English Literature undergraduate open day talk 2019


I’m Dr Eleanor Dobson, I’m a lecturer
here in 19th Century literature in the English department at the University of Birmingham.
I’m here today in my capacity as Admissions tutor. Please feel free to call me Ellie – all
my students call me Ellie. I will be over, with my fellow Admissions tutor in English,
Dr Jimmy Packham, all day. So please do come over to the Arts building, ask us any questions
that you might have. Or you can catch me at the end of this talk as well. I hope you have a really enjoyable day here
at Birmingham, I hope you get a chance to walk around the campus, see what it would
actually be like to spend a lot of your time here, and talk to our current staff and students
as well. For the purposes of this talk though, I’m
going to take you very briefly through what our single Honours and joint Honours programmes
look like, and talk to you a little bit more about the department in general, and what
are experience is like for our students here too. So, thankfully, it’s a really nice day to
see the university. It might get a little bit warm later. Hopefully you’ve already
seen our green park, which is I suppose, the newest of our development on campus. And something
we’re really excited about, as staff and students here. Our green park is over 12 acres
of environmentally friendly parkland. We’ve got a grass auditorium for performances, an
outdoor cinema, space for art installations, and we’re hoping that the central space
of parkland, right at the heart of our campus, is going to be beneficial to staff and students
who can go out, enjoy the space, revise on the grass, and generally kind of soak up a
general sense of well being, that I think sometimes in cities, you don’t get sense
of this green ness. This kind of connection with nature – get outside, soak up some
Vitamin D and generally just feel good. So we’re excited about the potential for this
space, in particular. But you might have also noticed other developments on campus. So we
are this traditional red brick, Russell group institution, but we’re constantly updating
things for the 21st Century. So you may get a chance to see our new library later today,
it’s just one of several building developments to make sure that our students have the cutting
edge in terms of facilities. I will get this stuff out of the way quickly,
I promise I won’t linger on league tables, because I know it’s not the be all and end
all of your decision, and it shouldn’t be the be all and end all. But as a department
we’re very, very proud of our place, especially currently in the Guardian league tables, we’re
5th in terms of rankings for English literature and also creative writing programmes, as well
built into that. Birmingham has maintained this position from last year, we’re doing
consistently well in the league tables. We think that this reflects some of the strengths
of us as a department, but also how happy our students are, which is of course really
important to us. So for instance, if you go on Uni Stats, which is totally impartial,
and I recommend you take a look at it, for Birmingham and your other institutions you’re
thinking about, you can see for instance that our students are really satisfied with their
time here. They’re interested in the subject matter, they think staff are good at explaining
things, they feel intellectually stimulated by our courses, which of course is something
that we really want as educators, but we’re happy that our students have a general sense
of feeling good while they’re with us too. They get a nice sense of community, they feel
part of the department, they feel looked after. And after they leave us, they also do very
well post university. So 95% of our students in employment or further studies 6 months
after graduation. So our students, we’re hoping, we prepare them very well for the
world outside of university. And we hope that the statistics reflect that. Very recently the university was awarded gold
in the Teaching Excellence framework. Now I know institutions like Birmingham – those
are the kind of big Russell group institutions, are very well known globally and nationally
for their research output, and I think sometimes people think of these figures, institutions,
as quite impersonal, and caring more about their research than they do about their teaching.
But for us at Birmingham, we’re pleased that this result kind of gestures to how much
we value our teaching, and we think that research and teaching goes hand in hand. And you’ll
see hopefully when I come on to talking about final year, and if you’ve got any of our
promotional materials, and you see those lists of 40 to 50 specialist final year subjects,
that we really do bring our individual areas of research into our teaching, into our seminar
rooms and lectures at Birmingham. So the 2 go hand in hand. By the time you’re in our
final year, you’ll be taught by, and supervised by, in this case your dissertation, specialist,
world leading specialists in that particular field. So I will come onto our programmes now. Of
course we have our big flagship BA English programme. But supplementing that we have
a number of other single Honours programmes, and also joint Honours programmes, in subjects
that we think complement the study of English literature. So for instance, there are single
Honours programmes in BA English and Film, BA English in Creative Writing, so do go to
those other talks today, if you can. And joint Honours English in those subjects, that I
mentioned, work well alongside English in our opinion. Things like Art History, History,
Modern Foreign Languages, Philosophy, that kind of thing. I’ll talk a little bit more
about joint Honours and the benefits of joint Honours as I go on. New, for the next academic session, is our
BA English with Shakespeare. So if you’re very, very passionate about Shakespeare, having
done some already, and you want to specifically pursue this, our BA English with Shakespeare
programme gives you opportunity to do components in Shakespeare all the way through your degree
programme, culminating in a dissertation on Shakespeare supervised by one of our experts
based possibly at the Shakespeare institute at Stratford upon Avon. Which is one of, I
think, the real benefits of studying English at Birmingham. So, we redesigned all of these programmes
back in 2015, and the reason for this overhaul I think, was really to give our students more
flexibility in terms of what they can do when they are with us. So, for instance, our students
on BA English can be taught by academics from across the School of English, Drama and American
and Canadian studies, which is about to change to and Creative studies. So we have academics
from Creative writing, Drama, English language, Film, coming in and teaching our BA English
students. It’s very, very easy to personalise your degree here at Birmingham. It’s very
easy to choose what you want all the way through the programme and come up with something very
unique to you. So that’s the purpose for our redesign really. I’ll talk a little about joint Honours.
