The Keele English student and employability

At Keele we have devised an engaging English programme which demonstrates the variety of our staff specialisms but also gives you the graduate capabilities you will need, helping you to prepare for life after undergraduate study.

The programme will equip you with excellent communication skills, the ability to think and analyse, to write and to reason. The study of literature involves careful consideration of ethical and social issues. Literary texts often question the norms of human behaviour as understood in the period and place that the work was produced. Students of literature learn to appreciate cultural change and cultural difference. Engaging with the moral and political questions posed by literary texts can help students to become thoughtful and tolerant, critical and active citizens.

English degree programmes are multi-vocational in that they provide students with the knowledge and skills to pursue either postgraduate study or a variety of careers. Career pathways can be discipline specific, skills specific or can derive from the graduate attributes developed through the study of English. English at Keele is no different in the opportunities it offers, but has the added advantage of being embedded in a dual honours system that permits crossover of interest between subjects, and/or the analysis of one area of study using the thinking styles drawn from another. This enables you to choose to study English at the depth that suits you, whether that is as a dual honours, single honours, or a Major degree programme.

This document is designed to provide clear guidance about which skills and attributes will be available to you via the English programme and help you to make best use of the opportunities open to you. Employers may want to know what skills you have gained, when, where and by what means. What follows will help you to recognise and highlight your skills and aptitudes to best effect.

Graduate capabilities in English

Full engagement with the undergraduate English programme at Keele will give you the chance to develop:

  1. An open and questioning approach to ideas, demonstrating curiosity, independence of thought and the ability to appreciate a range of literary texts and critical perspectives
  2. An appreciation of the development and value of the study of English, awareness of its context, links with other subject areas (both cognate, historical and social science disciplines, and tangential or complementary studies in science or medicine), plus an awareness of the provisional and dynamic nature of knowledge.
  3. Information literacy: the ability to locate, critically evaluate and synthesise large amounts of frequently - conflicting information, concepts and theories.
  4. The ability to address important questions about literary texts and their context, using a range of different approaches and techniques to determine appropriate ways to analyse and critically evaluate them.
  5. An appreciation of the social, environmental and global implications of your studies in English, including recognition of the ethical implications of reading a literary text .
  6. The ability to communicate clearly and effectively in written and verbal forms for different purposes.
  7. The knowledge, skills, self-confidence and awareness actively to pursue your future goals.
  8. The ability and motivation to participate responsibly and collaboratively as a critical and active citizen in the communities in which you live and work.
  9. A professional and reflective approach, including qualities of leadership, responsibility, personal integrity, empathy, care and respect for others, accountability and self-regulation.
  10. The flexibility to thrive in rapidly changing and uncertain external environments and to update skills and knowledge as circumstances require.

1 and 2: We will guide you to study the development and changing nature of the discipline of English and offer you different approaches for analysing and understanding literary texts from the Renaissance to the contemporary. Our modules cover the early modern period, the 18th century, Romanticism, Victorianism, Modernism, the 20th century, and the contemporary. In addition, you will be given the opportunity to take modules in creative writing and to develop your abilities as a writer of prose and poetry. The range of modules you choose, and the different scholars who act as your tutors, will demonstrate the diversity, dynamism and intellectual excitement of the subject. You will also come to appreciate the many ways in which a literary text can be interpreted. The assessments you undertake will help to develop your intellectual skills including reasoning, argument, creativity, analysis, evaluation and synthesis. In your final year, you will have the opportunity to produce a dissertation and so apply your newly acquired skills to an area of specific enquiry.

3: In first year seminar and lecture settings you will be encouraged to identify and retrieve relevant information using print and online technologies, to read widely, to make sense of different (sometimes conflicting) theories and findings, and to critically assess this information. Critical reading does not require you to undermine or dismiss established work, but rather to question its value at every opportunity. This is a skill that needs practice, and you will become more adept as a critical reader over the three years of your undergraduate study. Your use and development of information literacy will be tested in essays, examinations, book reviews, close readings, critical analyses and, (in your third year), in the dissertation or creative writing portfolio.

4: English modules offer you an array of research methods involving the close analysis of literary texts. You will learn the importance of different poetic, narrative and dramatic forms. You will learn how to relate literary texts to their historical, geographical, social, political and economic contexts . In our compulsory Level one modules you will be introduced to a series of critical methodologies, critical terms and concepts and literary theories. You will be taught appropriate library, problem solving and research skills.

5: The study of literature involves careful consideration of social and ethical issues. Literature is often concerned to question the perceived norms of human behaviour. A good literary critic will be able to judge forms of literary representation in relation to the social and cultural norms of the time and place in which a text was produced from a range of critical perspectives e.g Marxism, feminism, eco-criticism and postcolonial criticism. Literary critics train to be able to discuss literary texts at a high level, but reading literature is also a popular, everyday pastime. Students of literature should also be able to convey their insights and findings to a wider public. The study of literature is part of a training for life and comprehensive knowledge of national and international literatures is an important foundation for citizenship in an increasingly cosmopolitan and globalised world. You can further develop an international perspective on the study of literature through study abroad in one of Keele's partner universities in Europe, North America, or Australia.

