Rankings

The 20 Best Doctor of English Language and Literature (D.Litt.) Graduate Schools

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Updated: February 28, 2024, Reading time: 43 minutes

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In 2020, more than 535 words, including on-brand, sesh, and inspo were new additions to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Indeed, hundreds of new words are being added to the English language every year! There’s also the fact that the number of people who consider English as a foreign language and a second language exceeds the number of native English speakers. 

So, who says there’s no need for a doctorate in the English language and, by extension, literature? As long as the English language grows in its breadth, use, and influence, there’s always a need for its advanced study! 

Quick audio summary:

Best Doctor of English and Literature - fact

The Doctor of English Language and Literature degree is an advanced academic degree that prepares students to become experts in the English language, literature, and culture. This program is best suited to students who already have a strong background in English and are interested in pursuing a career as a professor or in the areas of publishing, editing, writing, or research.

Prospective students in this program will have the opportunity to work closely with experienced faculty members and learn up-to-date approaches to literary theory, style, and trends. With this degree, students will have the knowledge and skill set to become successful in their chosen field and have the opportunity to be leaders in the literary and academic community.

Students in Ph.D. in English language and Literature programs are already proficient in its written and oral forms. For these students, the goal is to think more creatively and critically about the English language and its literature. The professional ability to analyze theories and practices, critique everyday language and works of literature, and analytically think about them comes as second nature. 

Note that the terminal degree may have an equal focus on the language and literature aspects. However, some programs specialize either in the English language or in English literature and its aspects. Check the program’s title since it’s a dead giveaway and, thus, is crucial in your decision to enroll. 

In an English literature program, students focus on literary texts from several periods in recorded history. The vast range of literature written in the English language makes it an exciting field of study. Students can read the works of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Lord Byron, as well as Virginia Woolf, J.K. Rowling, and Dr. Seuss. There’s an emphasis on relating their works to the social, cultural, and political contexts of their time, too. 

For students in English language programs, the focus is on the dynamics, evolution, and English language in non-literature settings. These can include casual face-to-face conversations, virtual interactions, and specialized medical and legal jargon. The in-depth analysis translates to a deeper understanding of the English language and its impact on individuals and society.


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METHODOLOGY

These are on-campus Ph.D. in English Language and Literature programs selected based on the following criteria: 


BEST DOCTOR OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE (GENERAL) STUDIES

Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Ph.D. in English 

LSU may have started as a seminary and military academy in 1853, but it has since evolved to become the most comprehensive institution in The Pelican State. Its beautiful Baton Rouge campus is its brilliant Ph.D. in English program, where students gain a more profound understanding of the English language. 

Standout Features: 

Students train to become experts in research as well as respected teachers, editors, and writers. The rigorous program of study includes the production of ambitious and innovative scholarly works across diverse areas of study. 

LSU’s library is considered a general-use library and a library for the federal government’s collections, known as a US Regional Depository Library. Documents from the American Patent and Trademark Office and the United Nations are also housed here. 

University of Pennsylvania 

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Ph.D. in English 

Penn’s strong emphasis on multidisciplinary research and teaching and learning is woven into every academic program, as is its focus on academic flexibility and freedom. Undergraduates even have access to many of the graduate courses under the One University policy! Students in the Ph.D. in English program may then learn alongside younger counterparts resulting in both cohorts enjoying the benefits of intergenerational learning. 

Standout Features: 

Penn fosters inclusivity and diversity in its academic programs while promoting academic rigor that challenges students to their limits. However, student support services are among the best in a collegiate environment, not to mention that graduate students are considered valued members of the Department itself. Every graduate student has opportunities to contribute to collective knowledge and the social bonds among faculty and peers. 

Students throw toast – as in toasted bread – into the field in every home football game! This is certainly tamer than the 1966 Rowbottom riots when students smashed windows and stole panties, among other mischievous deeds. 

Cornell University

Cornell University

Ithaca, New York 

Ph.D. in English Language and Literature

Cornell’s status as an Ivy League institution is stronger than ever with its passionate commitment to its founder’s intention – a university where every person seeking instruction in any field of study will find it. In its 156-year existence, it has made substantial contributions to various fields, from arts and humanities to STEM. The Ph.D. in English Language and Literature program is notable where faculty and students have contributed to its body of knowledge. 

