This year, admissions in arts and science colleges showed that English Literature is back in the reckoning.

After a slump, the last couple of years have shown a marked improvement with more number of students opting for a degree programme. And, it has also lost the tag of being the last choice for those with lesser marks.

Last year and this year, even many students with high marks in the range of 185 and above out of 200 were denied seats because of the stiff competition.

Students who had applied belonged to a range of disciplines such as science, commerce and humanities. English faculty say that this rise in interest in the language is not only due to the increase in job opportunities but also the variety of opportunities.

The conventional openings in teaching / journalism has given way to wider areas to include jobs in hospitality industry, information technology, Business Process Outsourcing, technical writing, Web writing, and last but not the least, a preferred course for writing the preliminary examination of the civil services.

Sankari (name changed), who did science in school opted to study English in college because of her “love for the language”.

Though she was clear about her future in English, her school ensured that she chose only the first group in Plus-One because of the 94 per cent she scored in Standard X. But she never gave up her interest and hence, applied for the English Literature degree course. She aspires to clear the civil services examination by receiving coaching for it as she studies for a degree. Alternatively, she will take up higher education in English and go for teaching.

Though there are not many like her who take up English for the love of it, there are many with high percentages who have opted for the course, contradicting the assumption that it was a choice for poor scorers. However, this is not an indication that all of them are good in English.

S. Anuradha, Head, Research Department of English, Nirmala College for Women, says corporates / industry have been disappointed with the lack of communication skills of graduates for a while and hence, have turned to English graduates. The State Government has also issued a notification through the Tamil Nadu State Council for Higher Education (TANSCHE) to offer Part II English for undergraduate course students for four semesters instead of the existing two.

“Though teaching in schools and colleges still continue to be the first choice, graduates are being preferred much by the IT and BPO sectors and also HR and front office operations. Corporates also take them for specialised positions because their strength in the English language helps them grasp the technical and domain knowledge easily while on the job,” she says.

Senior English faculty and retired faculty of English say that in earlier days B.A. English was favoured by those who did not secure a seat in Economics or History.

T.K. Ganapathy, who taught English from the 1950s to 1990s, says that the first choice for B.A. English graduates in those days was to write the TNPSC examination or some bank examination.

“There might be a difference in the job opportunities now, but there is not much difference in the quality of students taking up the degree course. It needs good teaching and a lot of reading on the part of the students to develop English skills. Attraction towards the mass / electronic media is also another reason for this generation to gravitate towards English,” he adds.