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BA English Literature and Community Engagement

About your application
For entry in October 2013, there will be two deadlines for applications. The initial deadline will be Monday 26 November 2012. Interviews for those who apply by this date will be held in December 2012. Assuming there are still places available after this date, we expect to have a second deadline for applications of Monday 1 July 2013, with interviews to be held later that month.

These dates are designed to acknowledge that some applicants are also pursuing other options for further study, and may need to make decisions early in the academic cycle, while other mature students may prefer to complete a prior course of study in 2012/13, such as the English Department’s Reading English Literature course, before applying to the degree. You are advised to read the information in this pack carefully before completing your application. Please address any questions about the application process or the degree to Gareth Griffith on

Aims of the course:
The undergraduate degree in English Literature and Community Engagement is offered part-time over six years and is taught one evening per week plus occasional Saturdays. It aims to develop a student’s interest in, and knowledge and understanding of, a full range of literature in English. The programme reflects the English Department’s wider commitment to maintaining a balance between established traditions of literary study and the latest developments in the subject. A variety of approaches to literature will be introduced and students will have opportunities to develop skills in reading and in critical writing. The aim is that students should acquire relevant conceptual awareness, and a sense of the history, chronological development and contexts of literature and its various phases and modes, without passively accepting received ideas. A particular aim of this programme is that students should develop their ability to relate theoretical questions of readership to responses from readers outside the academy, in part through undertaking a project in the community, such as running a reading group.

3. Admission requirements
The course is open to all. The course is designed in a format that we hope makes it especially accessible for mature students (i.e. those over the age of 21) from the local area, who may have to balance studying with other commitments. Potential applicants should note that accommodation cannot be offered. Applications from those returning to education after a gap are encouraged and we admit students from a wide range of educational backgrounds who have some knowledge of, and plenty of enthusiasm for, the subject.
Applicants will be required to complete an application form and will normally be invited to attend an interview. Each application is judged on its own merits and we welcome applications from potential students who may have no prior qualifications, who are able to demonstrate their readiness to undertake the course through the personal statement and at interview; such applicants may be asked to complete a piece of written work as part of the application process. For those applicants completing a prior qualification, we would normally expect a good pass in a relevant Access course or in the University’s Reading English Literature (REL) short course or a grade ‘B’ or above in A-Level English Literature. However, any prior award might be supplemented by evidence of wider reading and interest in the subject and, again, each application will be judged on its own merits.

Where appropriate it may be possible to award students credits for prior learning or prior study, achieved either at the University of Bristol or at another higher education institution, at the point of admission. Students who have credits from earlier study that might be relevant may wish to discuss this issue with Tom Sperlinger (see contact details above) prior to submitting their application. Due to visa restrictions, we are unable to accept applications from international students for this part-time course.

4. Fees and Funding
What will the tuition fee be in 2013/14? We expect the fee for students starting the course in 2013/14 to be comparable to that for students who commenced the course in 2012/13. The tuition fee for this programme for students starting in 2012/13 is £2,550 per year of the course, or approximately £15,300 for the six-year programme as a whole (allowing for inflationary increases). This is the equivalent of £5,100 per full-time year. Please note that the same fee will be charged to all students, regardless of whether or not they already hold a prior qualification. (In the past, a higher fee was charged for students who already held an undergraduate degree.) However, students who already hold an equivalent/undergraduate qualification are not eligible for a tuition fee loan.

How does this compare to the fee for full-time programmes?
With effect from 2012/13 the University of Bristol is charging an annual tuition fee of £9,000 per full-time year (increasing annually in line with inflation) for all UK and EU students on full-time undergraduate programmes, or approximately £27,000 for a three-year programme as a whole (allowing for inflationary increases).

Is the University of Bristol offering any tuition fee waiver?
Yes. UK (home) students from lower income families will be eligible for a fee waiver (which reduces tuition fee liability) for each year of their programme, depending upon their household income level. The fee waivers available for part-time courses in 2013/14 have not yet been confirmed. But, based on the figures for 2012/13, we would expect the following waivers to be available:

 A student whose residual household income is £15,000 or below will have a reduced tuition fee liability of £1,750 per year of the programme.

 A student whose residual household income is between £15,001 and £20,000 will have a reduced tuition fee liability of £2,250 per year of the programme.
What is a residual household income?
Residual income is your household's gross income minus allowances. As a guide, the allowances in
2010/11 were:

 £1,130 for each financially dependent child other than the eligible student;
 Pension schemes and superannuation payments eligible for tax relief;
 £1,130 for parents who are also students.
The household income of parents (or partners) is taken into account as well as any taxable income the student has (excluding student earnings). Same sex partners' incomes are also taken into consideration. These are the allowances used by Student Finance England when calculating household income for full-time programmes. Arrangements for part-time study are still subject to confirmation, but you may find it useful to seek further information from Student Finance England on 0845 300 5090.