Standout Features: 

Students have a five-year guarantee on funding covering full tuition, health insurance, and stipend. The five-year funding comes with obligations, including a non-teaching fellowship and teaching assistantship at different times. There are prestigious fellowships, too, such as the Buttrick-Crippen Fellowship and Provost’s Diversity Fellowships. 
Academic flexibility comes with relative freedom in choosing courses, exam design, and the choice of minors outside of the English department. 

Kroch Library’s collection ranges from the whimsical, such as the first copies of Charlotte’s Web, to the historical like the Gettysburg Address written by Abraham Lincoln himself. Cornell’s motto has been ranked #1 by Motto Magazine, and it’s the only Ivy League motto in English; the rest are in Latin. 

University of California Berkeley 

University of California Berkeley

Berkeley, California 

Ph.D. in Comparative Literature 

UC Berkeley’s reputation as the world’s #1 Public University makes it among the most challenging universities to get into for both the undergraduate and graduate levels. With its comprehensive focus on research – it’s home to numerous scientific breakthroughs from computers to genomics – and its strong political activism, its Ph.D. in Comparative Literature program sets the bar high! 

Standout Features: 

Students can rely on the passionate commitment among faculty members for student success! An approved doctoral dissertation must cover comparative work in at least three works of literature, including English. 

UC Berkeley’s Dead Week tradition gives students a welcome reprieve from the intensive studying before the final exams. Naked students run through the Moffitt and Doe libraries while causing a 20-minute general commotion!  Students who want to stay awake during their study period and exams may head to Peet’s Coffee, the national coffee shop with Berkeley roots. 

New York University 

New York University

New York, New York 

Ph.D. in English Education

NYU is as New York as you can get, from its founder to its motto, “Perstare et Praestare” (To persevere and to excel)! Such is its academic renown that it receives the highest number of applications among private institutions in the country, too. But with a highly selective admission, only the cream of the crop has the honor to be called Violets. This is true for the Ph.D. in English Education program offered at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. 

Standout Features: 

Students must spend an average of 20 hours on their studies, including their academics and research experiences. Research assistantships are recommended for research experience. Every student can tailor their doctorate based on their specific career goals and interests. 

The Violets take their Quidditch game seriously, and they are world champions several times over! Adam Sandler, Angelina Jolie, and Lady Gaga are Violets, too. 

University of Wisconsin Madison 

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Madison, Wisconsin 

Ph.D. in English

UW Madison’s flagship university status is well-deserved considering its numerous distinctions, from its founding member status at the Association of American Universities to its R1 and Public Ivy designations. The competitive process in its Ph.D. in English program ensures that its long-standing tradition of academic excellence applies to advanced studies, too. 

Standout Features: 

Students and faculty members work together to ensure that the program’s learning outcomes are achieved by the end of the former’s stay. Professional development opportunities, including workshops, seminars, and conferences, are offered as part of said thrust. Students can conduct advanced research in their fields, communicate complicated ideas, and demonstrate sophisticated knowledge and skills in their area of expertise. 

Students are frequent participants in the events conducted on or near the Wisconsin State Capitol building, thanks to the university’s next-door proximity. Farmers’ markets and epic snowball fights among students in winter are among the popular activities. 

University of California Los Angeles

University of California

Los Angeles, California 

Ph.D. in English 

UCLA may have started as a teachers’ college, but it has certainly evolved to become one of the world’s top research universities! Such is its worldwide renown that it receives the most number of university applications in the country, besting even NYU. But its highly selective admission policy means that few get into its programs, including its highly-rated Ph.D. in English program. 

Standout Features: 

Innovative research, academic excellence in both coursework and dissertation and exceptional teaching skills are the hallmarks of UCLA’s Ph.D. in English graduates! Enough said. 

But UCLA students also play hard, and it has resulted in 111 NCAA titles – and counting – the most of any NCAA team! Students also know how to let off steam caused by stress from intensive studying. During the Midnight Yell, students engage in scream sessions that last for a few minutes. Don’t miss the Undie Runs, too! 

University of Michigan 

University of Michigan—Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ph.D. in English Language and Literature

UMich, the State of Michigan’s oldest university founded 20 years before its statehood, also boasts the largest endowment of all public universities in the US. With $17 billion at its disposal, it has abundant resources to provide its students with world-class education, training, and research opportunities. Students in its Ph.D. in English Language and Literature program can look forward to the UMich way! 

Standout Features: 

All students have guaranteed funding for six years, a way of fostering collaboration and community among students. From year one to five, every student receives a full fellowship covering tuition costs, living stipends, and healthcare benefits. Students in their later years in the program also become part-time graduate student instructors. 

