The Student Experience: The Student Voice – Student societies

Student experience

Group of teenagers with teacher cheering in library

Group of teenagers with teacher cheering in library

Encouraging Student Societies

For many of us, studying English at university was a life-changing experience–not just because of what went on in seminar rooms and lecture theatres, but also (and, in some cases, more importantly) as a result of reading books that weren’t on the syllabus, talking about literature with our peers and taking part in extra-curricular cultural activities.
To what extent can this still be the case for today’s students? Financial and time pressures can make it very difficult for them to explore and develop their enthusiasm for reading outside the demands of their courses. Increasingly, too, students choose to attend universities close to their home and, as a result, spend less time than previous generations on campus with their peers. Meanwhile, undergraduates admitted under ‘Widening Participation’ programmes can find the transition from school to university particularly problematic, sometimes feeling completely alienated from the world of higher education. As a result of all these factors, students today are perhaps less likely than ever before to engage in cultural and social activities relevant to the subject of English. The effects can be serious, with the concomitant lack of social cohesion among undergraduates leading to higher rates of student drop-out.

English Subject Centre Funding

In response to this situation, the English Subject Centre offered small one-off, ‘seedcorn’ payments to help departments encourage literary/cultural activities not directly supporting course modules, often involving collaboration with local arts organisations. Now that the Subject Centre has ceased its work, this funding stream is unfortunately no longer available. Descriptions of some of the societies funded can be found below.

  • Poetry and Film for Students
    An English Subject Centre Student Literary Societies grant helped Caroline Hawkridge to set up ‘Words on Film’, a festival showcasing cutting-edge film poetry, at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).
    Report date: April 2009
  • Literary Field Trips
    Vicky Backhouse (St. Martin’s College) used English Subject Centre funding to arrange field trips to locations including Chatsworth house.
    Report date: October 2007
  • Student PEN
    With help from English Subject Centre funding, Susie Christensen set up a student PEN group at King’s College London to support PEN’s international work on literature and human rights.
    Report date: October 2010.