Community engagement: Activities

Community Engagement


Increasingly, English and Creative Writing lecturers are thinking up new ways of establishing relationships between their and their students’ academic expertise and the literary and writing interests of the ‘real world.’ Much of this work involves students working in the community as part of a degree module, and a significant amount has been funded by Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs), such as C4C (Collaborating for Creativity) at York St. John, CETH (Centre for Employability through the Humanities) at the University of Central Lancashire and CILASS (Centre for Inquiry-Based Learning in the Arts and Social Sciences) at Sheffield. Here are some examples:

  • Work with communitybook groups. There is a national database of book groups and a burgeoning secondary literature: see, for example, Jenny Hartley’s The Reading Groups Book. For another angle on the book-club phenomenon, see John Mullan’s Guardian Book Club pages. Book and reading groups come in all shapes and sizes: one particularly distinctive model has been developed by the Get into Reading project at the University of Liverpool.
  • Full BA or MA degrees integrating community engagement with the study of English. Pioneering examples include the part-time BA in English Literature and Community Engagement at the University of Bristol.
  • Collaboration with health professionals, inside and/or outside HE institutions, to alert students to the growing therapeutic importance of literature and creative writing–perhaps via a module on the topic, or through voluntary work in health institutions. A key example is Reading in Practice, a project based at the University of Liverpool.
  • The creation by students of artefacts (such as websites and/or creative work) related to the lives of people in thelocal community, often in association with non-academic partner organisations. Examples include the University of Sheffield’s Storying Sheffield project, the Writing for Social Purpose project at the University of Brighton and the Creative Writing Project Module at Brunel University.
  • Collaboration with arts organisations such as theatre companies.
  • Work-based modules in which students bring their academic expertise to bear on ‘real life’ settings. For more on this, see our employability pages.
  • Modules in which students teach in schools: see, for example, Ros King’s description of a Shakespeare module at Queen Mary, University of London, ‘Shakespeare in the Classroom’.
  • Modules in which students produce materials for school-children, such as the Dramatising Slavery project at the University of Central Lancashire.

Meanwhile, in many departments more conventional (and often very longstanding) extra-mural and community work continues, increasingly now perhaps geared to the recruitment of new students. More detail about the schools-related activities listed below can be found in the Subject Centre seed guide on working with schools.

  • One-off workshops and study daysfor school students, often on A level topics and/or designed to give a taste of HE-level work.
  • Taster days in which school students attend sample lectures and seminars.
  • Links between school and university students: for example, ‘buddy’/mentoring schemes, in which students keep in regular contact with pupils.
  • One-off events for teachers, to develop their subject knowledge on specific areas of the curriculum.
  • Summer schools and other courses for adults on academic topics.
  • Participation in local poetry or literature festivals
  • In some HEIs, the taught MA attracts a high proportion of non-conventional and returning students. See our Postgraduate Studies web area for more on this.