Wolverines don’t need mistletoe to kiss! Couples who kiss under the Engineering Arch at midnight are destined to be married, and we can surmise that Tom Brady, Madonna, and James Earl Jones may have done it, too. UMIch also has its running-naked-through-the-campus tradition known as the Naked Mile. 

Columbia University 

Columbia University

New York, NY

Ph.D. in English Education 

Barack Obama and Warren Buffett call Columbia their alma mater and, thus, students in its Ph.D. in English Education program are in good company. Getting into the Ivy League university’s highly selective program is an achievement in itself, too, more so when you earn a prestigious degree. Note that it’s offered at the Teachers College, with its primary purpose being to promote the body of knowledge concerning teaching and learning the English language. 

Standout Features: 

The rigorous program of study prepares students for leadership positions as teacher-educators, scholars, and researchers of the English language. Their expertise lies in its philosophical, theoretical, and pedagogical aspects and their capacity to find answers to relevant questions. 

Columbia has a cornucopia of resources for its students, with more than 12 million books and 2 million items in its digital collections. It has one of the largest library systems in the country! Check out Columbia Review, the country’s oldest college literary magazine, for ideas.

Arizona State University 

Arizona State University

Tempe, Arizona 

Ph.D. in English Literature 

The Sun Devils won’t have to feel lonely and alone! With its huge student population – one of the highest enrollment of public universities in the US – there’s always a community present. The tight-knit community of students and faculty in its Ph.D. in English Literature program is known for its academic excellence and supportive environment. 

Standout Features: 

The program strongly emphasizes the intensive study of literature and its historical, cultural, and social contexts. Students also study these works’ creation, distribution, and reception, including oral traditions, folklore, and pop culture. Film and digital media are studied alongside traditional literature using several modes of inquiry. Students also benefit from ASU’s partnerships with research centers like the Center for Film, Media, and Popular Culture and the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. 

The Sun Devil Marching Band is as fierce on the field as they are off it! With the Sudler Trophy under its belt, it’s among the winningest marching bands in collegiate history. 

University of Washington 

University of Washington

Seattle, Washington

Ph.D. in English Language and Literature

The Huskies had made substantial contributions to the economic development of Seattle, its original intention when it was established in 1861, and more! Indeed, Washington’s academic and research programs and its community outreach projects have made Seattle and the State of Washington better in many ways. The Public Ivy University ensures that its academic programs are designed to better its students and the community in mind. 

Standout Features: 

This is an integrated MA/Ph.D. program where students earn both degrees and make satisfactory progress. Due to its selective admission, a maximum of 14 students is admitted from more than 250 applications. 

Washington is the home of many significant modern inventions, including vinyl, color television tubes, and synthetic rubber. You can thank the Huskies for bubble gum and the Wave, too! 

The University of Arizona 

Arizona State University

Tucson, Arizona

PhD in Rhetoric, Composition, and Teaching of English

UArizona, the oldest university in Arizona, offers an exceptional Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Composition, and Teaching of English program. The current emphasis is on social justice leadership and pedagogy, strategies for advancing languages and literacies, and comparative technologies. This program is designed for advanced-level students with a keen interest in teaching English to diverse populations with a world-centric view instead of an exclusively Western standpoint. 

Standout Features: 

Interdisciplinary collaborations are the hallmark of UArizona’s doctorate programs, and these are made possible through partnerships with other on-campus programs. Students in this program may work with students from the School of Information or the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies. 

Students are also known for their published scholarly works, action-centric research, and innovative teaching practices. Many are also Fulbright, Crossroads Collaborative, and Carson scholars, aside from receiving prestigious awards. No wonder 97% of its graduates find leadership positions soon after completion! 

“Bear Down” is UArizona’s motto, and its origins are as quirky as it sounds! Every day at exactly noon, the campus clock tower plays the university’s fight song, “Bear Down Arizona.” 

The University of Texas at Austin 

University of Texas Austin

Austin, Texas

Ph.D. in English

UT Austin is a hub for academic research with more than $796 million in the amount awarded for sponsored research projects (2019-2020). With 17 libraries, seven museums, and several auxiliary research facilities, there’s no shortage of graduate students’ research and professional development opportunities! Interdisciplinary collaboration underlines most research projects, too, and it’s evident in the Ph.D. in English program, a partnership between the Department of English and the Department of Rhetoric and Writing. 

