Ever since its inception in 1962, the year the Punjabi University was instituted, the Department of English has been among the premier Departments in the faculty of languages. In the early years the Department functioned from the Baradari Gardens and then from Government Mohindra College, Patiala. In 1967 it moved to the newly built campus. The first Head of the Department was Dr. Amrik Singh, an eminent educationist and erudite teacher of English Literature. He remained in the chair from 1962 to 1965. He was succeeded by Dr. Darshan Singh Maini an internationally renowned Henry James scholar, brilliant teacher, academician and critic who held the reins of the Department for the longest span, from 1965 to 1979. The other scholars of eminence who headed the Department in the following years included Dr. Gurdit Singh, Dr. B. R. Rao, Dr. G. S. Rahi and Dr. Sant Singh Bal, Dr. Gurbhagat Singh, Prof. M. L. Sharma, Dr. Gurkirpal Singh Sekhon and Dr. Ranjit Kaur Kapur. All of them have been teachers and scholars of extraordinary ability and integrity.
Many other distinguished teachers who joined the Department since its inception and superannuated at different stages after ably contributing to its academic life include Professors Gurbux Singh, Som P. Ranchan, B. M. Razdan, S. D. S. Chibber, R. S. Verma, Joginder Kaushal and Teja Singh Tiwana.
At present, Dr. Gulshan Rai Kataria, an eminent Tennessee Williams scholar and Fulbrighter, is heading the Department. He has published extensively in the field of Modern Drama and has active interest in Twentieth-century Literature as well as Elizabethan drama. The other members of the Department include Dr. Ranjit Kaur Kapur and Dr. Manjit Inder Singh, both Professors, Dr. Rupinder Kaur, Reader, Dr. Rabinder Powar, Senior Lecturer, Dr. Rajesh Kumar Sharma, Ms. Archna Sahni and Ms. Jaspreet Mander all Lecturers.
The Department currently offers Post-Graduate Course on a regular basis under the semester system. The M.A. Part I curriculum begins with Chaucer and covers the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from the different perspectives of history, genre and authors. The M.A. Part II curriculum begins with the twentieth century literature and includes, among other areas, literary criticism, World Literature in English, Contemporary Drama and the latest critical theories. Besides these compulsory papers, the Department offers the following options to M.A. I and II students: English Phonetics and Phonology, Indian Writing in English, Modern British Fiction, American Literature, Post-Colonial Writing, and Language and Linguistics.
The Department serviced the M. Phil Course in English from 1976 onwards for many years. Under the supervision and guidance of the teachers of the Department, about a hundred M. Phil dissertations were submitted by the candidates in various areas of literary studies. The Department proposes to restart the M. Phil. Course in 2004. The Ph. D. programme was launched in the seventies. More than thirty candidates have since been awarded the Ph.D. degree.
In order to promote research and the dissemination of its fruits, the Department has also organised several National and International Seminars and Conferences.
Nine students from Ethiopia, who came to the Department on Government Scholarships, completed their Masters Degree programme in 2000. All of them are working in various media in and outside Ethiopia. In the light of the high standard of this Department, as it has been duly projected outside, they were recommended and sponsored by their government for advanced training in this Department. Baruk Opio, a student from Kenya also did his Masters degree from this Department.