Please note: In 2013/14, loans for tuition will be available to eligible part-time degree students, except those who already hold an equivalent qualification. Eligible students will not have to pay up front for their tuition. The cost of tuition will be paid by a loan which students will only start to repay from four years after they commence the programme and only if they are earning over
£21,000. If/while you are earning less than this amount, you will not have to pay back anything. See more information on loans below.
Please note: The financial support arrangements provided by the University of Bristol for students following part-time programmes in 2013/14 are yet to be finalised. The information provided above is therefore provisional and there may be some changes to it for students beginning this degree programme in 2013/14.5

Student Loan repayments
When will I start repaying any loans I take out?
You will only start to repay your tuition loan if you are earning at least £21,000.
New part-time students start making repayments in the April four years after the start of their course, or the April after they leave the course, whichever comes first. So, for example, if you start this six-year degree course in September 2013 and have a job that pays £25,000, you will start repayments in April 2018.
What would happen if my income falls below £21,000?
If for any reason your income falls below £21,000 your repayments will be suspended.
Will I always be liable for any student loan debt?
All outstanding repayments will be written off after 30 years.
How do the loan repayments work?
The repayment process is simple as it will be deducted automatically from your pay packet through the tax system. Interest on your loan will be charged at inflation plus 3% while you are studying, and up until the April after you leave university. From the April after you leave university if you are earning below £21,000, interest will be applied at the rate of inflation. Graduates earning between £21,000 and £41,000 will be charged interest on a sliding scale up to a maximum of inflation plus 3%.
Repayments will be 9% of income above £21,000, so the amount repaid each month will depend on earnings. Someone earning £21,500, for example – currently the salary of a newly-qualified teacher
– would initially make repayments of £4 per month. The monthly repayment would increase to £23 for someone earning £24,000 per year; £30 on a salary of £25,000; £45 on £27,000; and £68 on
Students with disabilities
Extra financial help will be available to disabled students studying on a part-time basis through
Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs). These grants are paid in addition to the standard student finance package. They do not depend on income and do not have to be repaid. More information is available here: ance/DG_10035904
More information
There is more information on the financial support available to part-time students on this website: University funding
The University of Bristol remains committed to ensuring that anyone who has very high potential can benefit by studying at Bristol, regardless of their background or economic circumstances. The
University of Bristol is increasing its investment in its own hardship funds to provide an additional safety net for those UK undergraduate students who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in financial difficulty. In 2012/13, for example, the University of Bristol is providing an increased fund of £350,000 to assist students with the greatest financial need.6
Course structure
LEVEL C (Certificate level)
Year One
Ways of Reading 1: Forms and Approaches
(20 credits)
This unit will offer students a broad introduction to ways of reading literature, including close reading and a range of critical approaches. There will be opportunities to compare and contrast a variety of literary forms. Topics studied may include readers and reading (both in theory and in practice, looking forwards to future work in community engagement); the author, language, the tragic, the comic, and history; and the relationship between critical thinking and creativity. Poetry (20 credits)
This unit will encourage students to read and appreciate a wide range of poetry. It will introduce literary concepts such as genre, historical context, and critical theory. There will be a particular emphasis on poetic form and voice; through this approach, students will be encouraged to consider both particular authors and the development of certain forms across time. There will be an opportunity to study poetry in draft as well as in published forms, and through this to think about the process of composition. Author in Focus (10 credits)
This unit will provide an opportunity to discuss the works of one author in depth, paying attention to topics such as voice, style, ‘the author’, authorial presence and intention, imagination, the use or transformation of autobiographical material, and readership. The author to be discussed may, where practical, be chosen after consultation with students.
Introduction to Literature and Community
Engagement 1 (10 credits)
This unit is designed to introduce students to the uses of literature in community settings, and to engagement work with the public more widely.
Through seminars with experts in these fields
(both in Bristol and nationally), students will have an opportunity to gain insight into the developing regional and national agenda related to universities, learning, and community outreach, and to develop practical skills for running a reading group as part of their future studies. Year Two
Ways of Reading 2: Critical Thought and
Theory (20 credits)
Building on the work undertaken in ‘Ways of
Reading 1’, this unit will offer an introduction to a broad range of critical thinkers and theorists, and to creative writers thinking reflectively about their work. Students will be asked to consider the relevance of these materials to a range of primary texts and to the development of their own critical voice. There will be opportunities to compare and contrast a variety of approaches to literature, and to consider the relationship between critical or reflective thought and creative thinking.
Reading Shakespeare (20 credits)
This unit will introduce a number of works by
