School of English

History of the School of English

In 1881 the buildings for the new University College on Shakespeare Street in Nottingham were formally opened by HRH Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the youngest son of Queen Victoria.

In 1928 building work on Highfields Park was completed and the University College was opened by King George V and Queen Mary. The English Department moved from Shakespeare Street to Highfields Park (now the University Park Campus) in the autumn of 1928. 

More on the history of the University

The crowd at the opening of Trent Building.
King George V and Queen Mary at the Trent Building opening, 1928

Previous Heads of School

Revd John Elliotson Symes (Head of English 1881-1911)

Revd John Elliotson Symes

In 1881 the buildings for the new University College on Shakespeare Street in Nottingham were formally opened by HRH Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the youngest son of Queen Victoria. The Committee of Management of University College appointed four professors and Rev. John Elliotson Symes MA from Downing College, Cambridge, became Professor of Language and Literature.

The work of the College was initially divided into two departments, Arts and Science. Professor Symes had responsibility for the whole arts department and had help from three Lecturers to teach Shakespeare, History, Political Economy, Greek, Latin, French and German.

In the first term there were 130 students who attended day lectures on Shakespeare. In 1882 Nottingham was formally affiliated to both Oxford and Cambridge so that students who had studied at Nottingham were excused the first three terms of an undergraduate degree at Oxford or Cambridge. 

Only six first degrees were obtained before 1890 and the first BA was awarded to Henry T Saville in 1884.  

Professor Symes was appointed Principal in 1890 and developed training for school teachers by establishing the Training Department at Nottingham, which later became the Education Department. He also supported the establishment of the first Students’ Association.

Professor Symes resigned in 1911 and worked as a chaplain to English communities in Seville until his death in 1921. His colleague Professor Frank Granger wrote "His was a spirit, lofty and serene, which proudly concealed from the vulgar eye the Christian and the gentleman."


Professor Richard Warwick Bond (Head of English 1911-1925)

Professor Richard Warwick Bond

Professor Bond became Head of English in 1911. He was educated at Queen's College, Oxford and embarked on an academic and literary career, which culminated in 1911 with his appointment to the Chair of English at the University College, Nottingham.  

At the end of the First World War came an increase in student numbers and in 1919 Sir Jesse Boot gave the University College a gift of £50,000 to fund a Chair of Chemistry and then in 1922 he donated the University Park Campus (known as Highfields Park) to the University College.  

Professor Bond retired in 1925, but continued his literary activities until his death in 1943.


Professor Reginald M Hewitt (Head of English 1925-1938)

Professor Reginald M Hewitt

Known as 'Rollo', Professor Hewitt studied at Keble College, Oxford and became Head of English at Nottingham in 1925. Hewitt was influential in the creation of the English section of the University Library and was an accomplished linguist; particularly admired for his translations of poetry, notably from Russian. In 1928 building work on Highfields Park was completed and the University College was opened by King George V and Queen Mary. The English Department moved from Shakespeare Street in the city of Nottingham to Highfields Park (now the University Park Campus) in the autumn of 1928. 

By 1935 the number of full time staff at the University had grown to 95. There were 695 full time students and 3,845 students attending extra-mural classes in the evening. Professor Hewitt remained Head of the English Department until his retirement due to ill health in 1938. He was given an Honorary Readership in Comparative Literature and retained a strong connection with the University's activities until his death in 1948.


Professor Vivian de Sola Pinto (Head of English 1938-1961)

Professor Vivian de Sola Pinto
Professor Pinto had read Classics at Oxford in 1914 but volunteered for military service during the First World War and fought alongside Siegfried Sassoon. After the war he changed to English and graduated from Oxford in 1921. He joined Nottingham as Head of the Department of English in 1938. When war broke out in 1939 there was some discussion about closing down all departments in the Arts Faculty for the duration of the war so that staff could undertake various forms of national service. In the end, this was not required and the Arts Faculty remained open. Despite low student numbers and staff helping with the war effort all full-time courses continued to run. 

