Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic

The Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic course (known as ASNC) explores the history, languages and literatures of the peoples of the British Isles and Scandinavia, mainly in the early medieval period. Few other universities offer a course quite like this. Here at Cambridge you can read the original manuscripts handwritten by the Anglo-Saxons and their Irish and Welsh neighbours. What better way to immerse yourself?

Why Study ASNC at Christ's?

Christ’s is widely known for the study of languages and History and our ASNC students enjoy working within that broader tradition and community.

In fact, Christ’s own library collection began with a gift of medieval books from educationalist, scholar and philanthropist Margaret Beaufort. And Walter William Skeat – first-ever holder of the Elrington and Bosworth Professorship of Anglo-Saxon from 1878 – was a Fellow of Christ's, so the collection of ASNC-related books in the library is long-established.

If you have an interest in early languages and/or an enthusiasm for history, this flexible course should appeal. Depending on your interests, you can focus on Celtic and Germanic aspects, vary the balance between literature and history, or opt for an interesting mix.

Studying such a diverse degree sharpens your analytical powers, teaches you to construct an effective argument and refines your appreciation of literature. Former Christ’s students have gone on to work in areas including the clergy, IT, politics, banking, teaching, law, advertising, the charity sector and technology start-ups.
 

Course content and structure

We teach all languages in ASNC (below) from scratch, so you don’t need any prior knowledge.

  • Old English
  • Old Norse
  • Medieval Welsh
  • Medieval Irish
  • Insular Latin

The ASNC course (or ‘tripos’) is a three or four-year degree. Please visit the University website for full details of the Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic course content and structure.
 

Teaching

ASNC teaching is a mix of classes and lectures arranged by the University. You also have weekly ‘supervisions’ which last an hour and are usually one-to-one or in pairs. These small-group tutorial sessions give you the advantage of personally-tailored tuition with an ASNC department lecturer or postgraduate student.

Christ’s ASNC Director of Studies is Professor Rosalind Love, a Fellow of Robinson College and a 2018 Pilkington Prize winner for excellence in teaching. You may also be supervised by Dr Mary Franklin-Brown.
 

Student Q&A film
  Watch the Christ's student Q&A film

What do our students think?

ASNC is a lively, popular department located in the English Faculty building. We’re not a large subject department so our students tend to be a close-knit bunch, organising weekly lunches, drinks and activities. The ASNC Society arranges speakers, excursions and an annual black-tie dinner, as well as publishing a must-read newsletter.

Alys studies ASNC here at Christ's College. She has written about her experiences in her student profile. If you would like to hear from other Christ's students, please watch the Christ's student Q&A film, visit our Student Profiles page, and look at the profiles by current and recent ASNC students on the ASNC Department website.

How to apply

Visit How to Apply for full details and a timeline of the application process. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds and school types, all over the world. If you're applying from outside the UK, please read our international students section.

News

University-wide statement: In order to minimise Covid-related risks to our applicants, students and staff in the coming undergraduate admissions round, we are making plans to interview applicants this year without requiring them to travel to Cambridge in December. We will release further details about alternative arrangements as soon as we can.

At Christ's we have a page for Coronavirus disruptions and applying this year - we recommend reading and then keeping an eye on it.

Students applying for Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic in October 2020 will not sit a pre-interview Admissions Assessment (this is a change from last year).


Subjects: what do you need?

Although there are no required subjects, taking History and English is helpful. If you plan to choose any language papers here, it’s a good idea to take a foreign language (such as French, German, Latin or another) at A-level, IB Higher or equivalent to test your linguistic ability.

Written work

After we receive your application, we ask you to send us two essays you feel accurately reflect your abilities and interests. These should be work written during the normal course of your studies and already marked by a teacher. We recommend you keep a copies for your own reference as we may discuss them at interview.

We publish full guidelines on written work in the Current Applicants section on 20 September each year.

Interviews

University-wide statement: In order to minimise Covid-related risks to our applicants, students and staff in the coming undergraduate admissions round, we are making plans to interview applicants this year without requiring them to travel to Cambridge in December. We will release further details about alternative arrangements as soon as we can. This does mean that there may be changes to the details of interviews in this section (which sets out what normally happens).

For candidates selected for interview in Cambridge, these take place in early December. You normally have two subject interviews: one includes discussion of your written work, the other is based on text/s you'll have a chance to study on the day of the interview.

Most ASNC subjects are not normally taught at school, so we don’t expect you to have specific knowledge of ASNC topics. We want to see that you have a lively general interest in medieval matters, and show intellectual curiosity and flexibility of mind. We’re looking for an aptitude and enthusiasm for what you'll do on the course, such as learning new languages, studying literature and analysing historical documents.

For an idea of what to expect, please read the information and watch the short films on Cambridge admissions interviews. We also hold interviews in various locations overseas for international students.

There is no Admissions Assessment taken at interview for Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Christ's College.

Offers

At Christ's we don’t have fixed quotas for places, so the number of students we admit in any year depends on the strengths of the applicants. The average intake of ASNC freshers across the university is around 25 to 30, and here at Christ’s we tend to have one student in any year.

You need to be academically ambitious: our typical ASNC conditional offer is A*AA at A-level, or for IB students 42 points overall with 7,7,6 in Higher Level subjects, but the majority of Christ’s students arrive with higher grades. If you're taking another qualification, we expect you to be working at or close to the top of the mark range (thus Option Internationale du Baccalaureat candidates are asked to achieve at least 17/20 overall, with 17 or 18 in relevant subjects, and candidates taking the European Baccalaureate need at least 85% overall, with 9/10 in relevant subjects, for example). Read about offer levels in other exam systems and international entrance requirements.

If you will have finished school when you apply, read about post-qualification applications
 

Helpful resources

Is ASNC right for you? Questions to ask yourself
Reading suggestions Suggestions for if you would like to explore some of the topics that you can study in the degree. You may also find the Very Short Introduction books on The Anglo-Saxon Age and The Vikings helpful.
The Spoken Word A website enabling you to listen to early languages
The Viking Age Web resources for A level and other students interested in these topics.
Anglo-Saxons Online learning resources from the British Library
An Introduction to early Medieval England An English Heritage resource.
In Our Time Radio 4 podcasts on historical themes, events and individuals.
Beowulf Project Gutenberg online text of old epic poem. See also Information about Beowulf; In our Time episode on Beowulf
CamGuides Introducing the academic and information skills that you will need during your studies, as well as how and where you be working.

 

Come to an open day or online event

Online events: Our open days page advertises online opportunities as well as events you can attend in Cambridge.

Our ASNC Open Day each June offers a great informal opportunity to ask teaching staff and current students about the course and see some of our manuscripts and primary sources at first hand. You can also visit Christ's or come to a College Open Day to find out more about the College and your course in person.
 

Need more information?

For more detail of what the course involves, please read Undergraduate ASNC admissions on the University website and take a look round the ASNC Department website too.

If you can't make it to Christ's in person, please email your queries to our admissions team at admissions@christs.cam.ac.uk. We'll be happy to help.
 

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