Frequently asked questions for Department of French

We asked the Department of French some questions about what it's like to study with them. Here's what they said.

We are adapting our teaching methods and spaces in accordance with the latest COVID guidelines and therefore the information below may be subject to change.

What makes this department at the University of Bristol unique?

The Department of French fosters exploratory world-leading research in the arts and humanities related to France and the wider French-speaking world. Our research-led teaching spans a broad historical and geographical range across French studies, reaching from the medieval period to the 21st century and looking at both France and its former empire.

We cover a wide and dynamic range of specialisms, including: cultural and socio-political history; film studies; linguistics; literary studies; rhetoric and philosophy; theatre and performance studies; translation; the visual and contemporary arts; and eco-criticism.

Hear from our staff and students about what makes the School of Modern Languages special

How does the research at the school benefit the experience of the students at the school?

The school offers research-rich teaching in all degree courses so that students can benefit from our expertise in a wide range of cutting-edge topics and methods. Our research spans twelve languages (Catalan, Chinese, Czech, French, German, Italian, Occitan, Portuguese, Russian, Scots, Slovak and Spanish). It extends from the Medieval period to the contemporary, reaching beyond Western Europe to Russia and large areas of Latin America and Africa.

Our academic staff collaborate with a broad range of partners across the world to respond to global challenges, for example through work on political reconciliation, exile and migration, mental health, cultural heritage, and environmental sustainability. Students are introduced to this work through our teaching.

With experts in art and visual culture, film, history, linguistics, literature, politics and theatre a few of our current teaching and research specialisms include:

  • Transcultural encounters (within and beyond Europe; colonial, pre-colonial, post-colonial);
  • Intermediality (the interrelations between word and image from medieval manuscripts to contemporary photobooks, film, theatre, video games, graphic novels, manga, digital culture, auditory culture, art in galleries, on the street and online, the media);
  • Literary, cultural, social and political histories (including gender and sexuality, race, mental health, the environment, sport, heritage, politics, intellectuals, religion, and integration policy);
  • Translation, adaptation, and reception;
  • Sociolinguistics and language variation (with a focus on minority languages).

What does the school do to welcome students when they first start at Bristol?

There is normally a programme of introductory events for new students in Welcome Week. This includes a plenary meeting for the entire school, where we introduce important support structures such as the tutoring system, the Wellbeing Service, the Careers Service, the library, and the Student Union.

There is also a department-specific induction, a meeting with your personal tutor and time to get to know your lecturers and fellow students socially.

The French department has a dynamic French Society, run by students, which is always open to fresh ideas from new members in order to develop innovative ways to combine academic with social pursuits. 

What is the first year timetable like for this course?

(The following guide is based on the 2019/20 academic year). 

First-year students take a French language unit throughout the year, which practises and develops students’ oral, aural, reading, writing skills, and their translation skills into English. The unit will provide students with a good understanding of grammar and cultural background of the language specified.

In the first term students currently take the unit Shaping France, which provides students with an overview of issues pertaining to the history, culture and identity of contemporary France by examining key moments and themes in the development of France as a political and cultural entity from the Middle Ages to the present. It will give students a better understanding of the evolving nature of French national identity, of the French Republic, and of its position in Europe and the world across the centuries in order to better comprehend the issues facing French national identity in the contemporary world. It typically involves a weekly lecture and a weekly seminar, some of which are conducted in French.

In the second term students currently take the unit Representations of Francophone Cultures, which provides students with a representative selection of literary and visual texts from the Middle Ages to the present and introduces them to methods of analysing them. It typically involves a weekly lecture and a weekly seminar. In this unit students will encounter a range of major French literary texts, films and other cultural artefacts, and will be encouraged to think about what is involved in the study of art, culture and literature. They will be expected to develop an awareness of different ways of approaching the analysis of culture and literature and to explore how background reading around these topics will expand their horizons and contribute to a holistic approach to the study of the humanities.

Students on the BA French (single honours) programme also take the unit Global French in the first term. This unit encourages students to conceptualise the study of language and culture in a transnational framework and to consider French and French-language cultures within a global framework. It introduces them to a selection of texts in French (films, literary, visual, spoken word) and specific historical contexts that highlight key themes of mobility, border-crossing, transnational/global identity and cultural exchange.

Check our online course catalogue for the latest updates.

Where can I find out more about the detailed structure and content of the degree programmes?

There is also detailed information about all of our undergraduate courses on the online course finder

What support does the school offer to new students?

We know that the transition to university can be challenging as well as exciting and we are determined to provide every student with the support they need in order to flourish while studying with us.

Every student is assigned an academic personal tutor, who is on hand throughout your study at Bristol (including during the year abroad) to help with academic and personal development. Personal tutors help in many ways: 

  • they are someone you can talk to about your degree and the subject-specific academic skills you need to do well;
  • they can give advice on how to juggle your studies and extracurricular activities;
  • they can signpost you to help and advice if you are struggling with financial, health or other problems.

