Established in 1948, the Department of English is one of the oldest Departments in the Faculty of Arts and, indeed, the university. Initially, English was taught as a subject in the General Degree Programme of the University of London with which the University College, Ibadan (UCI) had a special relationship. It was one of the most heavily subscribed subjects and the majority of the B.A.(General) Arts graduates of this University had to pass through the corridors of this Department. The Honours degree programme in English was introduced in 1952. Ever since its inception the programme has produced some of the most outstanding men of letters in the country today.
When the University College attained autonomous status in 1962, new degree options were introduced. This new development made it possible to combine English with other approved arts subjects in what was then the Combined Honours School, or to study English as a major/minor teaching subject in a new Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) programme in the Faculty of Education.
In the past, the course structure of the old UCI comprised a two-year Intermediate degree course (the equivalent of the one-year preliminary course) followed by a three-year General Degree or a Four-year Special Honours Degree programme. There were only two major examinations after the Intermediate examination, one at the end of the first year after the intermediate and the second at the end of the third year or the fourth year of registration for the final B.A. General degree or the B.A. Honours degree. Each examination was conducted on a "fail one fail all" basis as there was no provision before 1960 for 'resit' or 'carry over' registration.
The same system persisted until the introduction of the course system in the early 1970s. The present system is a combination of the course system and the old course structure whereby a student specialises in a particular subject or combines English with another related subject for the purpose of the award of a B.A. (Honours) or B.A. (Combined Honours) degree.
One important achievement of the English Department and, perhaps, its most significant contribution to the growth of the University as a whole has been its role in nurturing units that were later to develop into full-grown disciplinary programmes. This was possible largely because of the quality of training and staff development and recruitment patterns that have guided manpower development and projections in the Department since its inception in 1948.
From the sub-department of Phonetics was to emerge the now equally famous and virile Department of Linguistics and African Languages. Following a similar binary split, the drama component of the literature programme was excised and nurtured into a separate school of Drama which subsequently metamorphosed into the present Department of Theatre Arts. Similarly, from the modest one-room unit of the then Language Centre (which staff of the department helped to nurture) there emerged in the seventies the Department of Language Arts which was recently renamed the Department of Communication and Language Arts. Surprisingly, these successive excisions did not at any stage jeopardise the integrity of the parent department. Rather, the Department of English has continued to grow in both size and student population, and has maintained its leadership position in literary studies on the African continent.