On 20 August 1948 an amendment to the University College’s charter was made so that The University of Nottingham could confer its own degrees as a new University. With the new charter Professor Pinto developed a new programme of study that reflected his own Oxford education. He set out his policy in the Universities Quarterly in 1951 with a declaration that "the essential discipline of an English School is the literary critical...It trains, in a way no other discipline can, intelligence and sensibility together, cultivating a sensitiveness and precision of response and a delicate integrity of intelligence...". He introduced students to analysing prose and poetry to encourage them to express their own thoughts, rather than simply to develop their factual knowledge of literature. 

Professor Pinto was a friend of the Sitwells and Robert Graves and moved in the artistic and cultural circles of the time which benefited the new University of Nottingham. During his time at Nottingham he helped to establish the journal Renaissance and Modern Studies and was asked to act as a witness for the defence in Regina vs. Penguin Books Ltd, also known as the Lady Chatterley Trial, in 1960. In 1951 the Department had five teaching staff in addition to Professor Pinto and there were 19 new graduates in English. When he retired in 1961 Professor Pinto saw 28 students graduate in English single honours and he left an established staff of 10.

Professor James Kinsley FBA (Head of English 1961-1984)

Professor James Kinsley

Professor Kinsley came to the Department from the University College of Wales, Swansea, and became Head of Department in 1961. He continued the curriculum as broadly delivered from 1948-61 but with some modification. He established a chair of English language and, in his history of the School written in 1980, outlined that his intention was to "assert the unity of the linguistic-literary English discipline, medieval and modern, in a single school".  

Professor Kinsley was passionate about extending library provision, particularly in the Arts, and was instrumental in the plans for the University's Hallward Library opened in 1973.  Student admissions rose to approximately 50 per year and approximately 3-4 first-class honours degrees were awarded each year. Joint Honours courses were introduced with American Studies (resulting in the formation of a new department), History, Theology, Art History, Linguistics and Archaeology.  

The Department showed evidence of developing an early international strategy with overseas lecture tours and exchanges of staff across Europe and North America. In 1968 the Department developed its first year-abroad scheme with the State University of New York and brought annual groups of American undergraduates to Nottingham.  

The teaching of drama was developed during this period and the Department established links with the Nottingham Playhouse in the late 1960s. By the 1970s the performing arts theatre was being established and drama developed as a subject and eventual section in the School.  

Professor Kinsley died suddenly in 1984 and his work and contribution to not only the Department but also the University was recorded by the British Academy in 1988.


Professor Kenneth Cameron FBA and CBE (Head of English 1984-1987)

Professor Kenneth Cameron

Professor Cameron joined the Department of English in 1950 as a Lecturer and was awarded the second Chair in the Department, in English Language, in 1963. In 1966 he became Honorary Director and Editor of the English Place-Name Society and its President in 1970, the year in which he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. The Department provided accommodation and facilities for the English Place-Name Society (EPNS) archive and the EPNS still has its home in the School of English.  

The Department started to recruit international students during this period and pre-sessional language tuition was provided by the Department. In 1987 the Centre for English Language Education was launched with Ron Carter as its first Director.  

Professor Cameron continued in post as Head of Department until his retirement in 1987. His work and research contribution was recorded in his obituary for the British Academy in 2002.


Professor Norman Page (Head of English 1987-1990)

Professor Norman Page

Professor Page was appointed to the Chair of English Literature in 1985, succeeding Professor Kinsley. He took over as Head of Department in 1987 when the size of the Department had risen to approximately 18 members of staff. He developed Victorian literature in the School and edited a journal wittily entitled The Hardy Annual.  

By 1987 teaching, research and administrative pressures in the Department led to the establishment of the first departmental committee to regularise and monitor the allocation of resources and administrative staff. Professor Page retired in 1993 and was appointed to an Emeritus Professorship.