Shakespeare, drawn from across the range of his dramatic and non-dramatic writing. There will be a particular focus on reading his works as texts, including concepts such as language, form, and character. There will also be opportunities to consider Shakespeare’s critical reception by a range of writers from Romantics such as
Coleridge and Hazlitt to twenty-first century critics such as Greenblatt and Bloom.
Text in Focus (10 credits)
This unit will provide an opportunity to discuss a single text, or a series of closely related texts, in depth, paying attention to concepts such as literary form, genre and style, authorial presence and intention, imagination, and readership. The text to be examined may be chosen, where practical, after consultation with students.
Introduction to Literature and Community
Engagement 2 (10 credits)
This unit is designed to enable each student to establish a reading group in the community or at their place of work, either on their own or in collaboration with another student. Students will be assisted in finding a suitable placement and will then complete a series of directed tasks related to publicity, finding and/or producing appropriate resources, managing a reading group session, and liaising with staff and/or volunteers within a community setting. Students will also be offered training on managing difficult situations.
Potential exit award: Certificate in English Literature and Community Engagement7
LEVEL I (Intermediate Level)
Year Three
Literature in its Time 1: Shakespeare and the
Traditions of the English Stage (20 credits)
This unit will examine the development of sixteenth- and early seventeenth- century drama, just before and immediately after the birth of the public playhouse. A selection of plays will be read and discussed, alongside performance records and other documentation. There will be opportunities to consider issues such as performance circumstances, the practicalities of staging, and authorship and collaboration.
* Between Men and Women: Gender in
Literature (20 credits)
This unit will introduce a range of approaches for thinking about gender in literature. Students will have opportunities to read a variety of texts, in different forms, chosen from a range of historical periods. Topics covered may include the representation of women in literature; autobiographical writing; male and female readers; sexuality; androgyny; feminist literary criticism and the canon; the relationship between the sexes; and gender roles.
* Students may request to substitute a 20-credit optional Level I unit from the daytime BA English for this unit, as/where numbers allow.
Early English Love Poetry (10 credits)
This unit will offer an introduction to the tradition(s) of love poetry in early English literature, from Chaucer to the Renaissance. It will include study of a range of works, from anonymous medieval love lyrics to Elizabeth sonneteers and the so-called Metaphysicals.
Literature and Community Engagement in
Practice 1 (10 credits)
This unit aims to support students in continuing to run a reading group in a community setting, or at their work place. There will be an emphasis within the unit on (i) strategies for broadening the range of readers engaged with the group, and
(ii) utilising as broad a variety of literature as is practical in this setting. Where the group established in ‘Introduction to Literature and
Community Engagement 2’ was unsuccessful and/or where it has been discontinued for any reason, students may undertake to set up a new group as part of this unit.
Year Four
Literature in its Time 2: From Milton to
Johnson (20 credits)
This unit will introduce students to the wealth of literature in English in the period running approximately from 1660 to 1750. There will be opportunities to consider the rise of the novel and developments in poetry; students will also be encouraged to study parallel developments in society and in enlightenment thought, and changing methods of literary production and consumption. * Postcolonial Literature (20 credits)
This unit will introduce students to something of the range, depth, and continuing development of postcolonial writing in the past fifty years. There will be opportunities to read fiction, non-fiction prose and poetry, and to consider recent and current postcolonial theory and criticism.
* Students may request to substitute a 20-credit optional Level I unit from the daytime BA English for this unit, as/where numbers allow
The Short Story (10 credits)
This unit will introduce a range of short fiction, focusing especially on developments from the late Victorian period to the present day.
Examples will be drawn from writers in a range of countries, including America, Canada, Ireland and the UK. There will be opportunities to develop an understanding of the relationship between form and content, and to consider fiction in various modes, including realism, fantasy, fairy tales, ghost stories, love stories, detective fiction, and magic realism.
Literature and Community Engagement in
Practice 2 (10 credits)
This unit aims to support students in continuing to run a reading group in a community setting, or at their work place. Where the group established in earlier units was unsuccessful and/or where it has been discontinued for any reason, students may undertake to set up a new group as part of this unit. This is the final practice-based community engagement unit, so there will be a particular emphasis on finishing the project and on transferring the group to a student in another year or ensuring that it is able to continue independent of support.
Potential exit award: Diploma in English Literature and Community Engagement8
LEVEL H (Honours Level)
Year Five
Literature in its Time 3: Romantic and
Victorian Poetry (20 credits)
This unit will introduce students to the range and diversity of writing in the Romantic and Victorian periods, including both canonical and lesser known authors. There will be a particular emphasis on poetry, though prose writings will also be considered. Topics covered may include the difficulty of defining romanticism; female poets of the period; Poetry and Europe; Poetry and war; politics; parody; and the relationship between literature and other art forms.
Literature in its Time 4: Nineteenth-Century
Prose (20 credits)
This unit offers an opportunity to study prose from across the nineteenth-century. The focus will be mainly on the novel, from Jane Austen to
