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Dr Elizabeth Hoult

Lecturer in Psychosocial Studies

BA Hons (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) PGCE (Durham) MA (London) PhD (Kent)


Academic background

  • Dr Elizabeth Chapman Hoult is based in the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck. She is programme director for the MSc in Education, Power and Social Change, the PGCE in Higher Education, the Graduate Certificate in Supporting Learning and the Fundamentals of Teaching course. She has spent her career working in education and her core research interest is in the development of educational resilience – how and why some individuals and communities are able to resist apparently overwhelming disadvantage and marginalisation and instead succeed and thrive as learners. Her work is located in the interdisciplinary space between Sociology and English Literature. She draws on the epistemologies and methodologies of both in order to develop plural and deep understandings of resilience and transformational learning experiences. Her 2012 book ‘Adult Learning and La Recherche Féminine: Reading Resilience and Hélène Cixous’ (Palgrave Macmillan) explores the experiences of particularly resilient adult learners in higher education through a lens informed by the writing of Hélène Cixous. Her PhD, on the same theme, was awarded the British Educational Research Association’s 2010 prize for the best doctoral thesis. She was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2004 in recognition of her work with adult learners in higher education.

Research and Teaching


  • The key question that drives my research is why is it that some people are able to defy the forces of inequality and marginalisation in order to succeed in educational terms.   This key interest has underpinned both my professional and my academic careers and the various roles I have played in education – learner, school teacher, teacher educator, leader of knowledge exchange in a new university, co-leader of a very large inter-university project, and my current post of lecturer at Birkbeck.
  • In 2004 I was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in recognition of my work with adult learners, many of them teachers in the compulsory education sector, in higher education.  It gave me the freedom to use my £50,000 award to investigate how resilience is performed, where it resides and how it may be transferred.
  • I am interested in how communities as well as individuals develop resilience and resist powerful accounts of themselves. Between 2006 and 2011 I jointly co-ordinated the substantial and very complex a £3m HEFCE-funded South East Coastal Communities (SECC) project across nine universities in the south east of England between 2007 and 2011.  The SECC project led me to rethink a definition and practice for knowledge transfer in higher education, which took it out of the narrow, technically-based applications which were dominant nationally, and to imagine instead a demand-led model of knowledge exchange with communities.  I have been focusing efforts to deconstruct and reconstruct this problematic term with colleagues over the last couple of years. I led regional academic development and knowledge exchange in a new university between 2006 and 2012.
  • I take critical theory – in this case, deconstruction – out of the realm of abstract discussion and put it to work as an investigative framework, using it to open up empirical data alongside literary texts.  My own understanding of Cixous continues to be informed by close reading of her work.  I approach Cixous’ work as an educationalist.  Reading Cixous in the context of mystical philosophy and sacred writings rather than in the (more conventional) context of her post-structuralist French contemporaries, has brought an entirely new dimension to my understanding of her work.

Research interests

  • The performance and development of resilience in learners who lack capital have suffered extraordinary setbacks or hardships and/or who will not comply with academic conventions and expectations.
  • Development of new methodologies that occupy the space between the arts and sociology.
  • Understanding of the contribution that autobiographical writing makes to empirical social research.
  • Application of deconstruction, particularly Hélène Cixous’ writing about l’écriture féminine, to social research.

Research listings

  • Editorial board member for the Gandhigram Literary Review
  • Editorial board member for Litt Crit




  • Hoult, E.C. (2012). Adult Learning and La Recherche Féminine: Reading Resilience and Hélène Cixous, New York: Palgrave Macmillan

Journals articles

  • Hoult, Elizabeth Chapman. (2012). ‘Recognizing and Escaping the Sham: Authority Moves, Truth Claims and the Fiction of Academic Writing About Adult Learning’, InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, 8(2), Article. gseis_interactions_807. Retrieved from: ISSN: 1548-3320
  • Hoult, E.C. (2011). ‘. . . And: The Winter's Tale and Resilient Learners’ Critical Survey, vol.23, number 2, pp.91-105, ISSN: 0011-1590
  • Pratt, J. Ashenden, S., Hoult, E.C. and Matthews, S. (2011). ‘Collaboration Between Universities: an effective way of sustaining community-university partnerships’. Gateways: International Journal of Community Research-Engagement, pp.119-135, vol.4, ISSN: 1836 3393
  • Durrant, I., Peterson, A., Hoult, E.C. and Leith, L., Pupil and Teacher Perceptions of Community Action: An English Context (2012). Educational Research, v54 n3 pp.259-283 2012

Other scholarly writing

  • ‘Using Literary Texts and Literary Theory in Educational Research’, (in press, 2012). Theories of Research Series, British Educational Research Association
  • Hoult, E.C. (2011). ‘With Love and Anger’, pp. 9-12 in Brown, T. (ed.) Ten Years of National Teaching Fellowships: four stories from education, Bristol: ESCalate/HEA
  • Hoult, E., (2009). ‘Exploring Resilience’, pp.18-22, in Brown, T. (ed.) The Doctorate: stories of knowing, power and becoming, Bristol: ESCalate/HEA
  • Hoult, E.C., (2010). ‘The search for an authentic methodology in an interdisciplinary study into resilient adult learning’, in Research Intelligence, pp.22-23, autumn 2010, issue 113
  • Hoult, E. and Ashenden, S. (July 2009). ‘Viewpoint’ in Methods News, ESRC
  • Hoult, E. (2007). ‘Older Learners in Higher Education’, Academy Exchange, 6 (Summer, 2007), p.41, ISSN: 1748-53333

External lecturers

  • Hoult, E. (January 2010) ‘Reading the "Miracle" of Transformational Adult Learning’, lecture delivered to the Faculty of Education and the Institute of English Studies, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
  • Hoult, E., (December 2006) ‘Resilient Learners in Higher Education’, lecture delivered to staff in the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Northumbria University, December 2006.

Keynote speeches

  • Hoult, E. C. (July 2010) Reading through Bourdieu and Cixous to recognize and escape the sham of academic writing, keynote address, International Conference on English Language Teaching, Government Women's ‚College, Thiruvananthaparuram, Kerala, South India
  • Hoult, E.C., (March 2010). Recognizing the sham: authority moves, truth claims and the fiction of academic writing, keynote address at the European Society for Research on Education of Adults Conference, Vaxjo, Sweden


  • Exploring Community University Partnerships: Learning from the South East Coastal Communities Programme (December 2010) www.coastal communities
  • ‘Teach and Liberate‚’ interview in The Hindu, 29/07/2010

Professional membership and awards

Professional membership

  • Fellow of Higher Education Academy from 2003 and National Teaching Fellow from 2004
  • Member of British Educational Research Association from 1999
  • Member of Society for Research into Higher Education from 2009
  • Member of International Society for Third Sector Research from 2012

Honours and awards

  • National Teaching Fellowship, 2004, awarded by the Higher Education Academy
  • British Education Research Association Award for the Best Doctoral Dissertation, 2010

Contact details

Room 510, 30 Russell Square
Department of Psychosocial Studies
Birkbeck, University of London
London WC1B 5DT

Tel: +44 (0)20 7631 6078