Professor Christine Fell OBE (Head of English 1990-1993)

Professor Christine Fell

Professor Fell joined the Department in 1971 and brought new Scandinavian connections and experience of historical manuscript studies. Professor Fell was the first woman Head of English following her appointment as the first woman Pro-Vice Chancellor from 1986-89.  

Her interests were in Old English vocabulary and semantics and she established Nottingham as a leading centre for Viking Studies. To this day, the School has a memorial fund in her name to help support students who wish to pursue these subjects at postgraduate level. In 1992 the Research Assessment Exercise was held and the research of the Department was graded at 4: "Research quality that equates to attainable levels of national excellence in virtually all sub-areas of activity, possibly showing some evidence of international excellence, or to international level in some and at least national level in a majority."  

Professor Fell was appointed the first Director of the newly-established Humanities Research Centre in 1994, a post in which she continued until her retirement in 1997 due to ill health. Professor Fell died in 1998 shortly after being appointed OBE for her contribution to Early English Studies.

A sundial (copied from the original panel of an Anglo-Saxon inscription from Kirkdale church in Yorkshire) was presented to Professor Fell from friends and colleagues on the occasion of her sixtieth birthday and is fastened to the south wall of Highfield House. The inscription on the sundial reads (in translation): 'This is the day's sun-marker at every hour. And Haward made me, and Brand the priest.' Kirkdale is close to Slingsby in North Yorkshire, where Professor Fell had a house, and she regularly took students and colleagues on study-trips in the area - many current Old English and Old Norse scholars have fond memories of such trips. Professor Fell's family donated the sundial to the University of Nottingham after her death and can be found on Highfield House, University Park Campus.


Professor Ronald Carter MBE (Head of English 1993-1995)

Professor Roland Carter

Professor Carter joined the Department in 1979 in response to the increasing demand for English language teaching and research. A new Department of Linguistics had already been established and Professor Carter's appointment strengthened English language in the Department, particularly in the areas of literary linguistics, corpus linguistics and English grammar and discourse.  

Under Professor Carter's headship the Department continued to develop its international strategy as students from overseas registered for postgraduate courses in English Language and Literature and the reputation for teaching and research spread across the world.  In 1994 the School was visited by the Quality Assurance Agency as part of subject review and was ranked as "Excellent".  

Professor Carter supervised a large number of research students in the School and with Professor Svenja Adolphs secured SRIF funding for a Corpus Linguistics Laboratory to provide specialist equipment to  support the future of teaching and research in English Language in the School of English.

Professor Carter was awarded an MBE in 2009 in recognition of his services to local and national higher education.  Ron retired in 2013 and was appointed Emeritus Professor.   


Professor John Worthen (Head of English 1995-1997)

Professor John Worthen

Professor Worthen was appointed to a Chair in the Department in 1994 as a leading DH Lawrence specialist. DH Lawrence had been studied in the Department since 1951 and in 1991, the DH Lawrence Centre (as it was then called), was launched providing a focus for research and hosting Lawrence-related activities such as readings, conferences and events. 

Professor Worthen became Head of Department in 1995 and took the Department through the Research Assessment Exercise of 1996. The School’s research was ranked at level 4 meaning that the Department demonstrated "research quality that equates to attainable levels of national excellence in virtually all sub-areas of activity, possibly showing some evidence of international excellence, or to international level in some and at least national level in a majority."  

Professor Worthen retired from the University in 2003 and was appointed to an Emeritus Professorship. He continues to research and work with the DH Lawrence Research Centre.


Professor Thorlac Turville-Petre (Head of English 1997-2001)

Professor Thorlac Turville-Petre

Professor Turville-Petre came to the Department in 1973 and joined the staff teaching and researching Middle English. In 1998 the Department of English Studies became the School of English. By 2001 the number of staff had grown from 13 to 25. This was the first major expansion in the School's history, a process which has continued since.