Thomas Hardy. Other relevant prose works will also be considered, especially those that influenced imaginative writers in this century – for example, Darwin’s The Origin of Species. The focus will be primarily on the English tradition, but there will normally be an opportunity to study at least one novel in translation.
Special Author Study (20 credits)
This unit aims to allow students to undertake a special author study, examining a range of writings by one writer under the supervision of an adviser. Students will produce an extended essay arising out of this work, of 4,000 to 5,500 words. Year Six
Literature in its Time 5: Twentieth-Century
Poetry and Prose (20 credits)
This unit will introduce poetry and prose written in the period from 1900 to 2000. Students will be encouraged to read a range of works; to compare and contrast the use of a variety of forms by different writers; and to place these writings in the context of literary, political, historical, scientific and other developments in this period.
American Literature (20 credits)
This unit aims to introduce students to a selection of poetry and prose that gives a flavour of the development and variety of American literature. Examples will be chosen from across the nineteenth- and twentieth centuries, and may include authors such as Herman Melville, Emily
Dickinson, William Carlos Williams, Allen
Ginsberg, Frank O'Hara, Sylvia Plath, Saul Bellow, and John Updike.
Plus one from:
 Dissertation (20 credits)
The dissertation is an essay of 6,500 to 8,000 words on a subject of a student’s choice that has been agreed by the Unit Director. Students choosing to write a dissertation will meet regularly with an adviser for discussion of preparatory reading and research, work in progress, and drafts, etc.
 Research Project on Literature and
Community Engagement (20 credits)
This unit allows students to write an essay of
6,500 to 8,000 words on a subject of their choice related to literature and community engagement, that has been agreed by the Unit Director.
Students choosing to write an essay of this kind will meet regularly with an adviser for discussion of preparatory reading and research, work in progress, and drafts, etc. Such a project will normally develop out of theoretical and practical issues explored in earlier literature/ community engagement units.
 Thinking Through Literature (20 credits)
This unit is designed to allow students to undertake independent research within a taught framework, and to produce either one extended, or two long, essays on an area or areas of particular interest. The unit will combine taught seminars with one-to-one meetings with an adviser. Award: BA English Literature and Community Engagement9
Teaching, learning and assessment
All of the tutors on the course are either lecturers or teachers at the University of Bristol. The course consists of seminars, workshops, oral presentations and individual consultations with tutors. The vast majority of contact hours will take place one evening a week from 6pm to 9pm
(normally there will be between twenty-five and thirty such seminars in each year of study). We expect the seminars for the course starting in 2013/14 to take place on Tuesday evenings and the first class of the year to be in either the last week of September or first week of October.
A variety of activities will take place during taught hours, including lectures, discussion, and small group work. There may in addition be occasional all day seminars on a Saturday. Students will have full access to, and borrowing rights at, the Arts and Social Sciences Library and access to a wide range of online resources.
Assessment methods will vary in different units, though there is a strong emphasis on essaywriting. For example, many units will be assessed through two essays. Assessment in other units may include seminar presentations, and in the community engagement units there will often be a diary or other reflective exercise. Satisfactory attendance is required on all units.
A variety of lecturers in the English Department teach on this programme. For a full listing of all staff, visit the University website at:
Why community engagement?
‘Reading has assumed many different forms among different social groups in different eras. Men and women have read in order to save their souls, to improve their manners, to repair their machinery, to seduce their sweethearts, to learn about current events, and simply to have fun.’
– Robert Darnton, book historian
Our community projects are designed to celebrate the diverse uses of reading in our lives and students set up projects in a wide range of venues, currently including libraries, pubs, community centres, a drug rehabilitation centre and a prison.
This course is founded on a belief that education has value not only to the individual, but also to society and to the wider community. Students reflect on what they are learning and utilize it in some form in a community setting, from the second to fourth year of the course.
Some students feel nervous to begin with about this aspect of the course. Each student has an opportunity to develop a project that fits with their other commitments and which is in a setting in which they feel comfortable. Often the project is in the form of a reading group, but students can do this work in other ways, if they don’t wish to run a group or if it evolves in a new form out of their interaction with the community. The groups may read literary works that are also studied on the degree or popular fiction, non-fiction, short stories or extracts that are read aloud.
We ensure that all students have appropriate levels of preparation and support in undertaking any project. Students are not expected to take on a wider role in the setting, such as a therapeutic or social care role, even where this is the focus of the work undertaken by the community partner.
The focus is on the uses of reading in a wide variety of places.
The range and diversity of projects our students undertake is something we celebrate and each project is also shaped by the needs, interests and participation of the community with whom the student engages.
A community engagement project
Helen Thornhill is about to complete the fourth year of the part-time
BA in English Literature and Community Engagement and is running a reading group with the Bristol Drugs Project.
