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‘Insufficient’ numbers apply for MA in Black British writing

GROUNDBREAKING: Goldsmiths College, University of London, in New Cross, south London

IT WAS the first of its kind in the world. Goldsmiths College’s masters degree in Black British Writing, Performance and Drama was aimed at individuals seeking to establish academic careers, professionals returning to learning or artists who wanted to develop their analytical and critical thinking skills.

In September 2013, Andrea Enisuoh, in an article entitled Saving Black Literature published on the website Words of Colour, reported that a number of award-winning writers, including children’s laureate Malorie Blackman OBE and author Bernadine Evaristo, welcomed the course.

Blackman said: “At last Black British writing [will] receive the academic recognition and the proper in-depth analysis that it deserves.”

Dr Deirdre Osborne, senior lecturer and course convener of this masters programme, said it was a collaboration between herself and Joan Anim-Addo, professor of Caribbean literature and culture at Goldsmiths College.

Dr Osborne said: “The MA aims to redress not only opportunities to study the field for students of any ethnicity, but to also create routes for Black academics into PhD study and cultural leadership and education.”

Initially set up to run in 2013, the course was withdrawn for that academic year by Goldsmiths College due to ‘insufficient enrolment’.

The course needs a minimum of ten full-time home/EU students before it is deemed viable to run.

The MA programme is once again set to run in 2015. Enrolments are underway, but still low.


Dr Osborne cited the cost of university degrees as being a possible contributory factor to the low take-up of the course. She noted that “a three-year undergraduate degree is now £27,000 and a one-year MA is circa £5,000 so by comparison, it is not as expensive.”

However, online searches of the course suggest that little was or has been done to publicise it in journals and newspapers.

‘GLOBAL APPEAL’: British writer and poet Bernardine Evaristo welcomes the course

A spokeswoman for the university said the marketing for the MA falls in line with their general framework for publicising the over 180 programmes that are currently delivered.

“Wasafiri [literary magazine] has agreed to place something in their next issue,” Dr Osborne said.

But is this enough?

In her article, Enisuoh quoted Bernadine Evaristo as saying that “a course like this would need to be advertised not just nationally, but internationally”.

George Ruddock, managing director of The Voice, said: “With the introduction of a course like this, marketing it in the same way that you would other courses won’t yield results.

“It appeals to a very niche group and would benefit from advertising with media organisations with access to that group not just in the UK but in the Caribbean and Africa as well.”

Dr Osborne said she has taken a hands-on role in publicising the MA by using networks such as the New Black Arts Alliance, SABLE, and Talawa Theatre.

Individuals such as Margaret Busby OBE, Malorie Blackman OBE, SuAndi OBE and Kadija Sesay/George have also been spreading the word using social media.


Dr Osborne said: “There is nothing better than being in the first group that undertakes a new degree programme for the attention and care on offer.”

A potential young student said he thought the course was very timely because it coincides with “the resurgence of literature in Black British culture, particularly among the youth, in the popular forms of poetry and spoken word.

However, the course cannot attract recruits unless people know about it and it would be a major disappointment if it was to be postponed yet again,” the student stressed.

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