Standout Features: 

The Ph.D. program offers its students ample opportunities for pedagogical training, research mentoring, and intensive research projects. Students enjoy the sense of community, shared purpose and collegiality, and the abundance of professional development opportunities. 

Here’s hoping that you will see an albino squirrel on your way to your milestone exams and ace them! 

Harvard University 

Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Ph.D. in English 

Harvard is among the world’s most selective universities, with a 4.6% acceptance rate! Getting into its Ph.D. in English program is no easy feat either, with applicants required to demonstrate their broad knowledge of English. Equally important are excellent skills in communication, research and presentation, and critical thinking. With its strong emphasis on research, applicants must also demonstrate in-depth knowledge of editorial, textual, and bibliographic methods. 

Standout Features: 

Harvard accepts ASL and other computer languages and proficiency in other non-English languages like Latin, French, ancient Greek, German, and Spanish. However, the department reserves the right to reject computer language proficiency unless it’s considered relevant to a student’s specialization. 

Harvard has 92 kilometers of bookshelves, which means that graduate students won’t run out of research materials! The books are housed in 79 libraries, many of which feature the oldest collections in the US. 

University of Virginia 

University of Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia 

Ph.D. in English Language, Literature, and Research

UVA has a distinguished history, from claiming Thomas Jefferson as its founder to its UNESCO World Heritage Site, secret societies, and honor code. The Ph.D. in English Language, Literature, and Research program is also driven by the honor code, including academic excellence, collegiality, and honesty. 

Standout Features: 

Ph.D. students are expected to demonstrate their commitment to the program through full-time enrollment, the on-target accomplishment of milestones, and contributions to the body of knowledge through their dissertations.

There are no traditional designations for first-year students to seniors, particularly because Jefferson believed in lifelong learning. Instead, students are designated based on their years spent in the university, thus, the first, second, third, and fourth years for undergraduates. Nowadays, students can’t shoot their hands off the bulletproof clock, unlike their predecessors. 

Northwestern University

Northwestern University

Evanston, Illinois 

Ph.D. in English Literature 

Northwestern’s reputation as among the world’s best educational institutions is the result of a passionate commitment to academic excellence since its founding 170 years ago. Of course, its substantial financial resources – $15 billion in endowment and a $2 billion annual budget, among the largest in the world – are also instrumental in its success. Students in its Ph.D. in English Literature program can also rely on generous financial support during their stay at Northwestern. 

Standout Features: 

Aside from the dissertation, the students’ advanced knowledge and skills are enhanced by workshops, lectures, and seminars conducted by experts, visiting scholars, and Northwestern professors. Dissertation groups, colloquia, and reading groups are also avenues for professional development. 

Dance and music are an integral part of Northwestern’s culture! The Northwestern University Dance Marathon (NUDM) lasts for 30 hours, with everybody dancing to the beat. The Dolphin Club stages the largest student-run musical in the US, where Warren Beatty started. Check out the Happiness Club, too, which supports well-being among students. 

University of South Florida 

University of South Florida

Tampa, Florida

Ph.D. in English 

USF has come a long way from being an all-white school in 1956! Today, its diverse student body comes from all ethnicities, states and territories, and foreign countries, and it’s among the largest public universities in the US today. Said contemporary diversity is reflected in the student body of its Ph.D. in English program, too. 

Standout Features: 

Students engage in immersive and comprehensive studies of English literature in the British and American contexts. Their chosen concentration also influences their specific program of study. Students become adept at teaching college-level English, too, through coursework and practicum experiences. 

Students at the Tampa campus have access to the largest library in the USF System with over 2 million items. Plus, there are writing and tutoring services, group study rooms, and a career resource center. No wonder that USF alumni, students, faculty, and non-teaching staff hold more than 2,400 patents and counting! 

University of Maryland 

University of Maryland

College Park, Maryland 

Ph.D. in English 

UMD’s research projects are among the most prestigious in the country, thanks to partnerships with several federal government agencies, including NIH, NASA, and FDA. The Public Ivy is also known for its world-class quality of instruction that attracts the cream of the crop! The international student body of its Ph.D. in English program is just one proof of it. 

Standout Features: 

Students with plans to teach English in higher education institutions must engage in specialized language and literary studies training. Individualized programs of study are encouraged, but these should be within the program’s parameters. Every student accepted into the highly selective program receives a guaranteed five-year funding package. 

