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What’s it like studying for a postgrad in English at Durham?

Why I chose Durham

I decided on Durham for my master’s degree because I thought the course looked really interesting and suited to my interests and the excellent reputation that Durham University has. I chose the Romantic and Victorian pathway and took the modules Romantic Forms of Grief, Women and the Novel in the Eighteenth Century, and Literary Masculinity at the Fin-de-Siècle. I really enjoyed all of these modules and loved reading books that I would not necessarily choose to read myself.

How is postgrad different to undergrad?

There are no lectures at master’s level, instead, you have seminars that are two hours long. In the seminars, you chat with other students and your seminar leader and discuss the texts you read and your thoughts on them. These are always informal discussions and are often really interesting, and help you develop ideas for essays and ask any questions you need to.

Unlike undergrad, master’s courses run the whole year through, from around September to September, and half the year is dedicated to working on your dissertation. Whilst I found the prospect of a dissertation daunting at first, particularly as I did not do a dissertation as an undergrad, I actually really enjoyed being able to choose a topic that interested me and delve into it to a deeper level than I had explored topics and texts before.

For the dissertation, you are allocated an academic at the department who is knowledgeable in the area of your proposed research, and they guide you throughout the whole dissertation research and writing process, which really helps you keep on track, feel supported, and gives you the chance to learn a lot about your topic and academic writing in general.

How much support is there?

The support in the English department is really great. You not only have seminar leaders who you can contact with any worries or questions but an academic advisor who is there to support you with anything you need. I would really recommend making use of the tutor’s office hours. These are allotted hours where you can go and speak to your seminar leaders with any worries you have, ask for advice on essays, or any other problems you may have, and were invaluable to me. All the staff I was taught by were incredibly kind, encouraging, and happy to go out of their way to help support me and are part of what makes the English department at Durham so great.

What do I do now?

I am now studying for a PhD in English Literature at Durham. I decided to stay at Durham because I really enjoyed my time not only at the university but in Durham itself and its beautiful surroundings. I also had a really good relationship with one of my seminar leaders who agreed to be my supervisor for my PhD, and I have found that having a supportive academic to guide you through your studies makes a huge difference.

I hope this has helped you to envisage a little of what studying English as a postgrad at Durham University is like. I would definitely recommend having a look at the module list on the university website and visiting an open day if possible!

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Lydia Shaw

Hello! My name is Lydia, I’m currently doing a PhD in English Literature. I also did my master’s degree here at Durham in Romantic and Victorian Literary Studies and am in St Cuthbert’s College. I am in the Yoga and Pilates society and love walking around the beautiful river and sights in Durham.
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