Frequently asked questions for the Department of Italian

We asked the Department of Italian 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?

Italian at Bristol is a welcoming, collegiate and forward-thinking department. It has a thriving student body (the largest in the UK) but, as numbers remain small with respect to other languages, there is excellent interaction between staff and students, who get to know each other well.

Teaching is carried out by leading academic researchers whose expertise ranges from Dante, Boccaccio and Medieval culture, through Renaissance art and literature, to the modern period, where there is broad expertise in history, literature and film. A broad cultural studies approach dominates our teaching – ie we approach the study of Italian culture as a whole, rather than with a narrowly literary or historical focus, and we work to develop students' interdisciplinary skills and interests.

Language is taught by a dedicated, highly qualified team of native speakers who bring a range of approaches and use our excellent multimedia facilities to develop students' fluency and accuracy. Learning is student-centred throughout and there is a very good interface between language and culture units.

Departmental activities include a bilingual magazine, edited and produced by students.

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?

All staff in Italian at Bristol are leaders in their respective research fields. Their expertise is deployed throughout the programme. Students benefit increasingly from the very latest research and from academic contacts with scholars across the world as they progress through their degree. Final-year units, in particular, are research-led and relate directly to staff expertise and ongoing research; this allows students to benefit from the latest methodologies and from major research projects in Italian studies.

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

Induction events for first years normally include a series of welcome events to enable students to get to know each other, the facilities and the programme. Small-scale meetings with personal tutors, medium-scale meetings with a language class and larger orientation meetings for all first years in Italian enable students to mix at different levels. There are two main societies linked to the department – Club Italia, the departmental society; and La Civetta, the departmental magazine society.

What is the first year timetable like for this course?

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

Usually, all students have at least 10 hours' contact-time per week.

In year 1:

  • Students taking ab initio Italian have five hours per week in language; this is augmented by 1.5 hours teaching in culture units for joint-honours students (so 6.5 hours in Italian, with additional hours in their other subject) and by 5 hours of work on culture units for single-honours students.
  • Ab initio students on BA Modern Languages (3-language pathway) take 5 hours of language only.
  • Students taking post-A-Level Italian have 3 hours of language per week and an average of over 2 hours per week of cultural units for joint honours (alongside hours in their other subject) and 7 hours per week for single-honours students.
  • Post-A-Level students on BA Modern Languages (3-language pathway) have 3 hours of language and take 1.5 hours of culture units.

In years 2 and 4:

  • Joint-honours students have 3 hours of language and 2 hours of culture/optional units per week in Italian (and the same in their other language area).
  • Students on BA Modern Languages (3-language pathway) have 3 hours of language each week and an average of 1 hour of culture/optional units per week in Italian (with the same in their other language areas).
  • Single-honours students have 4 hours of language and an average of 6 hours of culture/optional units per week.

You can find out more on our online programme catalogue

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

You can find out more on our online course finder.

What support does the school offer to new students?

All students are supported by a personal tutor who meets with new students to help orient them and ease their way into university life. They are also supported by a parenting scheme, which matches second- and final-year students to first-year students, for social integration and peer-to-peer mentoring. The School of Modern Languages also provides dedicated wellbeing advisers and a Senior Tutor who provides additional and more expert support for students facing personal, learning or mental health issues.

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

Students graduating from Italian at Bristol are well prepared for a wide range of careers. They will have excellent critical and analytical skills, excellent communication and presentation skills and a proven track record in adapting to new and challenging circumstances of living and studying or working abroad. All of this has proved extremely attractive to a wide range of employers.

Graduates in Italian will also have a very high level of expertise in a range of linguistic registers and equally high competence in translation skills; they will have a broad knowledge of Italian culture and will develop the skills to adapt to a range of different professional environments.

The Faculty of Arts Framework for Employability and Assessment ensures that all students develop and are tested on their analytical, writing, presentation, collaborative and independent research skills throughout their programme of study and are workplace-ready on graduation.

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

The Year Abroad is an integral part of all degrees in Italian. We have established work placements with a range of partners in Italy, including film festivals, museums and schools; students have previously worked in administration, translation, teaching and public engagement roles.

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

Graduates in Italian enter a wide range of careers, from language-specific jobs such as teaching, translation and interpreting, to careers in journalism, the media, the creative industries, the civil service, law, accountancy, marketing and management consultancy. Several students go on to further study in the arts and social sciences, as well as in vocationally oriented courses in law, etc.

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

A year abroad is a mandatory part of the course. Students may choose to study in one of our partner universities in Italy (we have numerous links, spread throughout the peninsula) or to work at a placement arranged independently or by the department.

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

Students at Bristol enjoy the best of language teaching facilities in the UK, delivered via the school's dedicated Multimedia Centre.

In addition to providing study space to language students, the MMC incorporates a wide range of satellite and internet resources, providing access to news programmes and TV in Italian and many other languages. The centre also hosts an excellent collection of Italian-language films and a number of magazines.

Computers in the MMC are equipped with up-to-the-minute language-learning technologies and programmes for language learning, translation, interpreting and subtitling. Best of all is the centre's cinema room, which enables groups of students to come together to watch films on their course or for their own pleasure. The centre's manager is very happy to train students in the skills they need to use the equipment, make videos or film clips, and to purchase additional films and learning materials on request.

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 approximately 20-25 hours on independent study, made up of a combination of language work and reading, viewing and study of material for their cultural/optional units in addition to the average 10 hours per week in class. The balance of work is not always evenly spread over the course of the year but tends to intensify in periods leading up to assessment.

How do assessments work for the department?

Language work is assessed via regular formative and summative class tests. End-of-year summative assessment is via formal examination of oral and written language skills. Cultural/optional units are usually assessed via a combination of oral presentations (group or individual) and written assessments (commentaries/film clips and/or essays).

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

The primary difference between studying at school and at university is that greater independence and initiative are required at university. Students are encouraged to read more widely, to do more independent research and to develop their own original insights in relation to cultural material studied. In language courses, students will be asked to take responsibility for their own learning, to revise independently and to practice skills taught in their own time. They will also be encouraged to engage with authentic Italian materials to develop a breadth of understanding of different registers, contexts and non-standard linguistic forms.

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

Final-year dissertations are not mandatory but optional. Recent topics include:

  • A study of racism in Italian football
  • Literary and artistic constructions of revolution in the late 19th century
  • Masculinity and populist politics in contemporary Italy
  • Images of love in Dante's Divine Comedy
  • Screening Naples beyond the Camorra.

Anything else I should know about?

We are very happy to answer any additional questions – students should be encouraged to contact members of staff directly for any specific queries not answered here.

No preparation is required in advance of starting your degree, but we certainly encourage students – especially students with no knowledge of Italian – to read about Italy and watch Italian films/TV shows where they can. Two great introductions to modern Italy include our own John Foot's The Archipelago: Italy Since 1945; and Tobias Jones' The Dark Heart of Italy. Read any Italian literature or films – from Calvino's short stories to Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels.

Edit this page