Lilith Johnstone

MLitt Scottish Literature

Why did you decide to study a postgraduate course?

My reasons for pursuing a postgraduate course were threefold: having loved my undergraduate I was passionate about my subject and always planned to go on to further study to further expand my knowledge and skills; I had found a niche interest in Scottish Literature and wanted to hone in on this specifically; for several years my overall career plan was to apply for a PhD where a Masters qualification was a necessary prerequisite.

What attracted you to Stirling?

I specifically chose Stirling because the course was the only one of its kind and I felt it would be the perfect fit for me. Productive and encouraging communication with course convenor Scott Hames also convinced me that the course would provide me with what I was looking for from Masters study; he suggested the small class size and staffing would create a positive learning environment. On a more logistical level the nature of the Masters meant that it would be easy for me to combine part-time work which was essential for my living circumstances with my study. I was drawn to how the staff seemed to understand the outside life commitments that students at this level have to balance. Furthermore, Stirling was in close commuting distance of my home city of Glasgow.

What did you enjoy most about your time at the University of Stirling?

The course that I studied was by far the best part at my time at the University of Stirling. As I mention above this is the most significant reason I chose to study here. The nature of the course, what I developed in terms of practical academic skills and the more intangible ‘life lessons’ I learnt were invaluable.

Which aspects of the programme did you enjoy the most?

In short, ‘Scottish Literature’ was no longer just one week on a undergraduate reading list! The course proved to me the merit, depth, complexity of this literature and the need for research on the varied texts produced by this country in all their forms.

I relished the opportunity to study Scottish Literature in-depth after doing a more general undergraduate in English Literature and dive head first into an array of Scottish texts canonical, under-researched and extremely contemporary. Having a platform to discuss their varied contexts, debate their ideologies and consider their author’s approaches was a joy.

It is a real privilege to share a tutorial with such knowledgeable, dedicated staff who clearly take their subject and their research interests extremely seriously and to work and learn alongside fellow students who share your interests but who are often coming to the course from different life experiences and outlooks; this leads to productive and engaging seminars.

Personally, my favourite part of the course was the opportunity to develop my own personal research interests, particularly through the final dissertation module which was, for me, the essential highlight of the course that I was working towards since the beginning. I relished taking ownership of such a challenging independent project especially one on such an under-researched topic and developing a unique and unusual approach. I had been keen to research and write on my topic for several years and the course afforded me the opportunity to do so. Feeling like I was able to make unique contributions to knowledge was a real privilege and a fantastic opportunity for me as a student and writer.

Although at times personally, academically and emotionally challenging it is not an overreach to say that this course taught me a great deal about myself in a variety of different ways.

How did your time at University make you more employable? For example, did you undertake placements, work experience, engage with employers through your programme, act as class rep, get involved with the Student’s Union? What key skills did you develop?

My personal circumstances of needing to work part-time three days a week in order to fund myself to live and study this course meant that I did not undertake any extra-curricular activities during my Masters course which made me more employable. For me, it was the act of the learning and academic study into Scottish Literature itself which I hope will make me more employable in future. I understand this was perhaps not the ideal approach but, for me, an extremely necessary one.

For the large part of the course I hoped that my Masters study would lead to PhD study and although I was ultimately unsuccessful in doing so, the advice and preparation which staff put in place to aid my application was clearly well-informed, useful and realistic.

I did act as a class rep, however, which I believe is an important role for course programmes to take seriously - it is important for staff-student dialogue to stay open if courses are to maintain and improve their quality year on year.

What advice would you give a student considering studying at Stirling?

I would encourage any student to consider studying at Stirling if the course and its logistics suited their personal needs - two essential criterial for Masters study. It is an ideal university to come to as a Masters student: practically, it is in a perfect location and the campus is a beautiful retreat from city living. In academic terms, in my experience, staff are knowledgeable and passionate about their research interests, the course is well constructed and well taught, with room to accommodate students’ needs and staff are largely mindful of the work-life balance students are often trying to negotiate which I believe is especially important at Masters level.

How would you summarise your time at Stirling?

A steep learning curve, personally and academically challenging but essential, rewarding and eye opening for me as a student and an individual.

If you have now graduated, what are you doing now?

At present I am currently working part-time in student property management; however, my long term goal is to apply for PGDE in secondary English teaching in Glasgow.