“Knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly”
An interview with Professor Russell Goulbourne

Professor Russell Goulbourne, Dean of King’s faculty of Arts and Humanities, discusses the development of this dynamic and outward looking department, demonstrated through the collaboration between King’s and the Shakespeare400 consortium in recognition of the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.

Now ranked 15th in the world and 4th in the UK according to the 2015/16 THE World University Rankings, the Faculty of Arts & Humanities is enjoying great success. This success reflects efforts in recent years to integrate teaching and research, with each reinforcing the other, an approach that underlines the Faculty’s view of the public value of a humanities degree.

Research based education
‘Students are joining a community of scholars and becoming researchers in their own right,’ says Professor Russell Goulbourne, Dean of the Faculty. ‘Given this research-based education, we are not limiting students to particular career paths, but preparing them for a whole range of different professions.’

Professor Goulbourne, who is now in his third year as Dean of the Faculty, credits his predecessors with having had the foresight to develop new ways of teaching and learning. ‘Considering the economic pressures that the humanities are under globally,’ he observes, ‘one response is to become embattled and defensive. That has not been the approach at King’s at all; rather, we are a very open faculty, and my colleagues and I enjoy working across disciplinary and institutional boundaries.’

Collaborating with Shakespeare
An exciting event that highlights the innovative work of the Faculty of Arts & Humanities is Shakespeare400, an anniversary celebration and collaboration between King’s and 24 partners in the Shakespeare400 consortium. Professor Goulbourne’s colleague, Professor Gordon McMullan, Director of the London Shakespeare Centre, outlines the value of the Shakespeare400 in connecting King’s to the wider community:

‘Our Festival — ‘What you Will’ — complements the astonishing array of activities taking place under the auspices of Shakespeare400 and offers a sample of the Shakespeare-related research activities being carried out at King’s, of the partnerships we share with London’s cultural and creative organisation, and of the innovative thinking that characterises research and teaching at King’s.’

Partners include the Globe, the National Archives and the National Theatre and the programme connects with other universities both in the UK and overseas, drawing upon the synergies between Shakespearean research and science, technology, music and psychology with an impressive range of guest speakers and performers. For Professor Goulbourne, this is typical of the Faculty’s ethos:

‘We are an outward-looking faculty with an interdisciplinary approach to research and teaching. The involvement of King’s with Shakespeare400 is a perfect example of this in practice; a cross-College project and also a collaboration with external organisations, drawing on the knowledge and research expertise of academic staff in Arts & Humanities.’

Leading in Liberal Arts
Another example of innovation within the Faculty is the Liberal Arts programme. The programme only saw its first cohort of graduates in 2015, but is already the fourth highest recruiting course in the Faculty. The sector-leading programme offers a wide choice of modules in the first year that introduce students to different disciplinary perspectives, allowing them to choose which they would like to major in for the remaining two.

The new Liberal Arts graduates will join a community of alumni who have a key role to play in the life of the Faculty, according to Professor Goulbourne: ‘Our alumni are a vital element in connecting us to the world outside the institution and we encourage them to stay in touch and get involved. We particularly want them to return and share with our current students the knowledge they’ve gained through their careers since leaving King’s.’

Were you an Arts & Humanities student? Send us your memories from your time at King’s to alumoff@kcl.ac.uk