School of Arts

Our School of Arts provides an invigorating educational experience, offering an exciting range of arts and humanities courses that are built on our internationally renowned research. We are housed in the Gordon Square terrace where Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell lived and worked.

You said: You wanted the College to offer more academic support

  • We have enhanced our personal tutor system across the School, in accordance with College policy: all students have a named personal tutor, who contacts them early in their study, and students are given advice around how to make the most of personal tutor support.
  • Our School Learning Development Tutor now provides full-time support to students through face-to-face tutorials and workshops - support which has consistently received exceptional student feedback.
  • We have introduced ‘early warning’ assessments in Level 4 modules across the School, which allow us to identify students for early referral to the Learning Development Tutor. Academics in each department have been assigned primary responsibility for collating names of students needing extra support, sometimes even before the first assessment.

You said: Good-quality assessment and speedy and useful feedback is important to you

  • We have made concerted efforts around marking turnaround times, instituting a School-wide policy that coursework feedback is returned within four weeks of submission, while recognising that in some cases - such as screenwriting - extra time is appropriate to meet expected feedback standards.
  • All departments have improved the information presented on student information pages to ensure that the marking criteria used in grading student coursework is clearly explained.

You said: that you value getting support with personal development and employability

  • We have expanded our BA language programmes, offering a new Year Abroad route through Erasmus+ which provides students with valuable international experience opportunities.
  • In response to comments about the need for more support and employability training, a pilot programme of events designed especially for History of Art students was run in 2016-17. This was particularly targeted to BA, Graduate Certificate and MA students, designed to help with career options, skills, and connections with key institutions and industries.
  • We are nurturing links with cultural institutions; on the MA Film Programming and Curating, for example, students collaborated with the Korean Cultural Centre UK to curate a film programme. This has in turn led to a new placement opportunity.
  • We have recently appointed a new Assistant Dean specifically tasked with exploring opportunities to expand work placement opportunities across School programmes, particularly in our postgraduate courses.

You said: The College could offer better preparation for and induction to academic study

  • We have introduced two highly successful pre-sessional modules - Step In to Undergraduate Study in the Arts, and Step Up to Postgraduate Study in the Arts - which provide students with an innovative bridge to university study, blending online and face-to-face learning.
  • Across all of our undergraduate programmes, we are introducing new first-year modules inspired by the theme of ‘Doing’ (eg Doing History of Art, Doing English, Doing Film, Media and Cultural Studies), in which students gain a solid grounding in everything from current disciplinary debates and academic study skills to making the most out of studying arts and humanities in London.
  • We have also explored other ways of re-inducting students to academic study, for example by introducing an optional unweighted assessment on the MA Contemporary Literature and Culture, to provide more support to those students returning to study after a break between their BA and MA.

You said: You wanted to see more innovative approaches to teaching and assessment, including more use of digital technologies

  • We are striving to introduce new and interesting ways for students to explore the arts and humanities in their coursework, with recent examples including websites documenting everyday media experiences, microblogs exploring 21st century feminism, and digital video editing projects portraying Victorian culture.
  • We have made innovative use of Panopto beyond (but including) lecture capture, for example with short videos that explain key concepts, or outline an assessment or available option modules.
  • Some of our teachers have used Panopto for creative assessments; for example, students in the MA in Contemporary Literature and Culture produced short films exploring what ‘contemporary’ meant to them.
  • In recognition of the growing importance of integrating theory and practice, our film and media programmes have made significant investments in specialist digital video technology and software, while introducing innovative new courses genuinely fusing the academic and practical dimensions of subjects like film, journalism and digital media.
  • In the same vein, courses such as our newly-introduced MA Digital Media bring together design techniques and management considerations with current conceptual debates on digital culture, while our MA Text and Performance deploys a rich mix of academic and practice-based assessment tasks ranging from research essays to collaborative and individual performances.

You said: The quality of teaching at Birkbeck is excellent. we think we can make it even better

  • We have made major strides to diversify our curriculum, for example by providing better coverage of Black authors on our MA Modern and Contemporary Literatures.
  • We continue to improve our programmes; for example making significant changes to the MFA Theatre Directing design project to allow for more contact time, as well as additional London visits by designers from a partner university.