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The University of Southampton
English Part of Humanities

Stephen Watkins PhD in English Literature

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Hi I am Stephen Watkins studying a PhD in English Literature.

Southampton is a marvellous place to study its research environment is extremely strong and the lecturers in the department are the nicest bunch of people you could wish to meet.

What made you choose to come and study at Southampton?

There were two deciding factors in my choice of university: the quality of the research department, and the friendliness of the staff. Southampton is a marvellous place to study, its research environment is extremely strong and the lecturers in the department are the nicest bunch of people you could wish to meet.

What is it like studying here?

Southampton is a great place to study and live. I think I’ve managed to strike a good work-life balance, though I do live with four other PhD students, so that’s probably not true! Thankfully, I have a great supervisory team: they are incredibly supportive and always willing to discuss issues or queries that I’m having with my research. (They’re also very patient, which is good because I write far too slowly.)

How do you rate study facilities at the University, such as the Library ?

A university lives or dies by the quality of its library, especially for postgraduate study. Luckily for us, the Hartley library is wonderful both as a resource and as a study space. The librarians are always on hand to help with locating (even buying new!) the books I need for my research.

What have been your Southampton ‘highlights’ (best experiences) so far?

One of the highlights of my Southampton experience must be the conference I organised with Marianne O’Doherty in May 2016 in honour of Prof John McGavin, who recently retired from the English department. John taught me medieval drama during my undergraduate degree, and it was great to celebrate his exceptional research and teaching career by bringing together scholars from all over the country to share the latest developments in research related to his interests in early drama.

What other activities have you taken advantage of while at University?

When I’m not writing my thesis or teaching on the undergraduate model, ‘Radical England: from Shakespeare to Milton’, I sing with SU Philharmonic Choir, which rehearses at the Turner Sims with Southampton University Philharmonic Choir. It’s a great way to get involved in city-wide activities: in the summer we have our concert in Winchester Cathedral, a stunning building in which even my voice sounds passable!

What are you enjoying most about your course?

I enjoy the opportunity to spend three years researching a particular topic and developing the key skills required to be successful in research.

What networking, employment and work experience opportunities have you undertaken and how have they enhanced your undergraduate experience?

PhD students have the opportunity to teach on some undergraduate models, which is a great preparation for a future career in academia. I’ve also been lucky enough to attend a number of conferences during my course, sharing my research with fellow postgraduates and academics.

What advice would you offer to potential students?

Throw yourself into university life: read all the books, attend all the seminars. That way, you’ll get the most out of the course. But that’s only part of it. You need to make time to make friends and try new things. Join some societies and get involved, whether that’s in sports, or arts, or whatever. University the time to do this, before you have to go out into the world of work.

Do you like living in Southampton?

Southampton is a great city to live in. There’s plenty to do, both on campus and in the city. We have three arts institutions based on Highfield, which adds to the vibrant cultural life of the university: the Turner Sims concert hall, the Nuffield Theatre, and the John Hansard Gallery. The city too boasts a new cultural centre. Southampton is an easy place to get around, so it’s always possible to finish a day’s research and pop along to an event somewhere and grab a drink afterwards!

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