This document is for reference only. Every effort was made to ensure that information was correct at time of print, but discrepancies may still occur due to the nature of this document. Any changes will be communicated to you via your registered email address as soon as the School of Arts is made aware of any issues.
Welcome to the postgraduate community in the School of Arts here at Birkbeck. We have one of the most vibrant and creative intellectual environments for postgraduate study anywhere in the UK, and we are ambitious in the ways we work actively to develop and support it. We hope you will quickly feel at home, and that you will enjoy your time at Birkbeck. Our aim is to give you the opportunity to develop to your full potential as scholars, critics, writers, researchers and communicators, and to become active members of our intellectual community.
College: The History
When Birkbeck College was established in 1823, its principal mission was to provide education and training to working adults who earlier in life had lacked educational opportunity. A College of the University of London since 1920, Birkbeck is committed to the concept of lifelong education, and especially within the world of work. Birkbeck and the other member colleges of the University of London have many research interests in common and share the same standards and degrees structures, but in one important respect Birkbeck is unique. Our mission is “to provide courses of study to meet the changing educational, cultural and training needs of adults who are engaged in earning their livelihood, and others who are able to benefit” (Birkbeck College Charter).
Birkbeck College has built up special expertise in providing a stimulating, positive learning environment for adult, mature students (by which we mean students who are over 21). We have also richly expanded provision for full-time postgraduate students. We award undergraduate degrees in a full range of disciplines and have an unusually high proportion of students following taught Masters and MPhil/PhD courses. There are currently over a hundred students on the MPhil/PhD programme in the Department of English and Humanities alone, and a larger cohort in the School of Arts as a whole.
You will probably find postgraduate literary and humanities research very different from the kind of study that you have been used to up to now. Inevitably, a large amount of your time will be spent working on your own. You will need to get used to taking responsibility for your research, initiating and following up ideas yourself, evaluating your progress, projecting and sticking to targets and schedules of writing. This intellectual autonomy is one of the most exciting and rewarding features of postgraduate research in the humanities. However, you may also feel uncertain and isolated at times.
At Birkbeck, we want to try to mitigate this isolation in a number of ways. First of all, we aim to specify as clearly as possible the nature of the relationship between you and your supervisor, the nature of your responsibilities and the Department’s reciprocal responsibilities to you. In part, this is the purpose of this document.
We also believe that it is no less important to develop and sustain your sense of belonging to an intellectual community here at Birkbeck and in the Department of English and Humanities in particular. This sense of belonging is important because it makes your life as a postgraduate more stimulating and enjoyable and also because it will help to deepen and diversify your own work. Indeed, we regard it as part of your intellectual responsibility as a postgraduate student to discuss your own research and that of others, and to contribute to the intellectual life of the Department and University. We are always interested to hear of ways of encouraging and innovating in that exchange, across a wide range of areas, including practice-related research.
To co-ordinate the Graduate Programmes and to help ensure that your time at Birkbeck is a happy and successful one, the School has an Assistant Dean for Research and each Department has a Postgraduate Director of Graduate Studies and as appropriate, a Deputy Director.
The Assistant Dean has overall oversight of the School of Arts Research programme and each Director oversees the admission process and chairs the various committees (e.g. Upgrading, Scholarships, Graduate Teaching) that deal with postgraduate affairs. The Dean and Directors work with colleagues and students to develop the creative and intellectual potential of the postgraduate research culture.
Each director will also organise the Graduate Lecture Series and the Research Skills, Theory Seminars and teaching programmes, and help students with applications to funding bodies.
Office Hours: Monday-Friday 10am-6pm.
The Administrator deals with the day-to-day administration of your degree. He is your first point of contact for any concerns you have. Please do not hesitate to contact him.