About the School of English

The study of English at the University of St Andrews has a long and distinguished history that is sustained in the scholarly, critical, and creative dynamism of today's School of English.

Kennedy Hall and Castle House

In the present day, the School enjoys an international reputation as a centre for both academic research and literary creativity. The School's richest inheritance, however, is its collegiality: we pride ourselves on our friendliness, and on our common enthusiasm for great literature.

Underpinning the mission and activities of the School, the Strategic Plan 2020-2025 (PDF) outlines School aspirations, aims and commitment to world-leading and inclusive teaching and research.

Research

The School of English has a lively research culture, which involves staff, postgraduates and postdoctoral fellows. The school's research work is divided into four groups:

In REF2021, 87% of the School’s research outputs and 100% of its research Impact was found to be world-leading or internationally excellent. In REF2014 86% of our research was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent. We also had strong results in the previous research assessment exercise (2008), making the School one of the UK's consistently outstanding research departments.

Teaching

Amongst UK institutions offering English Literature, the School of English has recently been ranked first in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019, second in the Complete University Guide 2019, and first in The Guardian league tables 2018.

Facilities

The School is located within Castle House and Kennedy Hall on The Scores with views of the sea front and the historic St Andrews Castle ruins. Please see our contact page for more information.

The school provides computing and kitchen facilities for postgraduate research students.  Students also have access to the University library's Special Collections, which houses many of the University's rare books.

History

St Andrews was one of the first universities in the world to teach English literature. The University discussed founding a Chair of Eloquence in 1720, in part to educate young Scots in the proper use of the English language. It was thought that the best way to learn 'correct' English was to study 'correct' English texts.

The arrival of Robert Watson as Professor of Logic, Rhetoric and Metaphysics in 1756 brought lectures on rhetoric delivered in English, rather than the traditional Latin. Between 1710 and 1837, the University library had rights to the copyright deposit of all books published in Britain and now holds rare books such as Anna Barbauld's Poems (1773), Percy and Mary Shelley's Journal of a Six Weeks' Tour to the Alps (1816), John Keats's Endymion (1818) and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818). These can still be found in the University's Special Collections division.

A group of University of St Andrews women graduates in 1896
A group of women students, circa 1896. Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library. Image reference: Group-1896-4a

In 1877, the great Wordsworthian scholar, William Knight (Chair of Moral Philosophy from 1876 to 1903), helped pioneer one of the first systems of women's university education, the Lady Literate in Arts (LLA), a distance learning scheme which extended around the globe. Knight called for literary, scientific and medical studies to be open to women before they were admitted as full students to British universities. He initiated a commitment to gender equality which the School is proud to uphold today.

The Berry Chair

The Berry Chair was established in 1897 following a bequest made by David Berry in acknowledgement of his brother Alexander’s intention to leave money to the University of St Andrews.

Alexander Berry obtained a land grant from the Governor of New South Wales, Australia in the early 1820s in exchange for maintaining 100 convicts. In 1822, Berry settled land at Shoalhaven which was inhabited by indigenous people and which is now the subject of a successful Native Title claim by the South Coast People. Berry was able to settle on and exploit the land thanks to the resources, knowledge and practices of local people, his experiences with other indigenous people in the Pacific region, and the labour of convicts. The School recognises the contribution of all these people to the wealth of the Berry family and ultimately to the foundation of the Chair.

The School acknowledges that the material and intellectual benefits we have derived from the bequest are founded on the knowledge, practices and natural resources of the South Coast People, other indigenous people of Oceania, and convict labourers. The School is seeking publicly to acknowledge the complex history of the Berry legacy through a research colloquium and other public events over the coming years. 

The University has long-standing collaborations with indigenous scholars, students and communities in Oceania through the Centre for Pacific Studies and the School of English. We have benefitted from and are grateful for the guidance of indigenous scholars in reconsiderations of Berry’s legacy and are developing resources and activities, including a prize for indigenous poetry, to support indigenous scholarship and creative work. Further details will be announced in due course.