Life as an English Master’s student at KCL

This post was written by Tom

Enrolling at King’s College London as a Masters student was a somewhat surreal experience. The fact that I’d enlisted onto a year-long programme – not just what I considered an “academic” year, but a September-to-September year – only sunk in when I signed into my departmental Zoom introduction in September 2021. Now, at the end of my first semester, I’m confident it was the right choice for me! 


I didn’t know that I wanted to take an MA until I was around halfway through my final year of my English Literature BA degree. Further academia beyond undergraduate level had not been a part of my post-BA plan. It became increasingly clear, however, when I reflected on the enjoyment derived from seminar classes, research and essay-writing. In February/March 2021, I began to research MAs in Literature, and stumbled across the KCL MA in Modern Literature and Culture. The application process was simple: a cover letter as to why you’d like to study at KCL; your academic record; and two references. Within a couple of months, I found out that I was offered a place on the condition that I achieved a 2:1 or above in my BA degree. I swiftly accepted. 


By September 2021, I was ready to reignite my studies and embark on a new chapter of my academic life. I was excited, but also nervous; I anticipated a whole range of challenges and unknowns that came with the MA territory.  


If you’re considering applying to KCL for a Master’s with the English department, here’s a few things that I’ve learned so far. I hope they are of use! 


Module Applications and Timetables: 

Before the semester begins, you are provided with information regarding the modules offered for your year of study and a module preference form. You may notice that the modules offered are slightly different to those in previous years; this is because the modules are dependent on whether particular academics are available to offer them. A couple of weeks before the semester begins, you will receive your weekly timetable. Most modules are taught through two two-hour seminars per week, but this may vary. If a module proves not to be to your particular taste, or if you discover a module you’re more interested in, you may can request to change (as long as there’s room in the class!). 


For the Modern Literature and Culture course, the first semester includes a mandatory module titled ‘Text Theory Culture: London and Urban Modernity’. This is a great module to kick off with: not only do you get you explore the city through literature (from Dickens to Woolf to Rhys), but students are actively encouraged to explore London by foot and get a feel for the place. Alongside this, you’ll choose another module for Semester One, and then two more for Semester Two, with a few Academic Workshops thrown in too. There’s a vast array of modules to choose from under my programme, offering the chance to really get your teeth into what interests you! 




Depending on selected modules, there are multiple elements to academic life as a Master’s student. Firstly, within the KCL English Department, books aren’t everything! Academics utilise a multiplicity of sources to build the teaching of their modules, from conventional texts such as novels, plays and poetry, to more digital sources such as films, television series, radio shows and computer games. Some texts will be provided, but others you will have to source yourself. Module leaders may use other teaching methods, such as archival workshops or field trips to museums and galleries. If you are attending seminars in-person, then they will mostly likely be held in the Virginia Woolf Building on the Stand Campus, which is easy to find. The offices of many academics within the English Department will be found on the sixth or seventh floor, which also hosts the department’s HQ. Throughout the year, you will also be able to book office hours with tutors to discuss essay ideas or topics you’d like to be further explained. This may be in-person or online. 


And if you work well in libraries, make a trip to the King’s Maughan (pictures featured!) or Senate House Library (which hosts students from all University of London affiliates!). Both are architecturally wonderful! 


A final word… 

Enjoy it! This could be your final year of higher education, so try and make the most of it. An English Masters degree offers you the space and resources to explore and develop those areas of the literary landscape you find most intriguing and stimulating beyond undergraduate level. It’s worth remembering that a postgraduate course holds intrinsic value within itself; it doesn’t have to be a stepping-stone to something else, so enjoy learning for learning’s sake! 


More information:

Read Harriet’s blog: A day in the life of an English MA student

Explore the KCL MA English website 

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