UMD has six on-campus libraries, so there’s always a research source waiting to be discovered. Students can unwind at UMD’s golf course and farm and stroll and shop at its McKeldin Mall. 

State University of New York at Buffalo 

State University of New York at Buffalo

Buffalo, New York

Ph.D. In English

SUNY Buffalo, the largest public university in the Empire State, is known for its comprehensive range of programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. With its reputation for exceptional academic instruction and research support, its Ph.D. in English program attracts many best minds. The program’s primary strengths are in poetics, contemporary theory, and interdisciplinary studies connecting the likes of poetics and psychoanalysis. 

Standout Features: 

Students can sit in on department meetings and choose their student representatives’ voting rights in departmental committees. Such a system of parity ensures that students have an active voice in the direction of the department. The English Graduate Student Association (EGSA) elects student representatives as well as help in the creation of the curriculum and conduct of professional development programs. 

Students in their third year attend workshops designed to develop their educator and scholar skills, too. 

Every year, the Bulls compete in a series of collegiate mud volleyball games known as the Oozfest. But the Bulls also know how to get serious with their studies, and there are nine libraries across their three campuses in the North, South, and Downtown. 

University of Missouri 

University of Missouri

Columbia, Missouri 

Ph.D. in English

Mizzou, the University of Missouri System’s flagship and largest university, has numerous accomplishments in research across diverse areas. Among these are in the English language and literature through research projects conducted by students in its Ph.D. in English program. 

Standout Features:

Students choose their advisory committee from the roster of faculty members and work closely with them during their stay. The didactic coursework and dissertation are designed to expand students’ advanced knowledge about their respective areas of specialization. 

The Tiger Walk is a welcome ceremony for new students and an opportunity for them to check out the school organizations and make connections. The Tiger Prowl is the graduation ceremony that also involves the tiger stripe ice cream. 


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the typical curriculum in a Doctor of English Language and Literature program? 

What is the typical curriculum in a Doctor of English Language and Literature program? 

The curriculum depends on the focus – either English language or literature, as previously mentioned. However, there are similarities in Ph.D. programs’ curricula, such as the research project and teaching assistantships. Most, if not all, programs may be completed in 5-8 years, with the culminating project being an approved dissertation. 

Students complete academic coursework that covers the specific emphasis and elective courses intended to diversify their knowledge during their first two years. The third and fourth years are for advanced research courses and their chosen research project, usually with the approval of academic advisers. Students are encouraged to choose an original subject, dive deeper into a controversial topic, or expand on existing knowledge. 

The typical topics covered in Ph.D. in English language programs include: 

The typical curriculum for Ph.D. in English literature programs covers topics on: 

What are the teaching assistantships and research requirements? 

Teaching assistants are usually required to assist professors in their classroom duties and conduct classes for at least one undergraduate class. The duration depends on the program, but one to two semesters is a typical requirement. 

Research is at the core of Ph.D. programs, and it’s true for Ph.D. in English Language and Literature programs. Students must submit an approved dissertation, which requires numerous revisions until final approval, as part of their studies. 

What are the crucial abilities for success in the Doctor of English Language and Literature program? 

Remember that Ph.D. programs are advanced studies on specific subjects and, thus, spoon-feeding in any way is discouraged, if not absent. Students must develop their understanding of the assigned reading materials, develop their own key texts, and express them professionally. Group discussions, workshops, and seminars allow students to test their ideas, share their knowledge, and engage in productive debates. 

The crucial abilities that students must possess even before getting into a Ph.D. program include: 

What are the typical admission requirements? 

Programs have varying admission requirements, particularly in the minimum GPA and GRE scores, but the common ones are: 

Fluency in two foreign languages aside from English is also a typical requirement. Students who don’t possess said ability will likely be given until their second year to acquire it. 

What are the career opportunities after graduation? 

The wide variety of career opportunities holders of a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature degree can pursue is the best reason to pursue it! These well-paid occupations also bring personal and professional satisfaction, social and cultural influence, and satisfactory career advancement. 

Truly, it’s a versatile terminal degree that will pay for itself, so to speak, in financial and non-financial ways! While it has its costs and challenges, as is the case for every Ph.D. degree, its rewards are well worth it.

How long will a Doctor of English Language and Literature degree program take to complete?

The length of a Doctor of English Language and Literature degree program depends on the university and courses chosen. Typically, most universities require students to complete approximately 60 semester units to earn a doctoral degree. This process usually takes four to six years to complete, depending on whether students are enrolled full-time or part-time.

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