BEYOND THE BARD: Exploring the Teaching of Contemporary British Literature in Global Higher Education

| by Professor Katy Shaw

Northumbria University and the British Council are doing some research into how contemporary British literature is taught around the world - find out more

Guest Blogger: Prof Katy Shaw, University of Northumbria, Vice-Chair of BACLS – the British Association of Literary Studies – and executive committee member of University English, the national subject association.


In recent years there has been a rapid rise in the teaching of English Literature in international Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), even in countries where English is not a national language. It is often claimed that more than half of the world's students study Shakespeare, in school or in Higher Education, and this is surely a cause for celebration.


But are international students missing out on contemporary British writing, replete as it is with innovative, urgent and diverse voices exploring the challenges of our times? The advertised curriculum content of international HEIs suggests a heavy emphasis on pre-1900 texts (from Shakespeare to Dickens), with a few key 20th century modernist works, and little contemporary (post-2000) British writing.


And in the HEIs where contemporary British writing is studied, how is this canon taking shape? Which voices, literary forms and themes resonate with students around the world? And what can the UK sector – academics, professional bodies, publishers, agents, translators and authors themselves – do to help usher more contemporary British writers onto international syllabuses?


Northumbria University aims to find out. Today it launches Write Now, a new research programme supported by the British Council, which will be the first ever review of its kind into the teaching of contemporary British Literature on international HEI programmes.


Through a comprehensive survey of international HE educators and an analysis of its findings, the Write Now research will map the current context and identify resourcing and development requirements as well as future potential for promoting the teaching of contemporary British Literature overseas.


Research will be gathered from English educators across the world from Summer - Autumn 2020. The results of the research will be published in Winter 2020 in an open-access report that will enable knowledge transfer, encourage international capacity and partnership-building in the international HE sector, and influence policy and strategy formation by English national subject associations. Through sharing the results of the research on an open-access basis, we hope to foster greater understanding of the impact of post-millennial British Literature in English programmes across the world today.


The survey can be accessed here



Anyone with questions about the research should contact Prof Shaw at:



About Katy Shaw

Professor Katy Shaw is a leading expert in the field of contemporary British Literature. She is Vice-Chair of BACLS, the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies. As a qualified teacher with a PGCE and as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, she also researches the teaching of her subject specialism. She is the author of several government commissioned national teaching reports of the teaching of twenty-first century literature and was shortlisted for the 2017 International Teaching Literature Book Award for her collection Teaching Twenty-First Century Genre Fiction. She has a long-standing relationship of research collaboration and co-production with the British Council Literature and has worked with them and external businesses including international new writing magazine Granta to write new teaching materials and to deliver teaching across the world with the organisation from 2013 to the present.


Previous Next