Of course if you want to pursue a joint Honours programme, you get the kind of added benefit
I suppose of the expertise in the other departments. The reason why we only do joint Honours programmes
in those specific subjects and not things like, for instance, English and Mathematics,
is because we want the 2 parts of the degree to somehow speak to the other. Or, so that
when you do both, one half enriches your study of the other half, I suppose. I think for
example, if you’re a final year student with us, you could end up doing, if you pursued
an English and History programme, a final year module in First World War history, and
then on the English literature side of your programme, you can choose a module for instance,
in First World War poetry. So there are ways for these joint Honours students to choose
really complementary modules, that really speak across those kind of traditional perceived
divides, between disciplines. And also built into our joint Honours programmes,
you can actually have a little bit of flexibility too. So you don’t need to divide at 50/50
all the way through. We have a 50/50 divide in first year, just so that you can do those
foundation modules in each subject, and really kind of get up to scratch with the basics.
And then in second year and third year, if it turns out you favour one side of your degree,
whether you enjoy it more, or you’re getting better marks in it, and you want to kind of
emphasise that half of your programme, you can actually do 2/3 in one, and 1/3 in the
other. There’s a major, minor system. So it is very easy to kind of also as a joint
Honour student get that little bit of flexibility in there too. We think that our students are so happy here
at Birmingham for several reasons. Of course we do have this breadth of expertise in our
department. We’re quite a large English department in terms of the number of staff,
and we’re also quite a young department. We have lots of new appointments that have
just been made, to really fill in the gaps that might have been lacking, and you might
lack in a smaller department. So we have experts who work right from old English, all the way
through to the present day. So you do get that, I suppose, comprehensive expertise here
at Birmingham. As I’ve mentioned already, you also get
that flexibility, in terms of your structure. You can really sink your teeth into exactly
what you want. And also I think we have a lot of support in place, to really help our
students make that transition from college or school to university. It wasn’t so long
ago I myself did this, and I remember it. It’s a big emotional kind of challenge,
I suppose. You’re challenged intellectually, because you make that jump from school or
college study to university, but also sometimes it means leaving home for the first time,
it means making new friends. And that does come with pressures, and we recognise this.
So there’s a lot of support in place to make sure that our students are supported,
with the academic side of things, but also we have systems to make sure that if they’re
having any problems, if they’re upset, if they need help, if they fall sick at university,
that we can provide that support for them too. I’ll talk a bit more about that later. So, I’ll talk about first year for a while
now. All of our students who come into our first year, whether they’re single Honours,
joint Honours, regardless of programme, do these 2 core modules in poetry and prose.
And these modules are designed to expose our students to as wide a breadth of types of
literature as we can. Basically to get everyone on the same page. It’s also about different
ways about thinking about literature. So we do a little bit of thinking about History
genre, that kind of thing, on these modules. Our students also do some new modules coming
in for next year, which are called – What is English, Reading English, and English in
the world, which really emphasise hopefully the relevance of English as a discipline in
the modern world. The relevance of English in the community and kind of our heritage,
our cultural heritage. And these are a series of modules which students can kind of develop
on in second and third year if they’re thinking about specific careers in those Arts, Heritage
sectors as well. Please do come ask questions at the stand if you have a particular interest
in those. Our single Honours students also do modules
and plays and performance and either Language for Literature or Critical theory. And these
modules further, I think, create a sense of breadth across the programme for our single
Honours students, but also in Language for Literature or Critical theory, they get different
toolkits in interrogating literature. So in Language for Literature, that’s all about
stylistics. It’s what makes literary language different from other kinds of language. And
in Critical theory, you get to grips with some of the big theoretical movements that
have been formed to the university discipline over the course of the past century or so,
things like feminist thought, Marxist thought, [11:19] eco criticism and thinking about animals
and the natural world specifically. So that’s the kind of thing you do on Critical theory. I thought I would linger on one example, just
momentarily, one of these modules that all of our students take, regardless of programme.
