Honours program

"The Honours program has changed my life. It is useful, unique, and specialized." 
—Sara Malton, Graduate

"The students in my Honours class worked together and hung out together. We exchanged ideas with a frequency and an energy attained in no other class." 
Nick Mount, Graduate

What is the English Honours Program?

The Honours Program is designed for students who show a strong commitment to an intense study of English literature. At a time when undergraduate class sizes are increasing across the country, English Honours students at UVic have the opportunity to work with individual faculty members and in small groups of students with similar interests. The structure of the program demands some study of all periods of English literature, from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century, but it also provides room for detailed examination of a particular author or for some specialization in a particular period of literature. For Honours course structure and a checklist of requirements, please see the Honours Documents section at the bottom of this page.

Small classes, individual tutors

At the heart of the UVic Honours Program is English 301, a year-long seminar on practical criticism, essay writing, literary analysis, and applied critical theory. English 301 classes are limited to 15 students, fostering lively critical exchange among the students themselves, as well as between instructor and students. "This course, without doubt, was the most important of all the classes I took in my degree," writes a former student. "It was the most stimulating, the most challenging and the most rewarding."

Honours students also take English 480, Advanced Theories and Methods, a capstone course offering intensive training in various methods of interpretation and theoretical approaches to literature, culture and media. In the final year, each student writes a graduating essay, English 499, on the topic of his or her choice, working one on one with a faculty member in the field. Each student defends this Honours Thesis before a committee of four faculty members, an experience highly unusual in today's crowded undergraduate programs.

Please download the PDF for more specific instructions on the honours graduate essay. 

Honours students also have the option to take English 490, a specified reading project for Honours students determined by the student and the instructor.

Career preparation

The Honours Program provides an exceptional preparation for graduate work in English. Many of our graduates have gone on to obtain M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in English from top graduate schools in Canada, the United States, and Britain. Recently, several Honours students have used their graduating essays as a first step in an academic career, by publishing revised versions in scholarly journals such as Studies in the Novel and Dickens Studies Annual.

Not all graduates choose to go on to university teaching. The program provides skills in research, writing, and critical thinking that prepare students for a rich variety of careers. UVic Honours graduates have found positions in secondary-school and second-language teaching, creative and professional writing, editing, journalism, web-page design, and law.

Creativity and challenge

The Honours Program's unique combination of individual supervision and intimate classes fosters creativity, lively intellectual challenge, and lasting friendships among students. In the words of one student, "Amongst all the laughter and friendships made, I managed to learn more relevant skills in 301 and the critical theory courses to carry me into my academic future than in any class I've taken or heard of."

Degree requirements

Of the 30 units required in 3rd and 4th years for the Honours degree, 24 units must be taken in English courses numbered 300 and above. Please see the English Honours Program page of the University Calendar for specific course requirements.

The English Honours Program can be combined with Arts and Writing Co-op, a minor in Professional Writing or a major in another discipline.

Degrees with distinction

To achieve an Honours degree with distinction, a student must earn a GPA in the top 20% of graduating English students. (This cohort includes Honours, Majors, and General students, but not Minors.) An Honours degree requires a grade of B-minus or above in 499 with a graduating GPA of at least 3.5. It is not possible for an Honours candidate to achieve an Honours degree with a grade of C-plus or lower in 499.

Planning your degree

Students thinking of taking Honours should enroll in ENSH 250 and ENSH 251 in their first and/or second year, and should apply to the Honours Adviser for permission to take 301 (Practical Criticism). Admission to the Honours program normally requires grades of A- and above in first- and/ or second-year English courses.

How to apply

In late spring, eligible students, typically with second- or third-year standing, will be invited to join English 301, the program’s introductory year-long seminar. Additionally, students may express interest in the program by sending an e-mail to the Honours Adviser.

Further information and documents