The Department of English is one of the earliest departments of the University of Lagos founded in 1962. Initially, it serviced the general degree programmes of the University. However, with the establishment of the Faculty of Arts in 1964, temporarily at the Federal Advanced Teacher’s College, Akoka, under the Deanship of Prof J.P. Haughton, it became a full degree awarding department that also serviced the Faculty of Education in the B.A. Educ. (English) programme. The initial emphasis was on English Literature with the pioneering efforts of T.A. Dunn, Wole Soyinka (now a Nobel Laureate), and J.P. Clark (Nigerian National Order of Merit awardee). But with the recruitment of young linguists like Abiodun Adetugbo (Fullbright Fellow), the language arm of the programme developed rapidly.
Over the years, the undergraduate programme has undergone structural and course-content realignments. For example, up until the 1981/82 session, admission was by direct entry only and the course duration was three academic sessions. With the debut of JAMB and UTME, the 4-year programme and the unit course system replaced the old system in which examinations were written only at the end of each session. Moreover, periodic and general reviews of courses have continued to take place in response to the changing times. Currently the Department has submitted a proposal to award the Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in English in two different core areas of Language and Literature. A third option in Communication Arts is also expected to take off as the proposal in underway, waiting for the approval of the University. It is expected that students will now be able to earn a degree in English with emphasis in either Language, Communication Arts or Literature beginning from 2017/2018 session. The Department’s courses were initially predominantly in English Literature but over the years, they have not only been expanded to accommodate African, American, Afro-American, Feminist, Gender, and world literatures, but also media-related courses, research methodology, public speaking, and book publishing. The Department has evolved a comprehensive language studies course that has the same weighting, runs side by side and in conjunction with the literary one.
The Department, since its inception, has through the instrumentality of the B.A. (English) programme, produced numerous outstanding men/women of letters. Some of its graduates have held and still do hold senior lectureship, professorial, headship, Deanship and Vice-chancellorship positions in various universities. The high quality of training, staff recruitment patterns and manpower development strategies has resulted in the graduating of high competence personnel that have rendered and continue to render invaluable services in private and public establishments. Many past students and members of staff have won national awards in the Arts and are members/fellows of the prestigious societies like the Nigerian Academy of Letters; many are listed in national and international Who’s Who publications.
The Department’s postgraduate programme which began in 1972 produced its first Master’s graduate in 1975. The restructuring of the graduate programme has resulted in the creating of the present two-tier Master’s degree regime – a course-work-enabled Master of Arts and a research-driven Master of Philosophy with project and dissertation requirements respectively; the Doctor of Philosophy degree requirements were also given added depth. This fully developed re-configuration now operates within the University’s School of Postgraduate Studies and reflects the Department’s two distinctive but interrelated disciplines of Language and Literature. The Department annually admits between eighty and one hundred students to the course-work-enabled Master of Arts programme and has, over the years, graduated numerous students. Students undertaking the research-driven programme (M.Phil and PhD) offer courses in advanced research methods, foreign language(s), and present seminars before the registration of title and approval of supervisors at the university’s Postgraduate School. This process culminates in the submission and subsequent defense of dissertations or theses. The Ph.D. holders produced by the Department are ready assets for the federal, state and private universities as well as the private and public sectors.
Many members of the Department have contributed and continue to contribute, through high quality papers to the quality and sustenance of two reputable, peer-reviewed journals domiciled in the Faculty, i.e. Lagos Notes and Records and Black Orpheus. In 1978, the Department inaugurated and has continued to produce the authoritative Lagos Review of English Studies: A Journal of Language and Literary Studies.