In 1999 the Centre for Byron Studies in the School was launched to coincide with the establishment of the Prew-Smith Byron Lectureship.  

By 2000 the School had developed MA programmes in all four areas of the School and PG recruitment continued to develop and in the same year the School's web-based distance learning MA courses in Modern English Language, Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching were launched. 

In 2001 a further Research Assessment Exercise was undertaken and the School ranked 5A, and the research of the School was deemed to be "Quality that equates to attainable levels of international excellence in up to half of the research activity submitted and to attainable levels of national excellence in virtually all of the remainder."

Professor Turville-Petre is now retired and has been appointed as an Emeritus Professor in the school.


Professor Judith Jesch (Head of English 2001-2004)

Professor Judith Jesch

Professor Jesch came to Nottingham in 1985 and was appointed Head of School in 2001. As Director of the Centre for the Study of the Viking Age, Professor Jesch developed institutional and academic contacts with Scandinavia and strengthened teaching and research in Old Norse, Viking Studies and runology.  

A BA degree in Viking Studies was launched in 2001 and students were able to complete modules taught by the Schools of English Studies and History and the Department of Archaeology. The School already taught an MA in Viking Studies, and in 1995 a new MA in Anglo-Saxon Studies was introduced. When Christine Fell retired in 1997, the MA was re-configured as an MA in Viking and Anglo-Saxon Studies and continues to run in the School. A new MA in Norse and Viking Studies had its first intake in 2005.  

In 2003 the School launched Postgraduate Teaching Fellowships. The Fellowships were designed to offer an integrated programme of research supervision, teacher training, and graduated teaching experience to PhD students to provide them with a range of professional skills to pursue an academic career.

Professor Jesch was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 2020 in recognition of her outstanding work in the field.


Professor Brean Hammond (Head of English 2004-2007)

Professor Brean Hammond

Professor Hammond came to Nottingham in 2000 and became Head of School in 2004.

In 2005 the School raised its UG admissions requirement to AAB and UG admissions for HEU students were increased to 170 FTEs per annum. The MA provision was reviewed in 2004 and new MAs in English Literature, Theatre Research and Old English Studies were launched in 2005. MA student numbers on taught courses were 45 per year and almost 100 students were studying for an MA via the Distance Learning programmes. In 2005 the Quality Assurance Agency undertook an Institutional Audit (IA) of Nottingham. The quality of the School's teaching was audited and awarded the highest ranking possible under IA procedures.

The School was continuing to develop its vibrant research culture and all academic staff are active researchers with seminars, workshops and conferences organised regularly by the School. Research student numbers rose to 95 full-time and part-time students and in 2006 the School opened dedicated office space for research students in the Trent Building.

The Centre for Regional Literature and Culture was launched and the School held major research grants from the AHRC, British Academy, ESRC, EPSRC and Leverhulme for staff to pursue research projects, some collaboratively, with Biology, Computer Science, Geography, History, Humanities, Medical School, Pharmacy and Psychology.

Professor Hammond retired in 2013 and was appointed to an Emeritus Professorship.


Professor Dominic Head (Head of English 2007-2010)

Professor Dominic Head

Professor Head led the School during a period of course review and development, with strong student recruitment in all areas. The following courses were introduced during this time:

  • MA in Creative Writing
  • BA in English with Creative Writing
  • BA in English Language and Literature
  • MSc in Communication and Entrepreneurship with the Business School

The School also launched a new first year UG module, Academic Community, for all single honours students. The School of English at the University’s campus at Ningbo, China was launched in 2007, and in 2009 we welcomed our first 2+2 students to Nottingham to complete levels 2 and 3 of their undergraduate degree at the Nottingham campus.

The School continued to strive for research excellence across all sections. In the Research Assessment Exercise in 2008, under the leadership of Professor Ron Carter, 95% of the School’s research was judged to be of international quality, and 35% world leading. The School also opened psycholinguistics research laboratories to support English language and applied linguistics research for staff and students, collaborating with colleagues across faculties.

