Archive of Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences stories

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

It’s hard work being a smart girl: How today’s schools and screens retell some very old stories about gender and learning

Senior Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University Michele Paule explores real and media worlds of the high-achieving girl at the start of the 21st Century to show how girls are still struggling with some persistent myths about how they learn and how they should be.

In a study conducted across English secondary schools, internet forums and teen TV, Paule explores how girls respond and relate to stories—both experienced and fictional—about ‘smart’ girls:

“One of the most surprising findings of the research was how far back ideas about brilliant, erratic boys and dull, conscientious girls reach—right back to ancient Greece—and also how little actual scientific evidence there is underlying these ideas, even in an age of popularized neuroscience.”

“One of the most surprising findings of the research was how far back ideas about brilliant, erratic boys and dull, conscientious girls reach—right back to ancient Greece.”

Michele Paule, Senior Lecturer in Media, Culture and Communication

“Yet girls, and those who work with them, still form the impression that their success is due to diligence rather than intelligence, that girls’ hard work somehow skews exam results, defrauding boys of their rightful place at the top.

“Girls themselves are aware of how limiting popular stereotypes of feminine achievement can be: geek is not necessarily chic, and intelligence has to be balanced with a hefty dose of femininity if a girl is not to risk social exclusion. As one participant noticed ‘even Hermione gets her teeth fixed’.

“The stereotypes are limited in other ways too. On the project’s forum, one girl asks, ‘Do you have to be posh to be smart?’ The answer is, depressingly, ‘yes’. For example, Dr Who companion Rose Tyler is excluded because ‘she is blonde and off a council estate’. Another respondent describes how she herself was sent to elocution lessons by her parents to combat prejudice against her regional accent. The project’s findings suggest that schools and the media still have a way to go to create conditions in which girls find it easy to thrive intellectually. As one school interviewee neatly summed up: ‘We need better stories’. Teachers and TV producers, over to you.”

A former secondary schoolteacher, Michele Paule is Senior Lecturer in Media, Culture and Education at Oxford Brookes University. She is currently researching girls’ ideas about leadership across different European contexts.Girlhood, Schools, and Media: Popular Discourses of the Achieving Girl is published by Routledge and is available for pre-order.

Oxford Brookes launches brand new Criminology course


The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences are pleased to announce the launch of a new undergraduate degree in Criminology.

The course has been designed to tackle fundamental questions behind what makes an act or action a crime and look at how crime can be analysed from both a social and political perspective. It will include topics as diverse as crime and punishment through the ages to Robo-Cops and ASBOs.

The course will be taught from an interdisciplinary perspective spanning the fields of Social Sciences, History and Law and the University’s commitment to research-led teaching will be a prominent feature in this new degree programme.

We are very excited about the launch of this new course. It has been developed in close collaboration with external stakeholders, current students, recent graduates and with advice from expert colleagues in the field.

Richard Huggins, Principal Lecturer, Department of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University

Criminological theory expert Richard Huggins, who has over two decades of research expertise around substance use and misuse, homelessness and social inclusion, will act as programme lead for the new course. Speaking about the launch of the new programme he said: “We are very excited about the launch of this new course. It has been developed in close collaboration with external stakeholders, current students, recent graduates and with advice from expert colleagues in the field. The course offers students a varied, interdisciplinary and up-to-date programme in criminology in a global context.”

Professor Anne-Marie Kilday, Britain’s only professor of Criminal History, will offer the historical approach to the teaching of criminology. Anne-Marie specialises in the history of violent crimes and has previously been the recipient of a Brookes Union teaching award for her inspirational lecturing style.

The course will also offers some law options for students especially interested in the policies and processes of the criminal justice system.

The course is currently accepting applications for an enrolment date of September 2017. To find out more or to apply please visit the Criminology course entry page.

First Law Summer School is a success


This summer the Oxford Brookes School of Law opened its doors to a cohort of aspiring A-level student lawyers. Both attendance and spirits were high over the course of the week as the students engaged in a range of interactive seminars, including lectures with law staff, practising judges as well as professional lawyers. The summer school also included a trip to the local crown court and police station. Finally, and for many the highlight of the week, was the preparation and staging of a mock trial by the students.

