Nic Brownlie – MA by Research Shakespeare Studies

MA by Research Shakespeare Studies student, Nic Brownlie, is studying as a distance learning student. He tells us more about what it’s like as a researcher at the Shakespeare Institute.

nic-brownlieWhy did you choose to study at the Shakespeare Institute? 

I chose the Shakespeare Institute because I knew that I wanted to explore aspects of Shakespeare’s drama in detail, building on my lifelong love of his works. The Shakespeare Institute offered the chance to do this through distance learning on the MA by Research course - with the potential to progress to PhD if things worked out. The history, location and reputation of the Institute – with its links to the RSC and Stratford – all helped to make the decision to study here so easy!

Why did you choose to undertake research at the University of Birmingham?

My wife had completed her own masters at Birmingham a few years back and has always spoken highly – and fondly - of the University. When it came to my own research, the University’s membership of the Russell Group and the excellence of its website and online presence and resources (important for a distance learner!) made Birmingham a natural choice for me.

What are the best things about your course? 

Each week everyone at the Shakespeare Institute gathers for a paper from a leading Shakespeare scholar, followed by an opportunity to ask questions. These seminars open my eyes to new ideas, develop my knowledge and understanding of the field of Shakespeare studies and make me feel part of the global Shakespeare community even as I work from my own home. In addition, the support and input from my supervisor, and from other members of staff and students at the Institute, has been fantastic: this is a community where kindness and excellence go hand in hand.

What is life like as a researcher at the University of Birmingham? 

As a distance learner I have worked exclusively from home – although post-covid I know I will be welcomed when I finally visit both the University and the Institute. The MA by Research has allowed me to choose my own focus for study, with access to a vast range of online resources, documents and books via my University log-in. Monthly online meetings with my supervisor provide a clear focus for my research and development - keeping my work on track. While most days involve a mixture of ‘searching’, reading, note-taking and writing, they also invariably involve WhatsApp communications with other researchers and, of course, those fantastic seminars each week.

What support have you received during your course?

I have been supported whenever I have needed it: from my supervisor’s unwavering encouragement and support at a personal level, through to the wide range of online courses available via Canvas covering everything from ‘Referencing’ to becoming an ‘Influential Researcher’. Library queries have been addressed swiftly and my recent engagement with a progress panel was wonderfully supportive. I have been lucky not to have run into any major difficulties or issues this year but I have no doubt – from the interactions I have had with the library, members of faculty, and other students and researchers that when I need such support I will find it easy to come by.

Outside of your research, what experience have you gained and how will it help you in the future?

I have met a wide range of international practitioners and researchers, participated in several conferences and have been exposed to fields of study well beyond my own circle of reference. These experiences are already helping to shape changes in direction and thinking in my own life and career.

Find out more about our postgraduate research opportunities at the Shakespeare Institute.