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Supporting English Departments

Many university English departments are facing a challenging time, as the number of students taking A Level English Language or Literature continues to fall and the removal of caps on student numbers has allowed some departments to expand at the expense of others. At the IES we are often asked about what are we doing to help departments cope with this situation.

The answer is that we are working continuously and in confidence with departments who contact us: sharing resources, offering collective expertise, and writing letters of support. Our support team involves not only colleagues from the Institute of English Studies' Advisory Council, but also members of the Executive of The English Association and University English, with whom we have long been collaborating to present a coordinated response in these challenging times.

How we can help

To give you an example of how we can help: any department which needs support – for example, advice on a business plan or a counterproposal defending colleagues from the threat of job cuts – can get in touch confidentially with

Jenny Richards (Chair of the English Association’s HE Committee), or
Alex Thomson (Chair of University English) or
Clare Lees (Director of the Institute for English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London)

Our volunteers comment on drafts of business plans and counter proposals and share facts and figures to support cases. Many of us are, or have been, heads of department, directors of institutes, and university deans. If you have expertise that our colleagues can benefit from, and you’d be willing to share it, please get in touch with us.

We have prepared a toolkit (see below) for heads of department and their teams which offers advice on how to make a case for English with senior management and to defend the subject when cuts are threatened. It includes links to useful reports and resources from the EA, the British Academy and other organisations with ideas, data and quotations about the value of English degrees, employability, earnings, etc. In 2020 we launched a new series, Speaking for English Studies in UK Higher Education, which aims to help all colleagues – from early to late career – sharpen their advocacy and leadership skills.

We will do much more of this work in the coming year, when we have stories to tell about the kind of impact English studies has in the world, and its new interdisciplinary directions, sharing ideas and advice on how we can move our discipline forward together.

In the meantime, we encourage you to listen to our first Speaking for English event (recorded on 21 March 2021), which features Julie Sanders, David Amigoni and Simon Donoghue speaking about university architecture, strategic planning (and how data can be used), as well as quality research (QR). And if you have ideas for future Speaking for English events we’d love to hear from you.

Speaking for English Studies in UK Higher Education 2

Research and Policy-Making: part 2 of Speaking for English Studies in UK Higher Education

More information here

Toolkit for University Heads of Department

This toolkit has been created for Heads of Department/School (and indeed all colleagues in English Studies who are interested in leadership) by the English Asso

See the full toolkit

Speaking for English Studies in UK Higher Education

University Architecture, Strategic Planning, and QR: part 1 of Speaking for English Studies in UK Higher Education

More information here