Is a 2:1 from Cambridge better than a First elsewhere?

Nah, not if you’re doing English

2:1 Cambridge English Faculty english library English Literature first Hertford College King's College Libraries Oxbridge Polytechnic russell group Thames Valley third university york York Tab

Yesterday, our friends at the esteemed York Tab published an article claiming that studying English Literature there was somehow ‘harder’ than at Cambridge.

A Cambridge academic, Dr. Subha Mukherji, revealed the Cambridge criteria for a 2:2 was the same as the York criteria for a 2:1. But does that really mean the work is ‘harder’?

Let’s face it, everyone and their mum has a 2:1. (My mum actually has a 2:2, and my dad has a Third, but that’s beside the point). Some people like to claim that because they were at Cambridge, their bog-standard upper-second is somehow superior to everyone else’s.

That’s all very well, but not if you’re reading English. If English is your subject, then give up now. Your degree is utterly pointless, whether you go to Thames Valley or Trinity.


Anyone who does English at Cambridge or York (both of which are top places to study the subject) is probably pretty good at it. Even if you’re only fairly alright at English, it’s still the most piece of piss subject imaginable.

You decide early on in your university career whether you want a 2:1 or a First (getting a 2:2 just isn’t an option unless you hit a very serious brick wall: there is no ‘wrong’ answer in English, remember).

Then you work out exactly how little work you need to do in order to get that degree. Getting a First means you have to spend approximately an hour a week in the bubble bath reading storybooks about swordfights. For a 2:1 you could probably get away with half an hour, and Wolf Hall on the iPlayer counts too.

Tab time

So let’s not engage in petty debate about whether studying English at a top Russell Group is ‘harder’ than at Cambridge. English is never ‘hard’. There are four rules about English literature and you, York Tab, would do well to remember them.

  • Generally, an English Lit degree trains you to be a useless member of the modern world. (By the way, that’s a Zadie Smith of King’s College Cambridge quote, so don’t bother disputing it)
  • Whether you have a First or a 2:1, you will almost certainly fail at life when you realise that no matter how Byronic and opium-chic your boyfriend, he is not actually Byron. Also, eloping to the Swiss mountains to tell ghost stories isn’t really a viable career path.
  •  Everything, but everything you read is about time and/or transience. (I’m not even sure what transience is, to be honest). Oh, and death. Death features loads.
  • English is the original doss subject, masquerading as a serious one. As Evelyn Waugh (of Hertford College, Oxford) put it – ‘the very worst is English Literature’. It just is, the worst.

It’s probably about death tbh

Pretty much all the other subjects (except maybe HSPS) are more demanding than English. Yet for some reason people act all impressed when you say you’re reading English.

Its unfair on everyone else, so let’s stop perpetuating the idea that we are ever having anything but the easiest of rides. There are beanbags in the English faculty library, for God’s sake. It’s ultimately a glorified nap room.

And a degree in English Literature, wherever you choose to study it, is essentially just one three year long nap.