And this is Prose. So Prose has a few more texts on it than this, but this is just a
snap shot of the kinds of reading you might expect to be doing in your first year. We
start with Robinson Crusoe and we work right through across quite a diverse span of authors,
through to James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. And there are a couple of others dotted
around in there, but hopefully you get a sense of just looking from those dates, looking
from those authors, looking at those works, of essentially what the first year is trying
to do to get you to think about different kinds of texts, different authors and their
different backgrounds, heritages and kind of authorial experience. Our single Honours students also get to opt
between creative practice modules, or literature practice modules. And I’ll come onto them
on the next slide. But for now, creative practice modules are these modules – I suppose in
other complementary subjects that can be subsumed into this BA English, which give our students
the opportunity to do a bit of creative writing. To do a little bit of film work actually in
the film studios here. To get on stage and do some drama. So the more practical side
of things as opposed to theoretical. We know that a lot of students and a lot of employers
want their recent graduates to come out with this big impressive BA English certificate,
but we also know that students don’t just want to study literature. They want a little
bit of experience, possibly in these creative industries if that’s something they’re
thinking about after university especially. Something good to talk about in job interviews,
something to make you feel a little bit more confident that you have personal anecdotes
that you can draw upon, and say well I’ve actually been in the film studios while I
was at uni. So almost a kind of like up, if you want to go into these things – creative
writing, useful for careers like journalism, if you want to do publishing, editing, that
kind of thing. So, a little bit of experience that you can have in your first year. And
if you enjoy it, chart it all the way through, and continue it in second and final year as
well. Our literature practice modules on the other
hand, are very much the kind of traditional English literature degree – this is what
I would have picked I think as an under graduate. These are ways about expanding even further
the breadth of reach of what you’re doing in your first year. So if you want you can
take some Medieval literature, American, do some more Shakespeare – I’ll talk more
about that in a second. European literature and translation or digital cultures. So, for
instance, a lot of our students might have read some American literature before, but
they haven’t necessarily thought about what it means to study American literature as part
of its own develop literary cannon. Also for instance, what it means to read European literature,
but not in the original words that the authors wrote, but in translation. So, how does that
remove work, and how do we negotiate reading like that? Discovering Shakespeare is a new discovering
module, which is coming in for next year. And this, I suppose, is drawing on our expertise
at Birmingham, we have the Shakespeare institution down in Stratford upon Avon, where are a lot
of our specialists are based. And we get those academics up here to campus, but we also get
our students down there to Stratford. And this module I suppose, it is trying to encourage
students to think about Shakespeare more broadly than they might have done in school or college
studies. So a lot of our students have done a little bit of Shakespeare before they come
to us. And if they’re really keen, it’s useful I think to think about Shakespeare
more broadly, not just Shakespeare as he was performed in his own time, Shakespeare on
the page, Shakespeare’s language, but to think about Shakespeare in the community.