The Faculty of Arts review in 2010 resulted in some re-structuring across the Faculty, and three Schools formed the new Faculty structure, with the creation of the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies, the expansion of the School of Humanities and the School of English.

The School continued to grow, with new office developments in what was the Counselling corridor on A floor of Trent Building, a new staff room, and two new corridors on C floor for staff and PhD students.

Professor Head retired in 2021 and was appointed to an Emeritus Professorship.


Professor Julie Sanders (Head of English 2010-2013)

Professor Julie Sanders

Professor Sanders was Head of School at a time of considerable change in Higher Education in the UK, including the introduction of UG tuition fees but the School (now the School of English) continued to attract students of the highest quality to its programmes. In an era of reduced research funding the School continued to attract funding from the AHRC, ESRC, EPSRC, Leverhulme and British Academy to all areas of its research and knowledge exchange activities.

Along with her Director of Teaching Dr Jo Robinson and the wider team, Professor Sanders focused on a number of initiatives around employability and work-related learning, receiving HEA and internal funding to support this and growing our Creative Writing footprint through the development of a journal led by a leading writer on our staff on which students could gain direct experience.

English had the particular pleasure of being voted Best School in the Student Oscars in 2012. Our Learning Community Forums, through which the students helped to shape policy and strategy, became a major part of our identity across the University.


Professor Josephine Guy (Head of School 2013-2017)

Professor Josephine Guy

Professor Guy came to Nottingham in 1992 and was appointed Head of School from 2013-17. During this period she oversaw some major changes to the undergraduate curriculum which were designed to try to improve module choice for students.  This change involved a move towards team-teaching most modules, including at Level 3, to ensure that capacity on modules could meet student demand, and popular modules could continue to be delivered even when staff were on research leave.

She also oversaw a successful bid to the University Strategic Development Fund—one of the first of its kind to be awarded to the Arts—to trial the setting up of a business unit in the School (LiPP) to develop the School’s expertise in linguistic profiling.

The School of English at the University’s campus in Malaysia was launched in 2013, and students from both campuses had the opportunity to study abroad as part of their programmes.  

In the University more generally, the years between 2013-17 saw the introduction of a major new IT system to manage student records, and a reorganisation across the University of administrative support for academic units. In the School of English, this led to a great deal of change and the School said goodbye to some long-serving and much valued colleagues, some of whom decided to retire, while others moved on to administrative opportunities elsewhere (both within and beyond the University).

Professor Guy's time as Head of School will also be remembered for her inclusion in School events of Winnie the dog. Immortalized in a short film made in 2013 to help students understand a new process of essay-submission, most of the time Winnie was to be found perched on a chair in Professor Guy's office, keeping a watchful eye on meetings and occasionally descending her throne to sniff a bare ankle, or beg a sausage from the buffet lunch in the school corridor.


Professor Svenja Adolphs (Head of School 2017 - 2022)

Professor Svenja Adolphs

Professor Adolphs came to the University of Nottingham to study a MA in English Language for Literary Studies. She earned her PhD in Applied English in 2001 and became Professor of English Language and Linguistics in 2012.

She has previously held roles as the Head of English Language and Applied Linguistics, Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange for the Faculty of Arts, Associate Director of the Centre for Advanced Studies, Director of the Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics and Interim Academic Director of the Midlands 3 Cities AHRC funded Doctoral Training Partnership.

Professor Adolphs was the Head of School for the School of English from 2017, leading the School through its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Professor Máire ní Fhlathúin (Head of School 2022 - present)

Maire Ni Flathuin2

Professor ní Fhlathúin is a scholar and teacher of the literature and culture of British India. She has previously held roles including Head of Literature, 1500 to the present and REF Coordinator for English. 


School of English

Trent Building
The University of Nottingham
University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5900