The Student Experience

Report on the Experience of Studying English

Report on the Experience of Studying English

In the spring of 2009 the Subject Centre commissioned a series of focus groups of undergraduate English students. The purpose was NOT to gather information about individual courses but to enrich both the Subject Centre’s and the discipline community’s understanding of how students experience English programmes. A report of the study, ‘The Experience of Studying English in UK Higher Education’ by John Hodgson, has now been published.


What is it like to be a student of English today? The changes undergone by HE in recent decades mean that the lecturer’s experience of being a student is likely to be far removed from that of the people s/he is teaching. Today’s student has had a different educational experience in secondary school and comes to university with a different set of skills, attitudes and expectations compared to those of previous generations. A contemporary student is likely to be adept in using technology, obliged to undertake paid work, conscious of social pressures from parents and friends in ways that their teachers weren’t as students. And the learning environment has changed radically. Today’s students can be exposed to a diverse range of learning methods and resources- creativity, performance, simulations, visits, digital libraries – that were not available when their teachers were students.

Read our collection of award winning student essays 
The Subject Centre ran an essay-writing competition for students every year for 6 years. You can read a selection of winning essays from across the years of the competition.

We hope that the resources on these pages will be useful to lecturers attempting to re-acquaint themselves with how young people perceive what they are being taught, and how they experience the methods and context of teaching. If lecturers have a better understanding of the student experience then they are better equipped to design curricula and teaching methods that will engage their students.

This area of the website contains resources that reflect the student experience of English in UK HE. It takes a student perspective and focuses on how the curriculum, assessment, seminars, lectures and academic services are experienced by learners. ‘The Student Voice’ contains essays about the experience of studying English and video footage of real learning situations.

You can also read about how student societies can enrich the overall experience. (The English Subject Centre provided small amounts of funding to help students establish literary societies and so create opportunities to widen their activities and networks.) If you are interested in the student experience of particular aspects of learning or from particular groups of student, then have a look in the ‘Aspects’ area.