The English Honours Program

"The Honours program has changed my life. It is useful, unique, 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 310, a year-long seminar on practical criticism, essay writing, literary analysis, and applied critical theory. English 310 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 two seminars on contemporary critical theory (English 467 and 468), reflecting the importance of theory in English studies today. In the final year, each student writes a graduating essay 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 instructors on the honours graduate essay.

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.

English library

Honours students have free use of the English library, located at the hub of the English Department. This provides study space and reference books as well as a unique space in which to share ideas with and build support between fellow students.

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 310 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.

Language requirements

This requirement is intended to provide a broad cultural experience, as well as preparation for graduate programs which frequently require knowledge of at least one second language. Please see the English Honours Program page of the University Calendar for specific course requirements.

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 shoudl enroll in at leat two of 200A, 200B, and 200C in their first and/ or second year, and should apply to the Honours Adviser for permission to take 310 (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

Students may apply by sending an e-mail to the Honours Advisor, or by applying at an open meeting held by the Honours Advisor in March for prospective students.

Further information and documents


Dr. Luke Carson, Honours Advisor,