The mock trial took place in the School of Law’s moot court and dealt with a fictional case of burglary. The students had to put in to practice all they had learnt in the previous days. They were split into a prosecution and a defence team and took turns to call witnesses and the defendant to the stand. The magistrates delivered a verdict of guilty, albeit with mitigating circumstances and gave the defendant a 6 month suspended sentence.

Summer school director Dr Michael John-Hopkins said “I think it is important to give students hands-on experience of what it’s like to be a lawyer: preparing for a trial, interviewing witnesses and dealing with case files.’ He went on to say that “all the students did a good job in performing their different roles in the mock trial.’

One student commented ‘The summer school has taught me the proceedings of court and what the role of a lawyer consists of. It was great, and thank you to everyone for the warm welcome and helping us over the four days!.’

Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition – a second year of success

1-Poetry comp - vineThe Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre‘s second International Poetry Competition has been highly successful, receiving more entries from more poets than in 2015. The competition, which seeks to celebrate the great diversity of poetry being written in English all over the world, attracted close to 1000 entries from over 450 different poets and was truly international, with entries from over 30 countries including: Argentina, Canada, China, India, Iran, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, St Lucia, Taiwan, Turkey, and Uganda.

Winners of the top prizes of £1000 in each of the two categories: ESL (open to all poets over 18 years of age who speak English as Second Language), and Open (open to all poets over 18 years of age) and shortlisted poems will be announced in October. Our judge this year is the award-winning poet Daljit Nagra, the first poet to win the Forward Prize for both his first collection of poetry, Look, We Have Coming to Dover!, in 2007, and for its title poem in 2004, Daljit was also selected as a ‘New Generation Poet’ by the Poetry Book Society in 2014 and is Radio 4’s first ever Poet-in-Residence from October 2015-October 2017.

The awards evening, featuring readings from the winning poets and Daljit Nagra himself, will be held on Friday 25 November, and all are welcome to attend. Watch this space for more details. You can read about last year’s winners on the Poetry Centre website.

‘The Mindspace: an interactive play’ to be performed at Oxford Brookes


Following an immensely successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, Oxford Brookes University drama partners and in-house theatre company, Re:Conception Theatre, will be bringing their play The Mindspace to Oxford.  Featuring a cast of former and current Oxford Brookes students, audiences are invited to step into a world where active exploration of the human mind is possible.

An original piece, the idea for the performance was first devised by PhD student Russell Anderson who also directs. Working with second and third-year students over the course of a year and a half, Russell’s ideas were developed into a full length performance where the audience has complete control over the narrative via conversation and interaction with the actors. Taking the role of investors in a new technology that allows direct interaction with the mind, audiences are challenged to try and heal the damaged mind they find themselves in.

Describing their run at the Edinburgh fringe, Russell commented: “The audience response we had was incredible – far beyond what we dared to anticipate. People are really investing themselves in the story, characters and interactivity, and with several describing it as their best ever theatrical experience; it feels like we’ve tapped into something important.”

The play was also well received by critics with Broadway Baby calling it “Innovative and original … an exciting, individual, and entertaining experience,” and promises to be a truly interesting experience.

Re:Conception Theatre will be performing The Mindspace at the Oxford Brookes University’s Union Hall at 7.30pm from Wednesday 7 through to Saturday 10 September.

Tickets can be bought online. Further information is available on the Re:Conception Theatre Facebook page.

Anna Nekaris Discusses Slow Loris Trade in Japan


Professor Anna Nekaris, programme lead for MSc Primate Conservation, has recently returned from Japan discussing policies regarding the illegal trade of slow lorises. The discussions were held with the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, working in collaboration with the Japan Wildlife Conservation Society. Professor Nekaris presented evidence that she hopes will influence the Japanese government to vote to change pet trade legislation.

International trading of slow lorises has been banned since 2007 under the Washington Convention, and any slow lorises that were imported before the ban do not fall under its legislation. Japan is known to be the world’s largest market for slow lorises as pets, and in a report published earlier this year in the Asian Primates Journal, a Oxford Brookes University research group found loopholes and inadequacies in Japan’s enforcement of the ban. Evidence was found of falsified registration certificates for slow lorises, which registered their import date before the ban came into effect.