Think about Shakespeare’s continued relevance. And this I think is another module that actually
really speaks to people who possibly want to go into theatrical career, or possibly
not the theatre itself, but kind of behind the scenes stuff, like theatre management
and that kind of thing. So, the first year is characterised by this
broad coverage spanning I suppose, a little bit of medieval material, definitely more
if you want to do discovering medieval through to some very modern stuff. We have an old
English specialist in the department. We also have people working on virtual reality, kind
of new technology and how narratives are told like that. We also have an academic who consistently
runs a module on last year’s novels, of the most up to date stuff possible. So there
really is this huge span of stuff you can get to grips with in our department. We think we give our students a really excellent
training actually in the first year, that they can build upon in the second and final
years of their programme. And as I’ve mentioned before, we do have this support in place to
help our students make this transition. So, one example is all of our students when they
arrive at university are assigned a personal tutor. That personal tutor is a member of
academic staff. And that personal tutor ideally stays with that student all the way through
that student’s time at university. We check in at least 3 times a year, to see how they’re
doing, and it’s usually the personal tutor who writes the student’s reference at the
end. So the student knows there is always a member of academic staff that they can talk
to, if they’re worried about an assignment or about grades, or they want advice on what
kind of work experience to try and get. There’s always somebody who they know as their contact
in the department. We also have an academic writing advisory
service. So if students want feedback on their draft of their essay, they can go and get
those looked over. We also have welfare tutors, so if a student falls ill, or something happens
in life which is stressful, we know that – you know, university isn’t the be all and all,
sometimes stressful things happen and it means you can’t submit your assignments, or you
can’t come to class. Our welfare tutors are there to make sure that our students get
the support they need if they fall ill or they can’t submit their assignments for
whatever reason. So we do have these support systems very much in place. For our first
years, but also for everyone as they kind of continue through the programme. The teaching methods are probably the kinds
of things you might expect from a university like Birmingham, so the bread and butter I
suppose of the lectures and seminars in lecture theatres like this. And seminars, where in
first year groups sizes go up to about 18 max, by the time you get to third year they
can be as low as 6. And all of this is kind of supplemented I suppose, by the technologies
that allow us to do, hopefully, more interesting exciting and innovative things. We have Canvass,
which is our virtual online learning environment. Canvass means we can post stuff in advance,
we can post reading for our students, we can link to TV, radio, podcasts, that kind of
thing. But it also means that we have all of our lectures recorded and kind of stode
away there. So if our students miss a lecture for any reason, they don’t need to get notes
off friends, they can actually watch the lecture as it happened, subsequent to the event. So
I think it kind of takes the pressure off students if they’re worried that a period
of illness or whatever, is going to interfered with their studies – they definitely know
they can catch up with their lectures. Assessment are similarly traditional I suppose,
with the bread and butter side of things – we have mostly course work essays in this department
with a few exams scattered around. We’re currently changing how our exams work. So,
we currently thinking about ways in which we might take the pressure off exams, because
we know they’re highly pressurised situations. And also not really very indicative of the
kind of things that our students need to do when they leave university and they enter
the world of work. So, we don’t necessarily want to be testing our students’ ability
to memorise things and regurgitate them in the exam room. So instead of those unseen
formal examinations, we’re bringing in new ways of kind of updating these to be more
relevant in the real world. Things like seeing examination papers, so our students will see
the exam paper, have a couple of days to prepare for that specific exam, and those specific
questions, and then go away and write the examination. And we also have take home exams,
which means that the student gets the examination paper, and they can go and work on that piece
of work in the comfort of their own home and submit online. So we’re hoping it takes
a little bit of the pressure off as well, and it’s also more reflective of the real
world in which we live essentially. As our students go through our modules, there
are lots of opportunities to develop various skills. Not just kind of preparing essays,
coursework essays and examination essays, but things like presentations, designing posters,
writing blog posts, writing for different audiences, because writing academically is
one thing, but there’s writing for a kind of popular audience, which is also important.
So our students get lots more opportunities to do that kind of thing, to get feedback
to hone their ideas and of course there is that support from a personal tutor, the academic
writing advisory service, and others who can look at drafts, comment on drafts. Our students
are very welcome to pop into our offices when we’re not teaching or in meetings. Our doors
are usually ajar. They can come in and have a cup of tea and just pitch an essay idea
and say, is this going to work or is this crazy, and we can have a chat about it and
develop it together like that. So, I’ll talk a little about the second
year now. The second year has a certain kind of block system, in terms of its modules.
