Liverpool Hope

Liverpool Hope

I have been a member of staff at Liverpool Hope since January 2012, and I am now Head of the School of Humanities, Subject Lead for English and an Associate Dean.


From my contribution to Foundations of Hope: Reflections on 20 Years at Liverpool Hope University (2022):

There’s a well-known essay from 1939 by Abraham Flexner called ‘The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge’, which speaks very sensibly about how universities and researchers should conduct themselves: it emphasises ‘the overwhelming importance of spiritual and intellectual freedom’; it argues that if subjects ‘bring satisfaction to an individual soul bent upon its own purification and elevation’ then that ‘is all the justification that they need’; and it states that ‘An institution which sets free successive generations of human souls is amply justified’.  Here, research and learning is treated with respect and it does not have to be ‘useful’ in any narrow, reductive sense.  Our research publications, and our students’ degrees, are useful, important and relevant, and the research has ‘impact’; but teaching and research is in the first instance conducted from, with and for a love of the subject.  Our graduates are forces for good in the world, and they change lives, but they study here because they are passionate about the subject and they work with staff who convey their own enthusiasms.

‘The University’s distinctive philosophy is to “educate in the round” – mind, body and spirit – in the quest for Truth, Beauty and Goodness.’  Beauty is not ignored.  I came to Hope for the first time a decade ago for my interview, and I didn’t know Hope or Liverpool at all; it was a pleasant summer day and I noted how green the campus was – I was shown inside the buildings too but it’s the grounds that I remembered most, as well as the kindliness of Bill Blazek, who acted as my guide.  It was rather a change from Queen Mary, University of London, where I had been teaching for a year on the Mile End campus, a cramped campus with barely a tree.  The School of Humanities is located around the Literary Rose Garden at Hope Park and the natural environment is an important part of our teaching and research as well as our working environment (most of our offices and teaching rooms look out onto trees and flowers).  This campus has ducks, foxes, owls, even green parakeets – one of the early wonders of my time here was the day when a big white rabbit appeared outside my groundfloor window and proceeded to run around the campus while various over-confident rugby players tried to catch it.  Then – and even more so now – that white rabbit seemed important.  Something for the magician or for Alice in Wonderland.  The rabbit had escaped from a nearby garden and enjoyed its great escape until the following day when it was returned to its young owner.  When I gave my inaugural professorial lecture recently, a toad entered the building and had to be persuaded to stay outside.

Hope has created the right environment for learning and teaching, and for the enjoyment of discovery.  The Sheppard-Worlock Library is central to that.  It is a wonderful resource for research, teaching and studying.  It’s a beautiful place for working, especially at the desks overlooking the quadrangle, offering a very beautiful, if distracting, view for staff and students.  As a cricket fan, I’ve always enjoyed the fact that the library is named after an England cricketer, David Sheppard (a bishop too, of course, but a cricketer first).  The library is also the venue each year for the May Day Madrigals, which are a highlight of life at Hope, and if the weather is fine (which it usually is) you can enjoy the early morning sun, the quadrangle garden, the 1920s vernacular architecture and the birdsong competing with the singers.  And then, afterwards, enjoy the free breakfast in the common room.



Hope also owns Plas Caerdeon, a house with a wonderful history, where Darwin stayed.


I always pay homage too to a Victorian resident, Prince, ‘a dear and faithful dog’.