6: As one would expect, your ability to communicate in writing and orally will be developed to a high standard during your undergraduate study of English. Furthermore, you will learn to think sensitively and strategically about the audiences that you communicate with. English is assessed via essays, examinations, creative work and via some oral work such as seminar performance and presentations. In this way, training in written and spoken communication skills is embedded in the programme. In first year seminar groups you will gain early experience of communicating information, and positing questions, by taking part in group discussions. In your second and third years you will be participating more confidently in such discussions and may be assessed partly via an oral presentation. The dissertation module and creative writing portfolio in year three involves intensive discussion and dialogue with your supervisor about your chosen subject or project. Opportunities to practise writing in clear, fluent and persuasive prose are present in every module, as is the chance for written feedback on areas of strength and areas for development in your work. These comments can be clarified and expanded if you attend one-to one feedback (offered after every piece of assessment). The combination of written and oral feedback invites you to reflect on the assessment experience, self-monitor and implement appropriate measures to improve at the next assessment opportunity. This process is of vital importance to your academic development, regardless of the mark achieved.

7: Events arising from our collaboration with the Keele Careers and Employability Service - including a special annual seminar for Year Two students - demonstrate the range of discipline - specific and skills - specific careers, in addition to generic opportunities for graduates in English . A proportion of our graduates choose to train as secondary school English teachers, but others are drawn to alternative, disciplines - related employment such as journalism, publishing, or media work. Skills specific employment emerges from your development as a writer, a speaker and a critical thinker. Accomplishment in these areas is recognised and valued by local and national government, the media (especially print and online journalism) and the communications industry. You can further develop the knowledge, skills, and self- confidence to pursue your future goals through taking an active part in one of the various discipline - related student societies, such as the Keele Writing Group, the Drama Society or the Film Society. The student newspaper and student radio channel also provide opportunities to hone your creative capabilities. You can make use of Personal Development Planning (PDP) to help you to reflect upon your strengths and weaknesses, look back on experiences (both positive and negative) and learn from them. We also encourage you to take responsibility for your own learning; we will help you to develop attitudes advantageous for lifelong learning, enabling you to work independently and with an outlook encouraging continued learning for career success.

8 and 9: In the context of an increasingly mobile world, an appreciation of cultural difference and diversity among the members of any community is a vital component of citizenship. The study of literature can foster these attributes but the practice of literary criticism is also geared towards a keen appreciation of cultural difference and the social, political and ethical implications of cultural exchange. In many of the modules you take, you will be required to work in groups (perhaps giving rise to informal or formal oral presentations). You will be guided to participate collaboratively, and have the opportunity to develop key professional attributes in respect of leadership, accountability and care for others. In your second year, if you choose to study abroad, you will participate in different learning contexts as a responsible representative of English and of Keele . You can also participate responsibly and collaboratively as an active citizen if you support English staff on open and visit days for prospective students , get actively involved in the various student societies on campus, or become a Student Academic Representative (StAR) in the School.

10: The nature of research-led teaching in English means that you will observe the continual process by which literary critical ‘knowledge’ is updated and refined. Study at levels one and two will illustrate this via the shifting emphasis of critical readings and the active inclusion of tutors’ research findings in all learning scenarios. All Level Three modules further strengthen your graduate attributes. In particular, our final year dissertation will require you to begin the process of becoming a researcher in your own right. You will need good time management and flexible thinking to define a suitable research project, search for relevant materials and react appropriately to your findings (which may be unexpected), adapting your project in consequence. Planning your research and using the expertise available to you from staff can be very productive, both in terms of finding and using texts and critical reading and in developing a confident manner in relations with other professionals. Support from your supervisor will enable you to get the most out of your research.

Finally, discussions with your supervisor over the course of your third year will help you to determine an appropriate balance in your work between independent endeavour and seeking guidance.

Top tips for making the most of your experience in English at Keele:

  1. Read widely and critically
  2. Get to grips with online resources early in your studies
  3. Use feedback on your work to improve your performance
  4. Think about career options as soon as possible
  5. Reflect on and record your achievements, perhaps by using PDP
  6. Make the most of group discussions: these are opportunities, not threats!
  7. Use formal presentations as learning experiences
  8. Consider the value of what you are learning in English to understanding the impact of English in local, social and career contexts
  9. Be ambitious when defining your own work and be prepared to take some risks
  10. Enjoy the intellectual puzzles that English offers. Staff will be happy to talk to you about the skills and employability inherent in your English degree.