (or equivalent) English Literature. We will send out more specific information about what is required after the UCAS deadline.

Admissions Assessments

90 minute pre-interview assessment, comprising: English Literature Admission Test (ELAT). You will be given six passages of poetry, prose or drama, from which you choose two or three to compare in an essay. Read more about the admissions assessment on the University website.


Two interviews, both focussed on English literature. There will be a passage to read 1 hour before the first interview.

Find out more

Faculty of English

University website English course page

The Virtual Classroom

Cambridge Authors