After various bits of preparatory work, I started running a monthly book group at the Bristol Drugs Project at the end of the second year of the course. At the Project I am part of a community with two distinct sides to it. On the one hand there is a shifting, mercurial population of individuals who are travelling their painful journey out of addiction. On the other is a dedicated group of highly professional project workers who remain a constant, structured element in the lives of those whom they are helping.11
I never know who will come to the group, I never know how many people, I never quite know what we will do. If the word ’group’ conjures up any ideas of sameness and regularity, that does not describe those who come to read with me every month. Lots of people may come once and never come back or they come at irregular intervals. This is partly due to the fact that they move on when they have finished their six-weekly programmes and, of course, is partly a reflection of the chaos that they struggle with in their lives. Maybe some of them just find that the book group is not for them.
The uncertainty is balanced by many constant factors. There is always one of the Project workers with me, who gives me invaluable feed-back. I can use photocopying facilities to print off enough copies of whatever extracts I am working with. We always have the same room available to us with plenty of chairs. There are tea and coffee making facilities. I also bring a box of books which are given to me by the manager of a second-hand book-shop. They are not wanted in the shop and would otherwise be pulped. Most people take some books away with them. I have tried to have some kind of reasonably structured theme every month working with extracts. I’ve found I can be quite adventurous. I often try to take my cues from something that has been said or asked for in the group. For example someone said that they liked reading ‘books about real people’. One month I brought in some extracts from Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence to show how the background of an author’s real life could be transported into a story. The next month I made a list of autobiographies which I found in the library and photocopied some extracts from them which we read and discussed. One of the books was
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly which generated a lot of interest. It is a short book which I’ve learnt can be an important factor as sustained concentration can sometimes be a problem for those who are still in a disturbed place within themselves. A woman who returned the following month had been to the library to get it out. On other occasions I have asked people to bring a book or a poem with them to talk to us all about which has worked well.
Many people who come to the group are very well read. At the end of one of my sessions one participant started to talk about Ulysses by James Joyce. Everyone was curious so I promised that I would bring in an extract the following month. I did and we talked about it for an hour and a half.
I no longer know who runs who. The groups often direct the course of proceedings. The element of the unknown was something I found difficult in organising the reading but recently I have come to see it as something quite special, quite creative. It leads me down avenues that I would not otherwise have explored. On the whole those who come to read with me are full of originality.
They are used to working in groups and express themselves with honesty and very open minds.
Jeanette Murphy works at the Bristol Drugs Project and has been supporting the reading group.
Here she gives her perspective on it....
People who have spent years using street drugs are likely to have devoted most of their time and energy to earning the money for these substances, tracking them down, and using them. This means that they are likely to have neglected other aspects of their lives, hobbies, work, fun, relationships. It means that, to a large extent, their world has shrunk.
Reading about the different places, people and experiences that books describe opens the world up for us all, and maybe especially so for those in recovery. I have seen group members excited, moved and tantalised by the readings and discussions that Helen has led. Her contribution in starting a book group at BDP has been very welcome.12
About our students
One of the aims of the mode and content of this course is to broaden the range of students who are able to study for a degree in the English Department. We are proud of, and celebrate, the diverse range of students currently enrolled on the degree. Our students range in age from early
18 to over 70, with a wide range of ages in between represented. Statistical and anecdotal evidence gathered at admission shows that the course recruits students from an exceptionally wide range of social, educational and ethnic backgrounds. Most of our students work, full- or parttime; a few are retired; many have family or other commitments. Some students started the course soon after completing an A-Level or Access course, while others had been out of education for up to 40 years. This diversity is an important part of what makes any discussion on the course wide-ranging and widely informed – and we believe that it also helps make the course a shared adventure. You can read about some of our students in the stories below.
Sue’s story
Sue West is 71 and is about to start the fifth year of the degree. I think there’s an advantage in doing a degree as an older person. When I see all the young undergraduates, I wonder if they get as much satisfaction out of it as I do. Do they enjoy it or are they doing it because they have to?
I went to school in Bristol, which is where my family settled during the war. After school my parents decided to send me to commercial college. People like my parents, who left school at 14, thought working in an office was a step up. My parents both read and my father (like me) usually had 2 books on the go at once. They did the best for me, to the best of their knowledge.
I finished up with one O-level, in English language, and various qualifications in typing and shorthand. I worked in offices from when I was 16, always in secretarial work. I liked English at school and had two extremely good teachers. We read things like H.G. Wells, the First World War poets and Shakespeare, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Once I started working, I did an