The Senior Tutor in the School of Modern Languages is also available to help students with any concerns. The University of Bristol provides a range of other support services, including Residential Life Advisers in student residences, Student Wellbeing Advisers and the Student Counselling Service. For a full list of health and wellbeing support services, visit Health and wellbeing

How will the course set me up for my future career?

We prepare our students to become agile participants and leaders in the global world. We do this by helping you to acquire functional competency in one or more languages and by fostering a range of other skills and attributes. These include multilingualism, intercultural understanding, analytical and critical thinking, clarity and self-confidence in communication, an aptitude for collaborative work, adaptability, resilience, and creativity. These transferable skills are highly valued by employers and embedded in everything we do.

The world of work will change radically in the coming decades. This is why our teaching incorporates our cutting-edge research and encourages independent learning by instilling the habits of curiosity, openness, rigour, self-reflection and evidence-based thinking, which will prepare you for a flexible future career. We also provide units in professional practice, for example in translation and interpreting, language-teaching pedagogy, and business culture.

In addition, students are able to work towards the Bristol PLUS employability award during the course of their studies. The University of Bristol is the fourth most-targeted UK university with leading graduate employers (High Fliers 2020).

Are there any employers or other initiatives that the school works with for industry placements?

Students are able to work with a wide range of employers during their year abroad (third year of the degree). You can arrange your own work placements, subject to approval by the School of Modern Languages, and use our extensive contacts with employers overseas. We take great care to support you in this.

In your final year, you will reflect on how the skills you have acquired while living abroad can strengthen your employability and personal development. 

Returning French department students have been able to share the experience of some exceptional work opportunities during the year abroad, such as working in the hospitality suite for the French president when the football world cup final took place in France, and being a junior aide in the administration at the European Commission.

What do graduates go on to do after studying this course at Bristol?

Our graduates go on to a wide range of careers and achieve the third highest earnings among students from Modern Languages degrees five years after graduation (Institute of Fiscal Studies, 2018). Many also go on to postgraduate study.

Examples of recent graduate occupations: Campaign Executive, Creative Communications Executive, Editorial Assistant, Media Relations Intern for Theatre and Dance, Translator, Arts Public Relations Intern, Gallery Intern, Editorial and Foreign Rights Intern, Customer Operations Associate, Journalist/Researcher and Selling Advertising, Graduate Recruiter, Marketing Assistant, Animator, Website Customer Services Assistant, Film Production Assistant, Account Executive, Secondary School Teacher.

Examples of employers recent graduates have gone on to work for: Allianz Insurance, Barbican Centre, British Council, Brunswick Arts, Deloitte, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Elwin Street Productions, Financial Times and Suitcase Magazine, Gü, Hue Animation Studio, L'Oreal, Marks and Spencer, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Proudfoot, Saatchi and Saatchi, Sprachcenter Mouroum, Welbeck Group, Wessex Translations, Mydex CIC, Sotheby’s, Czech Trade, Liberal Democrats.

French department graduates return regularly to speak to undergraduates of their experience working for employers as diverse as Banque Paribas and Rolls-Royce aerospace.

What opportunities are there to study abroad as part of this course?

All students spend the third year of their degree studying and/or working abroad.

Students can study at one of our partner universities or arrange work placements in any Francophone country, subject to approval by the School of Modern Languages. We provide support in arranging work placements.

What are the facilities like on campus that students will use to study this course?

The School of Modern Languages is housed in the Arts Complex on Woodland Road on the main University of Bristol campus in Clifton. In addition to a range of lecture and seminar rooms and a welcoming student common room, the school benefits from a state-of-the-art Multimedia Centre that includes a cinema suite, a large collection of foreign-language DVDs, an audio recording and video editing studio, a language lab and several study areas for independent and group work.

How many hours (on average) are required outside of lectures for additional work and study?

Based on the 2019/20 academic year, students are expected to spend an average of 40 hours per week engaging with their degree programme, of which 12 to 13 hours will be contact time (lectures, seminars and language classes) and the rest will be independent study.

How do assessments work for the department?

Your work will be assessed through a variety of methods, from group presentations and podcasts to written and oral exams and written coursework essays. There is continuous formative assessment in addition to summative assessments at the end of each term. 

What would you say are the main differences between studying at school and study at university?

  • You have a greater ability to develop and follow your own academic interests, guided by our specialist academic staff.
  • You can tailor your pathway through your degree by choosing to focus on areas such as film, gender studies, history or linguistics. You can also take up an additional language in the second year.
  • You have greater responsibility for directing and organising your own learning.
  • You can contribute to an ongoing process of cutting-edge research as our academic staff often run courses related to their current projects.

What are examples of final year projects/dissertations that students have worked on when they study this course?

Students have the opportunity to write a 6,000-word dissertation in their final year. Recent topics in French have included:

  • The representation of immigrants in French film
  • The representation of Tahitian women in Gauguin's paintings
  • French and Egyptian reactions to the Arab Spring
  • Adaptations of Rabelais for the operatic stage
  • France's relationship with NATO
  • Iconoclasm and ‘Vandalisme’ in the French Revolution.
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