Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
EnglishPart of Humanities

Admissions & Outreach

Southampton English looks to admit any student who has a passion for literature and the potential to thrive among our supportive and close-knit community. That is why we are keen to engage with prospective students who are interested in coming to study with us. Our Outreach Programme is specially designed to support your studies at A-Level or college, and keep schools and parents informed, so you have the best chance of joining us and can make the most of the opportunities we offer.

Open Days and Visit Days

We run annual Open Days for applicants thinking of making us their one of their UCAS choices, and Applicant Days for those who have already chosen us. You can find out more on our Open Day page – including how these will be run under Covid-19 restrictions in 2020.

Open Days can sometimes be overwhelming and it’s not always easy to ask the right question at the right time, especially about what life as a student might actually be like. With that in mind, some of our current students have created the below brochure to help you discover what you can expect ‘beyond the books’.


Southampton English Podcasts

We have a range of podcasts that give you a taste of what is it like to study English with us: you can listen into tutorial supervisions, hear tutors describe their modules, and gain study tips for sitting your A-Level from our lecturers. You can view our podcasts on our page here.

Course Notes from Lockdown: English First Year Modules

Watch the convenors of our first-year modules describe what you will study in your first year at university.

Online Courses

Our Department runs two free online modules taken by students all around the world: on Jane Austen, and Understanding Money. These are a great way to learn about our world-renowned research and experience how it informs our teaching.

If you are a prospective applicant, a teacher, or a parent, or simply want to find out more about applying for English at Southampton: please email our Heads of Admissions at or for Outreach,

Book Recommendations

One of the most common (and fun) questions we receive from visitors at our University Open Days and/or preparing for their A-levels is what they should read.

Below are some recent recommendations from tutors and students—including members of our English Society (EngSoc) and Students’ Union (SUSU). Many of these novels are taught on our first, second, and third year modules.

Any of these titles would help you prepare to study English at University and get you thinking about the themes, questions, and contexts that are most relevant to the discipline. If you’re already applying to a programme in English, discussing your wider reading is always a great addition to a personal statement. Here at Southampton, our Admissions team loves to hear about what you are reading and why!

Hazel Jonkers (EngSoc Committee member)

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

The most celebrated of Kurt Vonnegut’s works, Slaughterhouse-Five is a great book to read if you want to get into post-modern novels but don’t know where to start. Vonnegut balances serious and comic tones to explore his experience in the bombing of Dresden through less traditional and non-linear forms of narrative. Containing time travel and aliens, this is a deeply weird book that also manages to contain cutting commentary on war and a look into the effects of PTSD. It’s a good book to prepare you for less traditional works you’ll be expected to analyse in university whilst also being very engaging and thought-provoking.

Morwenna Smart (EngSoc president, 2019)

Ali Smith, How To Be Both (2014)

In How To Be Both, Ali Smith’s beautiful and original novel, she addresses the prevalent issues of gender, sexuality, loss and identity through two teenagers coming of age across the centuries. These topics have been discussed throughout literature, but never quite like this. Smith’s novel is in two interwoven parts; one half rich with vivid description, the other half sparse and poetic. The originality of this novel challenges societal expectations of youth, binaries and the novel format itself. Through the voices of George and Francesco, Smith explores the timeless question of identity, and the mystery of life and mortality. The two stories twist and flow around each other and can be read in either order; in fact, the novel was printed half in one order and half in the other! Smith’s masterful writing allows two stories written in different styles and set centuries apart to merge and resonate with each other and life today.

Alyssa Caroline (EngSoc)

Christina Dalcher, Vox (2018)

How much do you think you talk every day? From ordering a coffee to thanking the bus driver to every comment you post on Facebook, I guarantee you use more than 100 words a day. But what if your word usage was monitored, recorded by a tiny tracker affixed to your wrist? It might function much like your Fitbit, and like your Fitbit, it comes in different colors and models and styles. And maybe, if you have the rose gold sparkle edition, you can forget that once your wordcount tops 100, you’ll be hit with an electric shock. Oh, and the catch? This fun new element of life only applies to women.

If that sounds a bit futuristic-creepy, that’s because it is. It’s the premise of Christina Dalcher’s novel Vox, and though this debut thriller is meant to be dystopian, Dalcher intentionally sets it in the present day and posits that it’s an electric reminder of the future we could face without continued campaigns for women’s rights. If you like dystopian fiction with a feminist twist or you’re looking for a hot new take on some of the same issues explored in The Handmaid’s Tale, Vox is a must-have for any feminist’s bookshelf. The perfect summer read for anyone who enjoys a thought-provoking story!