English Literature O-Level – for my own interest – on day release. It never would have occurred to me to go to university – people from my sort of class just didn’t.
I’ve always read and have been through all sorts of things – Austen and the Brontës as a teenager, Dickens, and writers like Catherine Cookson. All that time, from when I left school until recently, I was always going to evening classes, in everything from pottery to basket-making. I first went to a book group when I was 60 and I was working part-time. I liked being with people who knew a lot more than I did about books and it made me read books I wouldn’t normally have read. 13
Three years ago I saw the Reading English Literature (REL) short course featured in the local paper. It was designed to help mature students return to study. I didn’t think for one moment I’d be accepted – but I thought I’d give it a go. I didn’t even think about going on to a degree, it didn’t occur to me that I could. I loved the REL course. It gave me an inkling of what going to university is all about, how to read things in a different way and how to write essays. It opens your eyes and ears and mind to what you can get out of a book.
I’m now in the fourth year of the part-time degree in English Literature and Community
Engagement. It’s been hard work but I thoroughly enjoy it. I’m retired and it’s given a purpose to my life – I can’t imagine not doing this. I don’t know what I’m going to do in two years, when it finishes! I can see now what it must be like for people to do a job they really enjoy all their life, because I put my all into this. If I’d had a job where I could put more thought into it, I might have got more satisfaction out of it. (The only thing I’ve not done as a student is to get some jeans and put some holes in them!)
As part of my course I’m running a reading group in the community and in the first year I interviewed people about their reading habits. The washing machine man came round one day, so
I interviewed him. He was a case in point – he’d never read anything, he’d left school to become an apprentice; he was in his fifties. His wife got fed up with him on holiday and told him to read a book. The first thing he read was Don Quixote! He realises now the enjoyment you can get out of it
– I don’t think he can imagine not reading, even though he’s only been doing it for two years.
Recently I was trying to encourage a friend to do the same course. I told her that I’ve never wanted to not be here, it’s never a chore. I remember when I was at school, if you failed the 11+, you were a failure forever. I told her that the courses I had done could open her eyes to what studying can do.
Damien’s story
Damien Moran is about to start the third year of the degree.
I went to school in rural Ireland and was taught by the Marist
Brothers. I left when I was 12 with no qualifications and was living in London by the time I was 15.
I didn’t become immersed in reading until I was 22. I spent a lot of time in and out of jail between the ages of 16 and 25 down to a heroin and alcohol addiction. While I was there I came across a magazine called rebel inc, which had modern writers like Irvine
Welsh and extracts from publications that had been banned in earlier periods, like Hunger and Lolita. I found about ten copies and it spoke to me, I could identify with the literature because it was quite rebellious.
I started reading a lot of Yeats, Burroughs, Faulkner and Hermann Hesse. There is a certain amount of shame when you’re outside of society. These books said that I was OK, that everyone has a good and bad side and their own struggles, that I was a part of society. 14
I got into reading initially out of boredom and escapism. Then I found myself reading stuff I wouldn’t have expected to enjoy, like Jeanette Winterson: I love her stuff. The novels I read often contained information that I would have previously known nothing about, this spurred me on to find out more about a variety of subjects. Initially I read people I could identify with, then I started to develop empathy for others, for different cultures and experiences, to ask: ’What’s it like for you?’ I particularly have a fondness for Latin American literature.
I worked for about 15 years on building sites and labouring, as a sort of jack of all trades. I did a
BTEC in dance movement and the therapeutic process. All of the students and tutors were women. I was interested in what life is like for other people. Through that I came into contact with people with learning difficulties and those with brain damage from accidents. I was moved deeply by this course. I’ve learnt that so much communication isn’t verbal, that there’s so much else going on. I now work in mental health services for an organization called Supported
Independence Ltd. I got the opportunity to do a N.V.Q 3 in health and social care while there.
I had always regretted that although I am well read I am not well educated. I’d always secretly wished I could be and looked to see what was out there, not really believing I could get in to university. When I saw the Reading English Literature course I thought I could do it. It wasn’t a huge commitment, and then I would know where I stand. I had doubts about whether I would fit in with the other students. Had I read the right stuff? Had I read enough? I was worried that the way I think and speak are two different things. How would I write an essay?
But the students on the course were fantastic, a wide variety of people with a common interest in literature. It wasn’t how I’d imagined school being, it was very open. We were encouraged to give our opinions. I felt I was giving as well as getting from the tutor. I liked being told what to read and being given the tools to allow a closer inquiry. Now I’m getting more out of what I read.
We went to see King Lear in Stratford as part of the course. That was a big deal for me. It was very moving and it opened up doors, to realize that this is mine as well as belonging to other people. I’d read the play 4 or 5 times before we went and had drafted my essay. But seeing it, the language just fell into place; the tragedy and darkness, the love and hope of it. I got 67% for my essay, which was fantastic for my confidence: I didn’t believe that mark, I had to re-read it.