So our students do Histories and literature modules in the second year, and they also
do Themes and literature modules. If, as I mentioned previously, one of those creative
pathways in the first year becomes a bit of a passion, that can also be pursued in the
second year as well. So any of those creative subjects. Most of our students also do some
Shakespeare in the second year, although it’s not compulsory, so I’ll talk to that in
a second as well. So Histories of literature and Themes and
literature are the main blocks that the modules fall under. The Histories modules – and
these are just a few examples, certainly not the full breadth of the modules on offer – are
designed to give students an insight into a particular moment in literary history, to
really narrow down on a decade or 2, in I suppose, previous literary culture, and to
really specialise in that, to really get to grips with the literature of a certain period
of time. And these span right through from the medieval, to the contemporary. So students
get to pick and choose what kinds of things they want to do for these modules. For the Theme modules, again, there’s lots
of breadth and students can take various options. I thought I would talk specifically about
Gothic, because that’s one I teach on, and one I’m familiar with. The point of these
themed modules, is essentially to do the opposite of the Histories – it’s to give students
an understanding of how one particular theme or genre of literature has developed over
time, over a much broader expanse of time. So in Gothic, for instance, we start with
the Gothic romances of Anne Radcliffe, and we work all the way through, 200 plus years,
of literature history with a broad span of text that I suppose key stones in this development
of the Gothic genre through to the Keep, which at the moment, is our kind of contemporary
example on the Gothic, where spooky things are happening with mobile phones and satellites
and that kind of thing. So we work right through and see how the genre has developed and changed
over time. Most of our second year students do a Shakespeare
model at the moment. That is split into Elizabethan Shakespeare, in one semester, and Jacobean
Shakespeare in the next. So it’s split across the whole academic year. And our students
are generally very happy on this module. As I mentioned before, we have that expertise
of the Shakespeare institute down in Stratford, and we also have a kind of collaboration with
the RSC, so we really build on this connection that we have with our partners, to essentially
get the best experience for our students when studying Shakespeare with us. If students
don’t want to study Shakespeare in second year, there are other modules you can take,
which are more kind of outreach facing, thinking about English in society, particularly in
schools and education, and another module which is about thinking about the kind of
skills you learn on an English literature degree, and how that can be useful to employers.
So we get local employers, arts institutions in from across the West Midlands, who come
to our students with a problem, and our students basically act as consultants, and actually
work alongside that institution. So those are the kinds of optional modules in the second
year. But, our Shakespeare module is supported by
something quite exciting, which is our collaboration with the RSC. I should mention that this was
originally planned for 5 years from 2015 to 2020, but we do have a long standing relationship
with the RSC which goes back much further than this. And we’re currently discussing
the possibilities of extending it. So it really does look likely that this is a kind of relationship
which will benefit our students certainly, in years to come. And our students have already
benefitted from this. They’ve already been down in the Other place theatre, working with
RSC directors and actors, using the space, doing some actual drama, going behind the
scenes and doing stuff like lighting. So we’re really, really keen for our students to make
the most of this while they’re here with us. I’ll move on to the final year now. The
final year is, as I mentioned previously, this year where our students get to do research
led specialist subjects by the leading expert from that particular field. And there are
between 40 and 50 of these special subjects offered every year. So a massive span, really
drawing on each individual members of staffs’ interests. Our single Honours students can
take up to 4 of those. Our join Honours students can take between 1 and 3 of those, depending
on the weighting that they’re kind of pursuing in their broader programme. And the final year is also where our students
usually write a dissertation with us. This is a 12,000 word piece of work. It sounds
immense, and it is an under taking. But we do make sure that our students each have an
academic advisor in their field who can read drafts, generally be available to kind of
field questions in person or by email, and support that students in creating hopefully,
the kind of jewel in the crown of their time of study here at Birmingham. Usually our students
do incredibly well on the dissertation module. For our joint Honours students, you can do
extended essays – so 6,000 word essays in each of your subjects. You can also do a link
dissertation, combining your subjects. And I think you can also opt to do a dissertation
in whichever subject you might favour at the end as well. So there’s lots of options
available to you too. I just wanted to show a few examples of some
of these specialist modules, so you can get an idea of the expanse of these. These range
from modules on a single text – we do a whole module on Paradise Lost currently, for
example. Not a text you can really do in one week. So you take a whole semester to really
get to grips with something quite complicated. There are also modules on individual writers,
writers like Oscar Wilde – there’s been an Oscar Wilde module which was just run very
successfully, so you can read across most things, or a selection if they’re very prolific,
of what an author has written over the course of their career. There are modules on theoretical
conceptual ideas, of themes and literature – there’s a module on New York city, for
example, which discusses New York as it’s been represented in literature. So lots of
different kinds of things. There are no caps on these modules, so if the students choose
the module by the deadline that we set, they will not be turned away. There’s never a