Megan Crossman (EngSoc)

Garth Risk Hallberg, City on Fire (2015)

Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire tells the captivating story of several characters living in New York in the 1970s. From siblings who are heirs to billions (one a drug addict) to teens trying to figure out who they are in a world that tries to tell them who they should be, we meet a range of people whose lives gradually intertwine throughout the tale. When someone is shot on New Year’s Eve, a detective sets out to find who fired the gun, and when the infamous blackout of July 1977 happens, secrets come to light.

Although the size of the novel may be intimidating (almost 1000 pages), it’s a story well worth the read. Hallberg explores topics such as addiction, divorce, depression, family loss and first love. The ending of the novel leaves you feeling both accomplished for finishing it and enlightened.

Ulfat Islam (SUSU English Department President, 2019-20)

Tahmima Anam, The Good Muslim (2011)

An historical novel set in a post-liberation Bangladesh that has been affected by waves of political religious extremism and violence, Anam’s The Good Muslim – the sequel to Anam’s debut novel A Golden Age—registers the very personal impact of national politics by focusing upon one particular family. Focusing and (mostly) focalizing the central female protagonist Maya—a ‘village doctor’ who returns to her family home and village after almost a decade of working elsewhere—the novel sensitively and skilfully explores the negotiations this relatively liberal and modern-minded Muslim woman must make in a social and political climate in which she feels she does not properly belong. Maya feels especially out-of-touch with the ideologies of her radicalized and emotionally-detached brother, Sohail, who—as a traumatized fighter in the Bangladeshi War of Independence from the previous decade—uses an extreme interpretation of Islam as something of a shield and survival strategy for his emotionally-fraught self. Oscillating between the present (1984) and the immediate aftermath of the War of Independence (early-1970s), The Good Muslim encourages us to consider thought-provoking issues such as the possibility of convergence and emotional reconciliation between two rather disparate minds. This novel raises the question of who the ‘good Muslim’ is: secular-oriented and progressive Maya or her heavily-devout and practising brother?

Dr Ranka Primorac

Chibundu Onuzo, Welcome to Lagos (2017)

Welcome to Lagos is a beguiling and thought-provoking story about a group of young people who travel to Nigeria’s capital in search of new lives and help change their country in the process.

Visit Dr Ranka Primorac's profile

Dr Will May

Sally Rooney, Normal People (2018)

What better way to get a taste of studying English at university than last year's bestselling novel about two humanities undergraduates? Marianne and Connell are both wonderfully drawn characters; the prose is spry, and it’s a compelling addition to the on-off genre both on and off campus. 

Visit Dr Wil May's profile

Dr James Jordan

Art Spiegelman, The Complete Maus (1980)

Pulitzer prize-winning graphic novel in which a story from the Holocaust is re-told using cats and mice.

Visit Dr James Jordan's profile

Carole Burns

Te-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (2015)

Coates has rightly been compared to James Baldwin and this slender book demonstrates why: it is personal and political, reasoned and enraged, intimate and universal, as he traces his/our experience of race in America. As a writer, I love his language, subtlety, and intensity.

Visit Carole Burns's profile

Dr Sarah Hayden

Sophie Robinson, Rabbit (2018)

Sophie Robinson writes lyrics that are fierce, tender, archly self-aware. They are also (secretly) formally fabulous. Hers is a poetry of feeling, shot through with archness and brutality. Read Rabbit aloud. 

Visit Dr Sarah Hayden's profile

Professor Nicky Marsh

Anna Burn, Milkman (2018)

This novel is dark, hilarious, shockingly honest and angrily feminist. It creates a wonderfully bleak fantasy from the Troubles in Northern Ireland and gives us insight into how ordinary people manage extraordinary histories. I read it in one sitting and am jealous when I see people reading it for the first time!  It’s also a novel that deserves a place in the long history of fiction about growing up, from Tristam Shandy to Bridget Jones:  ‘The truth was dawning on me of how terrifying it was not to be numb, but to be aware, to have facts, retain facts, be present, be adult.’  

Visit Professor Nicky Marsh's profile

Karen Seymour

Charlotte Perkins Gilman,  Herland (1915)

Herland is an all-female country ‘invaded’ by three male travellers…Read to find out what happens!

Visit Karen Seymour's profile

Dr Kevin Brazil

Ruth Ozeki,  A Tale from the Time Being (2013)

Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale from the Time Being tells the story of the unexpected connections between the Second World War in Japan and modern life in Silicon Valley (ca. early 2000s)—between life in the age of Google and Zen Buddhist meditation. Made up of layers and layers of stories, of diaries and commentaries and footnotes, this is a novel that experiments with its form to tell the story of digital life today.

Visit Dr Kevin Brazil's profile

Privacy Settings