I’ve read obsessively for the last 10 years but now it’s gone off the radar, I have 5 books on the go at a time. There’s a new excitement in my life, I’m moving into the complete unknown.
When I tell people what I’m up to, they’re amazed that Bristol University would have me, that it has these courses that allow so many people from different backgrounds to come into the
I’m now in the second year of the English Literature and Community Engagement degree. The community engagement aspect of the course relates to my experience: I’m working with the
IDEAL Project in Barton Hill. I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now if I hadn’t read. I believe I would not have found the desire to recover from drug addiction had I not read the literature I found. A lot of people are stuck – you don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t think there’s a world outside your little world. I have an interesting healthy life, which I enjoy, and a great partner. All of that, and how I relate to people, is down to reading. Without it, I would have been stuck in self. I read to escape out of myself, into the world.15
Remi’s story
Remi Tawoshe is about to start the third year of the degree. I was born in Kaduna in Nigeria. I came to the UK when I was 6 and grew up in the Stapleton Road area of Easton.
My parents put me in a private school, which was a big mission for them. My dad had two jobs, my mum had three. I was one of the only black kids in many of the schools that I went to. I got scholarships, but I just got into fights. I got expelled from a lot of schools. I have always enjoyed learning new things but when I was a teenager I lost the desire to sit down in a classroom. I didn’t finish school. I was taken to Nigeria when I was 15 by my parents because of my behaviour.
I have always loved reading. The Hardy Boys, Famous Five -- all of the classics. I loved comics. I think that was what infuriated my parents -- I loved all of the things that wouldn’t necessarily get you anywhere! For me it was always about escaping. The Chronicles of Narnia did it for me -- it was the ultimate escape. Having books around made me feel comfortable. Not that I had to read every book on the shelf. But if I lived in a house without books my brain would feel like jello.
Books always gave me that sense that there was a purpose somewhere in life.
When I returned from Nigeria, I qualified as a mechanic. I worked in catering for 12 years and I took on several residential social care jobs. I love a challenge. Being in Nigeria had made me much stronger -- not necessarily where I wanted to go in my life but just a sense of who I was. Drop me anywhere and I will survive.
‘Eclectic’ is probably the word I would use for my life. I’m a co-founder of DMAC-UK, a community organisation for artists in Stokes Croft. I write and perform poetry, I practice and teach dance, I am an actor and youth theatre director/facilitator, I’m a presenter on Ujima Radio and I do voluntary and paid work in the community. But I was not satisfied that I was using all my skills efficiently and achieving what I wanted.
I was quite determined not to do a degree! Everyone was so adamant that a degree would get me where I need to go and I had gotten this far without it. I debated whether I was too old. The person who showed me that it was possible, even achievable, was my partner’s father because he completed his PhD in his 60s. He was a seaman since he was sixteen. That inspired me because he felt, even though he’d achieved his career, he needed to keep learning, to better himself. That was the important thing – not doing it for everyone else, doing it for me.
The community engagement bit of the degree is going to tie into my work with young people.
There’s Stapleton Road and then there’s Bristol University, which is so separate that people wouldn’t expect me to be doing a course there. I think the University needs to come to Easton. I am a grassroots person and I don’t ever want to change that. But at the same time it needs a link that ties the two communities together. I feel like that link, especially for young people. If they’re 16 not in school they are not going to hear about university or college and they all have as much potential as I did back then.
The first year of the course was quite difficult because I had to re-adjust my brain cells and my whole life. At the same time, that’s one of the reasons I’m here. It’s the same as when people say,
‘That dance move is hard,’ I say, ‘Well, that’s OK, because that’s why you’re in a dance class.’
My partner works full-time. We have two children. I’m self-employed so I can move things around. The course is on one evening so once you’ve locked that down, the agenda can work around it. However it’s the studying after, managing the kids, cooking the food, going to work, coming back, late nights... that’s been a challenge. But because I’ve got the support from my partner and the children know what I’m doing and they’re so proud of it -- it really does work.
I’ve written essays now for two years. Wow! That isn’t something I thought I would do a couple of years ago. We read Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence in the first year. I understood Mr. Morel, the dad. The Morels did love each other and he was a happy fella. Things just didn’t work out and, as a man, I can understand when things don’t work out. He was down the mines every day, he worked so hard. The frustration of that has its emotional and physical toll. There’s so much realism in it.
He got murked a little bit too much. ‘Murked’ means he was hated on, he was not shown much love. People just slated him but I got where he was coming from as a human being. Good has a way of turning into evil and then into real horribleness in one swift cycle -- and it’s so quick, that it’s too late to bring it back.
When I finish this degree, I’ll have more options. I didn’t get any GCSEs. Employers don’t look at me the same way as they look at someone who’s got 6 GCSEs – even if they got Cs and Ds. I will have pride in what I’ve done and what I’ve achieved.
Simply put: I’m an Easton boy doing a course in Bristol University. It’s not something that I, or anyone, would have thought was possible with my background. But it’s achievable – if you have belief in yourself.17
Frequently Asked Questions
We have put the answers to some frequently asked questions below. If you have a question that is not covered here, then please get in touch.