module that is full. So if 80 students want to take one final year module, we make the
teaching provision available so that they can do it. So first come, not first served,
essentially. And that is the final year. It’s specialised
by all of the choice. And I thought before moving on from the final year, I’d just
give one specific example of a final year module, which I found really exciting when
my colleague told me about it. My colleague Dr Rebecca Mitchell has designed recently
and run this module on the Pre-Raphaelite circle, and what this module was encouraging
students to do, was to go down into the archives at the university to look at these rare books,
to look specifically for women, poets and illustrators who are working very much in
this Pre-Raphaelite tradition, but not within the kind of Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. And
actually to try to reclaim some of these under studied and under appreciated women. And this
module culminated instead of an essay at the end of the module, which is how most of these
modules are assessed, with an exhibition. And the students collectively put together
an exhibition – it was held at Winterborne House and gardens, the Edwardian house just
down the road. So the assignment for these students was to curate the exhibition, to
choose the pieces, to lay out the pieces, and the writing component was to do those
little museum labels that explain the importance of the piece and a little bit about it. So,
there are some third year modules that don’t follow that quite traditional approach, so
if you’re interested in curation, in heritage, in our work, possibly for future careers,
you can definitely kind of get to grips with modules that actually encourage you to get
a bit of experience doing those things already. I get asked a lot about contact hours, what
our students do, how they fill their time. So I thought I would just give an example
of a timetable on the next slide of what a timetable might look like. But also, talk
through in a bit of detail now, how the lectures and seminars work, in terms of how much time
a student is spending on each module. So usually 3 modules per semester, is what
each student is doing. And for each of those modules, you can expect between 1 or 2 hours
of lectures for each. So certainly in the first year, our students are looking at more
like 6 hours a week in terms of lectures. By the time you get to the third year, and
you’re doing a dissertation, you’re much more of an independent researcher. You need
that little bit less of material kind of being given to you by lecturers to kind of kick
start your own ideas. Seminars fairly consistently across the programme are about 6 hours a week,
2 hours per module. And then alongside that, we have independent reading – we call it
independent reading lab sometimes, because it’s the equivalent basically of what our
science students are doing – repeating experiments in labs and generating data that they can
use, number crunching. So, obviously there’s a lot of reading on an English course, and
we have to build in the time for our students to actually read the primary material. And
then we have time built in also for guided research. So these are things like seminar
preparation, if a seminar tutor says I want you to go away and do this for next time – that’s
the guided research. Bits of reading that seminar tutors recommend, maybe preparing
for a presentation, working on a poster, doing a group activity, that kind of thing. And Wednesday afternoons are always kept free
for sport, other kinds of enrichment like other student societies, and possibly even
part time work. A lot of our students get a part time job, so there is time built into
the actual timetable that each student has, where that can take place. And of course, these formal timetable contact
hours can be supplemented depending on your individual week and how you’re feeling and
what kind of help you need. With other kinds of activities too – so we have our writing
advisory service, all academics have academic support hours where our students can knock
on our door, come in, have a chat about – maybe something they didn’t understand in the
lecture, or something they really enjoyed about the lecture and they really want to
chat about more. We have various research trips and archive visits, various visiting
speakers, exhibitions, that kind of thing, careers event for our students – so there’s
lots more to supplement that individual timetable too. And as promised, here is an example of what
a timetable might look like. So you can see the lectures and the seminars in there in
blue and purple. And then the rest of the time that we imagine our students, or hope
that our students are reading, preparing for their seminars, preparing for their lectures,
writing their assignments, that kind of thing. So we’re hoping it’s quite a full week
actually, and with those other opportunities too, our students might actually be quite
busy. Personally, I understand having been a teenager
myself, that not everyone wants to get up 9am every day, and crack on with their reading.
So, we encourage our students when they’re thinking about what timetable they might kind
of put together for themselves, around their lectures and seminars, if you’re a night
owl and you want to do your reading late at night and your essay writing late at night,
that’s totally fine and we understand that’s how a lot of people work. But it’s just
an example, and we show this to our students just to get them thinking about how to structure
their time best. We also have lots of study abroad opportunities
for our students. So I think there are special study abroad information desks today, so if
you’re really interested in that, do please seek those out. It’s something we encourage
our students to do. You can either take a semester abroad in the second year, which
means that you’re still doing your 3 year programme if that’s the programme you signed
up for. But if our students want to extend their programme and do a year abroad somewhere
else, that falls between their second year and their final year. So it becomes a 4 year
programme. And we have partner institutions all over the world that our students can study
at. We also have institutions that aren’t actually too far away from home. One of my
own students did a year in Dublin, which she thought was excellent, because it kind of
gave her that opportunity to spread her wings a little bit, but not have that culture shock.