Professor Nekaris gave five public presentations to audiences of over 200 made up of the public,scientific, and government institutions. A press release led to the work being featured in 13 national newspapers including The Huffington Post Japan and Kyoto News, who featured major spreads in which Professor Nekaris spoke out against the illegal pet trade in slow lorises. Professor Nekaris also commented on the stress that slow lorises suffer being kept as pets.

More information on the MSc in Primate Conservation and Professor Nekaris’ work to protect the slow loris can be found here.


Oxford Brookes academic to co-curate crowdfunded rural arts project.

Wadhurst News

Simon Kövesi, Professor of English Literature in the Department of English and Modern Languages, is part of the team curating a major cultural event in the village of Wadhurst, East Sussex across summer 2017. It will explore the nature of the countryside and the sometimes dark secrets hidden within it using film, visual arts and storytelling. Professor Kövesi will be working alongside Julian Rowe and Terry Park, and the project’s lead artist, film maker Professor Andrew Kötting.

The event ‘Through a Dark Glass’ is an intriguing arts project that will take place in an area of outstanding natural beauty. It will feature early career artists who have been chosen for their existing interest in rurality, myth, magic and the public realm. Their practices all explore the relationship between a pastoral ideal of landscape and a more unsettling notion of the countryside as a site of the hidden, the uncanny, the archaeological, and the mythic.

It will see Professor Kövesi working with film maker Andrew Kötting again, after their collaboration on the feature film By Our Selves (2015), some of which was filmed at Brookes.

‘Working with Andrew on that film was magical,’ says Simon. ‘Everything Andrew makes is unique and it is a privilege to work with him. Then again he is also annoying, challenging, and rude (which I like). But it is his commitment to unexplored and unacknowledged corners, cultures and stories of England that really drives him on, in his own seriously absurd way. Add the fact that I grew up in Sidcup in Kent – not that far from Wadhurst really – together with the riches all the other glorious artists will bring to the project – and the prospect of all of us responding to the kooky and historically-rich beauty of Wadhurst itself – well, I had to get involved. There’s also a possibility that Oxford Brookes student writers will get involved, which is really exciting.’

To create ‘Through a Dark Glass’, the curators need help – both in terms of funding, and from people who want to join in with creating the work. The smallest contributions will be enormously appreciated, as well as being crucial in making sure arts projects like this actually happen. Click here to see how you can get involved.

The ‘Through a Dark Glass’ event will take place on Midsummer’s day in 2017, and will exhibit in Wadhurst across the summer.

Find out more about news and events in the Department of English and Modern Languages here.

The Centre for Medical Humanities welcome their first research fellow

Dr Emmanuel Betta

Dr Emmanuel Betta

The Department of History, Philosophy and Religion are pleased to welcome Dr Emmanuel Betta to the research community at Brookes. He will be a Visiting Research Fellow for both the Centre for Medical Humanities and the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History.

Dr Emmanuel Betta is a researcher of contemporary history and an associate professor at the University of Rome, Sapienza. His current area of research, Catholic biopolitics, spans the research interests of both centres.

Expanding upon his research interests Dr Emmanuel said:

“From the mid nineteenth century to 1930, the Congregation of the Roman Inquisition, which had a decisive role in the definition of orthodoxy of Catholic discourse, started to create rules on topics concerning the control of life and body. From the forties onwards it focused on magnetism and hypnosis, birth control methods, surgical-obstetrical therapies for high-risk pregnancies, cremation of the bodies of dead people, human artificial procreation, whereas from the first years of the twentieth century it started to deal with sterilization and eugenics. These topics all had in common the body, and above all the fact that they were the product of a secularized view of the body itself, of life and death. These elements were no longer conceived and governed starting from a religious and Catholic semantics, but they were increasingly interpreted as starting from biomedical knowledge and perspectives.”

“The aim of my research is to develop the history of Catholic biopolitics, meaning the creation of a doctrine of the Catholic Church concerning the ways in which the different aspects of life are governed.”

Dr Emmanuel Betta

“I’m particularly interested in this change and in the way in which the Catholic Church reacted to the loss of control over the production of the semantics for the government of the body and the health. This interest has pushed me in the last ten years to examine specific aspects of this articulated disciplinary process, from the therapeutic interruption of pregnancy and the artificial insemination, to which I dedicated my first two books, to my last article focused on the discourse concerning birth control, in which emerged a relevant role of the English case for the inquisitorial disciplinary decisions. During my Visiting Fellowship I will work on the interplay between national case, in particular the English one, and this disciplinary process, with particular attention to the reception of the Inquisitorial documents in the medical and religious journals and to the analysis of the role of English Catholics in the eugenics discussions.”

