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English book covers


Do you enjoy reading and writing? Novels, plays, short stories, poetry and creative non-fiction help shape and reflect our individual identities and collective culture. Studying literature opens up worlds and times beyond our experience. It also helps us understand – and question – our own social, natural and technological environments.

At the same time, students of English develop skills in research, interpretation, analysis, formulating an argument, and writing clearly and precisely. This skillset is useful for a huge range of occupations, such as journalism, law, communications, publications and creative writing.

Why study English at UC?

Established in 1874, the Department of English has a distinguished history of excellent and innovative scholarship; in the 1930s the department pioneered the teaching of New Zealand and Commonwealth literature, while today it leads New Zealand universities in such exciting new fields as children's literature, human-animal studies, digital literacy studies and popular fiction (including science fiction, horror and fantasy fiction).

These fields complement the Department's established core areas: essay writing, the novel, theatre and 20th century literature.

UC is ranked in the top 150 universities in the world for English Language and Literature (QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2017).

Prior study in English is helpful, or in classics, theatre and drama, history or media studies at school – but the best background is simply an interest in the cultures, stories and ideas that surround us every day.


See all English courses

100-level courses

If you want to major in English it is recommended that you take 30 points in the subject at 100-level, of which you are required to take one of these three first-year courses:

  • ENGL102 Great Works (focus on key concepts such as why and how we read, what narrative is, and how stories have shaped English-speaking cultures)
  • ENGL103 The Outsider (apply a range of critical reading skills to a host of texts (novel, poetry, film, television) taken from American and New Zealand culture)
  • ENGL117 Writing for Academic Success (learn how to write academic essays and focuses on how to form an argument based on one's reading – an essential skill for any subject, and especially for a textually grounded discipline like English).

Other first-year English courses are available. Please note that not all courses are offered in any one year or during every semester.

200-level and beyond

As you move into 200 and 300-level courses, your classes will become smaller and you will develop stronger skills in reading, analysis and writing. You will be required to participate more in class discussions, and your ability to read carefully and to make closely reasoned arguments in your essays will be tested.

At 300-level you may decide to specialise in one particular area.

Career opportunities

A good degree in English can take you to surprising places. The skills learned in studying English – the close reading and careful analysis of texts, the ability to write clearly and concisely, and the skill to both make and critique arguments – are essential to success not only in education, but also in a wide range of work environments.

Among our graduates are a New Zealand ambassador, a former chief political reporter for TVNZ, a political commentator for a national newspaper, a couple of prize-winning novelists (including Eleanor Catton of Man Booker fame), a prize-winning film-maker, a museum curator, a cultural event organiser for Te Papa, an art gallery manager, a theatre director, a local television presenter, a number of publishers' editors, members of parliament, and policy advisers in the Treasury, the Education Ministry and the State Services Commission.

What these people learned in their English degree impressed employers looking for people who could read, write, speak and think clearly, effectively and creatively.

Find out more about what you can do with a degree in English.

More information

Department of English

Phone +64 3 369 3377
Email artsdegreeadvice@canterbury.ac.nz

Level 6, Karl Popper building - see campus maps

Postal address
College of Arts | Te Rāngai Toi Tangata
University of Canterbury | Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch 8140
New Zealand

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