She was somewhere that felt quite familiar, but also separate, and she came back very
confident and self assured. So it’s something we really encourage our students to think
about, in case they might be interested in it. So here at Birmingham we think you’ll be
joining a very vibrant research community – there’s lots going on for our students
to kind of sink their teeth into, get involved in. So for instance, there are loads of students
societies, we have an English department society that puts on events for our students – kind
of tea and cake meet and great, that kind of thing. And various other theatrical events,
and visiting speakers. We have lots of visiting lecturers to the department but also the university
more widely, if you’re into very famous people. So there’s always lots going on
– we have posters all around the department advertising these things, and students get
emails so they know exactly what’s going on in any particular week. We also have under graduate research scholarships.
So if anyone’s already thinking about maybe a Masters degree or possibly a PhD or a career
in academia one day, there are ways in which our students can get that actual research
working on a project with an academic over the summer. It’s paid work, so you get that
kind of close working relationship where you’re seeing how an academic is working through
their own project and you can kind of directly help into that and feed into that yourself. I put together a slide which just shows a
couple of the things that have happened quite recently in our department so you get a sense
of the variety of events that are on offer. We have visiting speakers of course, we have
reading groups who talk through contemporary issues. We have de-stressing events for our
students when exams are on, which can be dance workshops, fitness events and they can be
something a bit more chilled out, which is – I certainly wouldn’t be dancing around
my exams, I don’t think! We have careers focused events, so we get old alumni back
in to talk about what career they’ve gone into and what our current students might think
about doing. But we also have some nice kind of community focused events. So for instance,
we have just had our results day afternoon tea, for our current final years, who are
about to graduate in a few weeks time. So we put on some cake and prosecco and grapes,
and tea, and just generally hang out in the sunshine on the lawns and congratulate our
students. We also do – and this is my favourite thing we do – when our students have a big
essay deadline, we do pizza nights, so we can all de-stress together. The students gorge
on pizza, we as staff gorge on pizza, in preparation for the enormous mountain of marking that’s
coming up, but it creates a really nice sense of community between staff and students here. I’ve touched on careers a little bit, and
I’ll just kind of run through very briefly what kinds of careers our students go into.
So, this can be things that maybe spring to mind very immediately when you think about
an English literature degree – things like journalism, publishing, broadcasting. They
can be a little bit more out there. So a lot of our students go on and do a conversion,
a law conversion and go on and become very successful lawyers. Others do accountancy
conversions – that kind of thing. And I’ve heard from a mum who I was talking to yesterday,
who was a barrister, that actually in her firm, they don’t look for graduates who
did a law degree originally, they look for graduates who did a law conversion. Apparently
they’re much better. So it is a very successful route into those kinds of careers. Of course
there’s all of the cultural heritage stuff – museums, libraries, theatres, that kind
of thing, charities, social work – but it is much broader than that. I was talking to
a couple of my old students recently, one of them is managing every Sainsbury’s store
across the West and East Midlands, one of them has just joined the police. So, the world
is your oyster, essentially. The skills that you get on this degree are valued by employers
all over the world, for various careers. And we do have a dedicated career service as well
to talk our students through what opportunities are available to them. So, your next steps today. Please do come
talk to us in the Arts building – we’ll be there all day until 4 o’clock. We have
various bits of paper, so if there’s something I mentioned that you didn’t have time to
write down, or you want to follow up on, please do come over and get some of that from us.
We have current staff and students over there, so if you want to get a student’s eye view
of what studying here in Birmingham is like, please do come over and ask. Of course there
are various tours you can take, of campus, of university accommodation and the new library.
And also do try and get along to our taster lecture, which is being given by Dr Will Tattersdill.
It’s on Frankenstein, so I hear, and it’s said to be very fun. That’s at 2.15 in the
Elgar concert hall in the Bramall building. Of course hopefully after today we hope you
want to make an application to Birmingham and if we give you an offer, we’ll invite
you back. So if there’s anything you can’t squeeze in today, like tours, taster lectures,
that kind of thing, we’ll invite you back in early 2020. You can see what another taster
lecture might be like, you can have a taster seminar, so you can get a sense of what that
small group teaching actually feels like before you arrive at university. And that is all I wanted to mention today.
My name, as I said, is Ellie Dobson, please do come over and talk to me and Jimmy Packham
over in the Arts Building, and you can get in touch with us online as well. So it’s
been an absolute delight to talk to you, I hope you have a great day and I hope to see
some of you later.

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