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MAR 18, 2020 • 7 min read
This year on the 8th of September, the world is celebrating one of the basic foundational principles of education - being able to read!
On International Literacy Day, we consider the significant impact literacy has had on us as individuals, on our communities, and on society as a whole. To this day, literature and reading remains one of the key tenets of a good education - providing us with the tools for communication, self-expression and connection.
In honor of International Literacy Day, we’ve researched the role literature plays in tertiary education on a global scale, or rather more specifically, which colleges and universities are considered to be the “holy grail” institutions for majoring in English language and literature. Without further ado, here are the top 10 universities with the most highly regarded English and literature programs across the globe.
Interested in learning more about these university’s libraries? Check out six of the best college libraries across America (and the coolest collection of books featured in each)!
Coming in tenth on our list is the University of Chicago - a university whose history in the art of English literature is long and eminent. With a program that dates back to the 1930s, UChicago was once renowned for being the Chicago School of Criticism - a name that harkened to their Aristotelian method of analysis and evaluation. In more modern times, UChicago prides itself on its commitment to both history and theory, with the world-class nature of its program reflected in the long-standing stakes it has in three distinguished journals - Modern Philosophy, The Chicago Review and Critical Inquiry. The Department of English Language and Literature supports students with a variety of interests - from epic and romance to graphic narrative and video games, from theater to transnational literature to literary intersections with science.
Also recognised as a world-leading program in the field of English literature and language is the English Department at UCLA. This university offers students a range of different courses and focuses in British, American and Anglophone literature. With more than 70 faculty and 1,000 students belonging to the department, this program has become a hub for an exchange of ideas and intellectual innovation. Unlike other programs, students are also offered the opportunity to concentrate in creative writing, or pursue a major in American Literature and Culture with a minor in English.
The first Ivy League entry on this list, Columbia’s Department of English and Comparative Literature is one of the most distinguished on the planet. Featuring a world-class faculty including successful scholars and talented teachers, Columbia’s program is dedicated to championing traditional values whilst fostering modern concepts in the field of literature. Columbia’s program is one of the oldest in the world, founded in 1882 by Professor Thomas Randolph Price. The department has since become a well-rounded and intellectually broadened centre for the study of philology to the history of literary expression.
Coming in at seventh on this list, Princeton University’s English program is dedicated to producing scholars, critics and teachers of the highest calibre. Princeton prides itself on its commitment to intimacy, enabling the development of a culture that is simultaneously diverse, cosmopolitan and intellectually lively. Perhaps most significantly, Princeton boasts one of the most outstanding creative writing faculty in the world, including Jeffrey Eugenides, Jhumpa Lahiri, Paul Muldoon, Joyce Carol Oates, James Richardson, the late Toni Morrison, and Edmund White.
As one of the founding departments of the University in 1891, the English Department at Stanford is one of the oldest and most recognised in the world. Founded by a faculty of scholars, comparativists and writers, Stanford’s English Program reflects the university’s key principles of innovation and creativity within the literary sphere. The program covers aspects of British, American and World literary history, as well as focussing on the cultivation of a successful creative writing program.
Yale University’s century-old English Program is key to the college’s academic mission in the study of literature. With more than 100 graduating English majors each year and a team of faculty who aim to teach the majority of freshmen, it is no wonder that Yale’s English Program is ranked one of the best in the world. Yale’s department goes to efforts not only to educate their students in the basics of classical anglophone literature, but also to connect the department with a number of other disciplines, including history, art history, philosophy, politics and literature in multiple languages.
The second Californian university to feature on this list, University of California, Berkeley is renowned for its strong English Department. Students can expect an education that delves into all historical periods of literature, as well as works from all sides of the planet, including British and American. UCB understands the variety of different careers their students want to enter, and as such ensure that English majors are well-versed in criticism and scholarship.
The top American university on this list, Harvard’s English literature program is the best the United States has to offer. Aside from cultural and critical theory, the department also prides itself in ensuring its students are skilled in ancient and modern languages, bibliographic procedures and textual and editorial methods. Additionally students are expected to be capable of writing, critical thinking and teaching.
Cambridge’s Department of English has a long and illustrious history - having educated the likes of Spenser, Marlowe, Milton, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Tennyson, Forster, Plath, Hughes, Byatt and Zadie Smith - all having left their mark on the literary sphere. The excellence of Cambridge’s English Program is grounded in the innovation and daring that made it so progressive at its establishment hundreds of years ago. Cambridge continues to pride itself on its traditional teaching methods, providing students with a strong core in English literature, whilst integrating more modern art forms and intellectual traditions.
Proving that the United Kingdom is the hub for English language and literature, Oxford University comes in at first on our list. Supporting one of the broadest curriculums in the world, Oxford allows students to study everything - from the origins in literature during the Anglo-Saxon period to the present. Oxford fosters an English program that engages students in literature of every language and time period and encourages students to develop their own personal interests, which manifest in a major project or dissertation of their choice in their final year.
Claudia applied to over 10 universities with the help of Crimson and received acceptances from Stanford and a number of Ivy League schools before deciding on Princeton. Claudia is studying International Affairs and Public Policy, and represents her university in varsity swimming.