Founded in 1894, the English Department at Aberdeen is a leading centre for the study of literature, language and creative writing. With around twenty staff, a beautiful medieval campus and exceptional library resources dating back over five hundred years, Aberdeen is an excellent place to study English at undergraduate or postgraduate level.  

The Department offers a wide range of degree programmes, including taught Masters' (MLitt) and PhD degrees. Every period of literature is taught, from medieval to contemporary, and the staff include specialists in English, Scottish, Irish and American literature. Our flexible, modular curriculum allows students to pursue their own interests, and enables them to take joint degrees including popular combinations with, for example, Film and Visual Culture.

The Department has an international research profile, and is associated with major scholarly projects such as the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen and the Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels of Sir Walter Scott. Recent initiatives include the Centre for the Novel, an interdisciplinary Centre for Modern Thought, and the world-famous Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies. The Department also has a proud tradition of creative writing and is closely involved with the annual May Festival through our widely published Professor of Creative Writing Alan Spence.


The English Department prides itself on the quality of its teaching and the high level of support offered to students. All of our staff are committed teachers who are specialists in the subjects they teach. Their teaching is informed by current research in the field, and students are encouraged to explore new approaches as well as established ones.

Undergraduate courses use a variety of teaching formats, from large scale lectures to small group tutorials and individual supervision. At Honours level, much of the teaching is done in seminars, with students being expected to lead discussion and deliver presentations, either individually or in groups. At Level 4 the maximum size of seminar groups is 15. In postgraduate courses, all teaching is seminar-based and research-led.

All of our courses include an element of oral assessment, which encourages students to acquire confidence in speaking in front of a group. This is an important skill which is highly valued by employers. As befits an English Department, writing skills are also taken seriously, and we require students to acquire advanced literacy as well as highly developed critical skills.

Whether you are studying for an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, we try our best to make this a friendly, supportive and intellectually stimulating environment.

History of the Department

In October 1894, Herbert Grierson delivered his inaugural lecture as the first holder of the Regius Chalmers Chair of English Literature at the University of Aberdeen. Before this, literature had been taught as part of the Rhetoric courses within the Philosophy Department. Professor Grierson, later Sir Herbert, was one of the most distinguished scholars of his day, writing on seventeenth-century literature, editing the poetry of John Donne, and editing Walter Scott's letters. He held the chair until 1915.

Since then the Regius chair has been held by A.A. Jack (1915-38), a Romantic specialist; Geoffrey Bickersteth (1938-54), remembered for his work on early Italian literature; G.I. Duthie (1955-67), a leading Shakespearean scholar; Andrew Rutherford (1968-84), noted for his work on Byron and Kipling; R.P. Draper (1987-94), whose publications range from Shakespeare to D.H. Lawrence and contemporary poetry; and G.S. Rousseau (1994-98), distinguished for his work on literature and the sciences; and Peter Davidson, now Professor of Renaissance Studies in the Centre for Early Modern Studies.

The department has also been closely linked with some of Scotland’s most distinguished creative writers. Its alumni include Iain Crichton Smith, George Mackay Brown, Nan Shepherd and Ali Smith. The writers William McIlvanney, Bernard Maclaverty and Alan Spence have all served the department as writers in residence. The University of Aberdeen awarded an honorary degree to Thomas Hardy in 1905. The Department of English continues to celebrate creative writing through its association with the university’s annual WORD festival.


If you are a graduate of the English Department, welcome back. We are glad that you have looked us up, and hope that you will revisit us from time to time.

We are building up our information on our graduates, so that we (and you) can keep in touch. We are always pleased to hear about where you have gone and what you are doing now.

Email us at or visit the Aberdeen University alumni homepage.

International Students

The English Department welcomes students from all over the world both as undergraduates and postgraduates. We currently have students on exchange and taking full degree programmes from many countries including Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Swtizerland, Canada, the United States, Korea, Japan and China. Student exchanges are organised through the Erasmus programme and North American Study Abroad programme.

For more information about studying full-time in Aberdeen visit the SRAS International Handbook online. This will give you more details about the University and about the city of Aberdeen. It will also give you access to the Undergraduate and Postgraduate prospectuses. These will give you detailed information about how to apply for a full degree programme or a short exchange.

School of Language, Literature, Music & Visual Culture
University of Aberdeen
King's College
Aberdeen AB24 3UB
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)1224 272625