The Department of English is as old as the University of Dhaka: it opened when the University started functioning on July 1, 1921. C. L. Wren, a distinguished scholar who later became Professor of English at Oxford was appointed the first Head of the Department.
The Department of English contributed immensely to the spread of education in the then East Bengal. It has also played its part in the education of women of this country. Lila Nag, a student of the Department, was the first woman graduate of Dhaka University, and her admission to the Department of English was an epoch-making event in the history of women's emancipation in our country.
The teachers and students of the Department played an active part in the Language Movement of 1952 and the War of Liberation in 1971. Two teachers - Dr. Jyotirmoy Guhathakurata and Mr. Rashidul Hasan and a number of students were martyred in the War of Liberation in 1971.
Since 1998 the Department has been offering courses for a four-year B.A. Honours degree in English. At the M.A. level the students can choose either Applied Linguistics and ELT or English Literature.
The Department also offers M. Phil and Ph.D. degrees. The M. Phil programme requires two years, including one year of course work and another year of research work. A minimum qualification is required for admission to the M. Phil programme. A satisfactory academic performance is needed for admission to the doctoral programme. In the past years, doctoral candidates successfully completed dissertations on the works of William Shakespeare, S. T. Coleridge, William Golding, Emily Dickinson, Arthur Miller, Jean Rhys, in Modern Bengali Poetry, and in other areas of Linguistics and Literature. Most of the teachers have specialized from reputed foreign universities and their interests include areas of British, American, Caribbean and Post Colonial literature. Spectrum (Journal of the Department of English) is an annual peer-reviewed journal of scholarly articles, book reviews, translations, interviews and creative pieces. Spectrum invites contributions by teachers, alumni and current students of the Department of English.
The department has two seminar libraries. One named after two martyred teachers, Dr. Jyotirmoy Guhathakurta and Mr. Rashidul Hasan, which is the Literature library. The other is named after Dr. Abi Md. Nizamul Huq, which is the Language library and contains books on English language and linguistics.
Students have to pay a membership fee for access to the seminar facilities. Both the libraries have been automated recently.
There is a financial aid programme for meritorious as well as needy students. A number of trusts and awards have been instituted by different donors. Besides, there are also a limited number of stipends available from Alumni donations.
Recently, an English Department Language Club (EDLC) has been formed to encourage public speaking, spoken English and English debate among the students. The English Department Drama Society (EDDS) has staged plays by Shakespeare, Ibsen, O'Neill, Eliot and Shaw. The department has had students from Korea, Nepal, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Libya, Palestine and Somalia