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Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
William Shakespeare, The Tempest

The OxNet English course ran for the first time in 2021. It is run in partnership between Pembroke College (University of Oxford) and Oldham Sixth Form College.


The programme of seminar study is focused around Postcolonial Literature, and in particular:

· Racism and Inequality

· Gender and Sexuality

· Environment and eco-poetics

· Freedom and Independence

· Hybridity

A variety of literary texts will be explored during the seminar series, including Shakespeare’s The Tempest, alongside extracts from novels, such as Midnight’s Children, Wide Sargasso Sea, White Teeth, and Girl, Woman, Other, as well as poems by, for example, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and Benjamin Zephaniah.

Co-designer of the English programme, Megan, describes her experience of applying to study English at the
University of Oxford

"The OxNet Postcolonial Literature course is bold, varied, and asks students to think about a range of ambitious questions that are alive in our field today. It does crucial work to diversify students' reading. I was deeply impressed by the openness, flexibility, and quality of the discussion."

(Dr Ushashi Dasgupta, Pembroke College, Oxford)

National awards

We are delighted to report that the English strand of OxNet, The Empire Writes Back, has been nominated, and been successful, in 2 national award schemes.


The programme, first established in 2021, with a focus on postcolonial literature and theory, won the Runners Up prize in the Social Mobility category at the Sixth Form College Association’s awards ceremony in June. A month later, Dr Richard Lee, the English Subject Lead, was chosen  as the Aspire Teacher of the Year, by a panel of 10 judges, and from over 250 nominations, at the upReach Social Mobility Awards ceremony at the House of Lords.

Although still a new strand of OxNet, The Empire Writes Back has received plenty of positive feedback. Dr Ushashi Dasgupta, Associate Professor of English at Pembroke College, Oxford, described the programme as ‘bold, varied, and asks students to think about a range of ambitious questions that are alive in our field today. It does crucial work to diversify students' reading.’ Leah, from Sunderland, part of the 2021 cohort, described how the seminar series ‘is amazing in helping to stretch your ideas beyond A Level’ and believes that ‘anyone who has a genuine passion for literature would absolutely love it!’

Reflecting on the awards, Dr Lee said: ‘It is fantastic, and humbling, to receive both awards. The credit for the success of the programme should go, firstly, to Pembroke College, and the amazing OxNet team, who provide the framework and support to facilitate its delivery. And, secondly, and most importantly, to the phenomenal students for their wholehearted participation. Without them, it’s nothing.’

Pupil testimonials

I feel strongly about the issues discussed across the seminars. Learning of the history of the British Empire and how multicultural Britain came to be today through a variety of literary prose and poetry was fantastic. It created an open dialogue to explore ideas and allowed me to connect with texts I would have never otherwise read. Also, because I have found the school curriculum to be very white male based with virtually no post-colonial theory, the content of the course was very new to me which also helped to keep it interesting. This has been one of the best experiences of my life and I’m so grateful for OxNet organising it all.

(Sapphy, May 2022)

Oxbridge wasn’t even a thought that crossed my mind, but OxNet has completely changed that. I have found a huge admiration for postcolonial literature and OxNet has demystified so many misconceptions I had - making me realise that Oxbridge is for kids like me (kids who just LOVE their subject). Through the seminar series and the access week I learnt I had a voice, and I could use it, and I was worth being listened to. (Antonia, August 2022)

I am so glad I applied. I thought my group was so kind and everyone was so interested in hearing each other's ideas. I recommend it for anyone who wants to learn outside of their school curriculum, and read texts from modern authors of colour who have redefined and reshaped literature and ideas on colonisation. I was definitely one of the quieter people on the course, but since it started my confidence has shot right up. At first, I was so nervous to even speak in the seminars, but now I'm doing mock interviews at an Oxford level.

(Anayo, August 2022)

I would definitely recommend applying to the OxNet programme because it provides such in-depth study that allowed me to push beyond the limitations of my college curriculum and connect with other English enthusiasts who wished to do the same. The seminars were engaging with brilliant guest speakers that explored a range of topics which created a well rounded knowledge of post-colonial literature. One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed is my own confidence when presenting my ideas in college after doing so via Zoom in the OxNet seminars. I am able to articulate my thoughts much more clearly and with less self doubt. The course has also clarified the direction I want to take in higher education.

(Lucy, May 2022)

I loved the structure of the sessions as the mini-lectures enriched my understanding of topics that I had perhaps never covered before and I have definitely come away with an incredible breadth of knowledge that will be invaluable to my future studies. I feel like my vocabulary, my ability to articulate myself, my ideas and my critical thinking skills have immensely improved as a result of this seminar series.

I loved the group discussions as they provided a friendly, welcoming atmosphere in which everybody’s ideas were listened to and appreciated. Everyone’s ideas and perspectives were so diverse and perceptive that I felt challenged and inspired to contribute my own points. The group itself formed a really close bond in which everybody’s opinions were accepted and we often were able to elaborate and expand on each other’s points which inevitably developed our own understandings of the texts.

(Charlotte, May 2022)

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