 What happens after I apply?
We will send you an acknowledgement of your application form within 21 days of receiving it. If you do not receive an acknowledgement, then please contact us as this may mean it has not arrived. All application forms will be passed to the Course Director, Tom Sperlinger. Interviews for this course will be held in December 2012 (for those who apply by the November deadline) or
July 2013 (for those who apply by the July deadline).
 What will I be asked at interview?
One aim of the interview will be to give you a detailed picture of the course. So, the interview is partly an opportunity for you to ask questions. We will ask you about: your reasons for wanting to study on the degree, what you enjoy reading, how the course would fit in with your other commitments, and your aims and ambitions after you finish the degree.
 I don’t have A-Levels (or) I don’t have GCSE English (or) I didn’t do well at school… can I apply? Yes! You do not need to have previous qualifications to apply for the course, if you can demonstrate that you are motivated and enthusiastic, that you have read a range of literature, and that you are committed to the idea of studying at a higher level. If you do apply without prior qualifications, we may ask you to complete a short piece of written work as part of the application process. You will receive advice on this before you are asked to do it.
 How do you decide who gets a place on the course?
As well as looking at prior qualifications or at evidence of your interest in the subject, we will be looking for students who are motivated, enthusiastic and committed; who have strong reasons for wanting to study on this particular degree in a part-time mode; and who can demonstrate that they will be able to manage the demands of study at this level.
 How can I fit my studies around work and/or family?
The ELCE course is part of Bristol’s commitment to offering more flexible learning opportunities – it is designed for people who have to balance studying with work, family, or other parts of their life. The course is taught on approximately thirty evenings per year. By concentrating the contact hours within one night per week, we hope to make the degree accessible to those with other commitments. On top of this, you would normally be expected to complete approximately 10-12 hours of work in your own time each week.
 How does this degree relate to the BA English that runs during the day?
The BA ELCE is designed to draw on the strengths of the BA English at Bristol, which runs during the day, particular through a commitment to studying a wide variety of literature in English across many different periods. It aims to offer a similar programme within more flexible hours and in combination with a unique community engagement element. Both BAs in English are taught by the same staff and validated by the same exam board – that is, overseen by the same 18 examiners at Bristol and externals from other universities – so the same academic standards are applied on both programmes.
 Is there an option to switch to full-time study?
Students may request to switch to full-time study after completing the Certificate (at the end of year two) or Diploma (at the end of year four). This will, however, depend on circumstances and student numbers in any given year and it cannot be offered as a guaranteed option.
 Six years is a long time! What happens if I do not complete the degree?
Students who for any reason are unable to complete all six years can still complete one of two awards: a Certificate (after two years) or Diploma (after four) in English Literature and
Community Engagement. It may also be possible to transfer credits accumulated on this course to another institution.
 Does a university like Bristol really want to take mature students like me?
Yes! The University has a proud tradition of involvement in adult education and community engagement and we welcome the different perspective and knowledge mature students bring to their studies. In the English Department in 2011/12, for example, over 250 people studied on short and longer part-time courses. Statistical information gathered from these courses shows that we recruit students crossing all barriers of age, gender, ethnicity, disability, social class, and prior educational achievement.
 Isn’t it very expensive to go to university?
We realise that financing a degree, or any long-term programme of study, can seem daunting, particularly if you have other responsibilities. But there is help available, from the government and from the University (see information on Fees and Funding above). The new systems of loans that was introduced for part-time students from 2012/13 means that any student starting an undergraduate degree for the first time does not have to pay any of their fees up front.
 Are the community engagement units compulsory?
The community engagement units are a compulsory part of the course. However, they are also an especially flexible element of it, designed to fit with each student’s interests and other commitments. Some of our students undertake a project at work, for example, or at a community setting with which they already have some involvement. Some of our students feel nervous about undertaking this element of the course before it begins, but each student is able to develop a project that is appropriate for them.
 How will the community engagement work be organised?
The first year of study will offer some background information and training to prepare each student for the community engagement work. During the second year, we will help you to find a suitable project in the community. You may, for example, wish to run a reading group at work or in a community setting with which you are familiar (where agreement is reached with the employer or other relevant persons); or we will be offering a range of projects organized with
Bristol Libraries and a number of community groups; or you may wish to use what you are learning in other ways.
You can see some more, general information on being a mature student at Bristol online at: “I left school at 16...
It never would have occurred to me to go to university…
…I love the course…
It opens your mind to what you can get out of a book… It could open your eyes to what studying can do

… one of our students.

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