For more information about the Centre for Medical Humanities please see here .

For more information about the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History please see here.

Law students volunteer with Oxfam’s Junior Lawyers Against Poverty

Law student Rachel Kimberley

Two Law students at Oxford Brookes have been chosen to serve on the steering committee of the recently launched Oxfam’s Junior Lawyers Against Poverty.

The new Junior Lawyers Against Poverty project is a derivative of Oxfam’s Lawyers Against Poverty initiative and is overseen by a total of 14 Law students from eight universities across the UK.

Iulia Mirzac, who graduated in July, and Rachel Kimberley, a second-year undergraduate Law student at Brookes, were nominated to join the committee by one of their lecturers.

On why she chose to get involved in the project, Rachel said: “Sometimes lawyers can get a bad name for being very money orientated and I wanted to help show another side. On my gap year I worked for the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and I loved it – I was able to make a real difference to the people whose lives I got to guide and stand up for.

“With Junior Lawyers Against Poverty it’s the same; we’re trying to relieve poverty, give people access to justice and let people know they’ve got legal rights.”

The Lawyers Against Poverty project is based on the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the activities of the Junior Lawyers Against Poverty steering committee will focus on issues in developing countries that are currently affiliated by Oxfam. The main issues the project will work with are relieving poverty, achieving justice, improving recruitment and retention of women in law, and improving access to resources for Law students.

Rachel continued: “My role is sponsorship chair, so it’s up to me to raise the money we need to carry out our various ventures. We’re planning a twinning project with law students from other countries, so we’d like to raise enough money to travel out to Tanzania and visit the students we’re planning to twin with. We’re also planning to send them out some textbooks which they can then donate to libraries that under under-resourced.”

Several Oxford Brookes Law students have been working with Lawyers Against Poverty since late 2015 to conduct research. The School of Law at Oxford Brookes also hosted a breakfast seminar for lawyers involved with the project during Lawyers Against Poverty Week in June. The students, with the backing of the School of Law, are launching a pro bono scheme in September in order to open this to all Law students who wish to be involved.  Students will be able to undertake small research projects and will work towards hosting a pioneering Ted-style conference early in 2017 in conjunction with the School of Law and Oxfam’s Lawyers Against Poverty.

Dr Shirley Shipman, Principal Lecturer in Law, commented: “It is a privilege to be involved from the outset with this exciting Oxfam initiative.  This provides an excellent opportunity for law students to work alongside legal professionals in order to make a difference to people in need due to poverty.”

To find out more about Junior Lawyers Against Poverty visit the Oxfam Lawyer’s Against Poverty website


First Year Students receive Ede and Ravenscroft Prize


Five students from across the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences have received prizes for outstanding academic achievement in their first year of studies. The prizes of £500 are donated by Ede and Ravenscroft and are awarded to one student in each department who has achieved the highest grade point average over their first year.

The winners are:

Miriam Manco, Applied Languages, Department of English and Modern Languages

Charlotte Reece, Primary Teacher Education, School of Education

Tatiana Sollis, History of Art, Department of History, Philosophy and Religion

Max Jones, Geography, Department of Social Sciences

Tiffany Heppell, LLB Law, School of Law

Winner Tatiana Sollis commented ‘‘I feel very honoured to have received this prize. I will use this prize to motivate me for the rest of my studies and I will put my winnings towards a trip to New York to visit the Museum of Modern Art next summer, which we studied this year and fired my artistic imagination.”

The English and Modern Languages winner Miriam Manco said “It was such an honour to win the Ede and Ravenscroft prize 2016. The department is a community I feel very close to and has been incredibly engaging. Winning this prize was great and has given me impetus to do even better in the years to come.”

Social Sciences winner Max Jones added ‘’I feel extremely happy to be recognised for all of the hard work I have put in to my Geography course this year. I would also like to thank the lecturers for all of their help and support in guiding me through the first year of university.”

 ‘Congratulations to all of the Ede and Ravenscroft prize winners!’

Dave Ellis, Dean of Student Experience, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.