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Prof Elizabeth Hoult


Department: Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing

  • My work is driven by the central belief that when we get together in groups to make meaning from literary and cinematic texts, the process not only has the potential to transform the way that we think, but the way that we live.  This idea informs the methodologies I have developed to understand educational disadvantage and resilience for lifelong learners from the early years onwards.  I have explored these ideas with adult learners in university and community settings, with men in prison and most recently, with teachers and parents of looked after children.  I am committed to the teaching and nuture of  plurality through reading texts and it is for this social purpose that I draw on literary theory as a theoretical framework.  



    My areas of research are, broadly:

    1) the development of an understanding of resilience in disadvantaged and marginalised learners;

    2) the use of literary theory and literary analysis alongside empirical data as an investigative framework in education - Hoult, E.C. (2012) Adult Learning and La Recherche Féminine: Reading Resilience and Hélène Cixous New York: Palgrave Macmillan

    3) the cultivation of higher level reading practices as a function of resilience and resistance in marginalised and traumatised learners (the cultivation of the ability to read plurally as well as to resist authoritative single readings of oneself as a particular type of learner) - I am currently interested in the application of this idea to prison education and to 'looked after' children in the education system;

    4) adult learning as a driver of social and personal change.

  • I joined Northumbria University in 2020 as Professor of Education.  Previously I worked in the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, University of London from 2013, where I led the MSc in Education, Power and Social Change.  Prior to that I worked at Canterbury Christ Church University, first as a teacher educator, then director of the Masters in Education programme, before working centrally in the University as Director of Regional Academic development.  In that role I successfully co-led the Kent bid for £1m of the overall HEFCE funded South East Coastal Communities project and was part of the team that successfully bid for the overall £3m project funding.  Between 2007 and 2011 I co-led the entire project, which incorporated nine universities across the south-east of England and which investigated the ways in which univerisites might support regeneration in marginalised and disadvantaged communities.  I continue to have a strong interest in exploring the ways that higher education can support the people who have traditionally not benefited a great deal from our institutions, despite living nearby.  In other words, I am committed to exploring the possibilties for the civic university.  This interest has become more urgent in our current context.

    I am fascinated by the ways in which teaching, reserach and knowledge exchange can support each other in the pursuit of a coherent philosophy of education.  I was awared a £50,000 National Teaching Fellowship in recognition of my work with adult and mature learners in higher education in 2004.  My doctoral thesis 'Representations of Resilience in Adult Learning' was awarded the British Education Research Association's prize for the best doctoral thesis in the UK in 2010.  

    In terms of content, I am interested in the ways that people survive and thrive in the education system, despite structural inequalities and social marginalisation.  I call this resilient learning and in recent years I have investigated this concept with participants in a men's prison.  I am writing about how resilient learning works - and doesn't work - in the context of children in schools who are, or who previously been, looked after by the state in my current monograph commissioned for publication by Routledge, The Foster Child in Literature, Culture and Society: foundling myths and their influence on vulnerable children’s experience of education.

    I am excited by the application of the epistemologies and methodologies of the arts and humanities to social research.  I have a particular interest in the work that literary texts and literary analysis can do when juxtaposed with empirical data from the social world.  My book Hoult, E.C. (2012) Adult Learning and La Recherche Féminine: Reading Resilience and Hélène Cixous New York: Palgrave Macmillan, explored the application of post-structuralist literary theory as an investigative tool in the context of resilient adult learning.


Elizabeth Hoult

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • The Impact of Working Conditions on the UK’s Teaching Assistants, Ravalier, J., Walsh, J., Hoult, E. 2 Nov 2021, In: Oxford Review of Education
  • When learning becomes a fetish: the pledge, turn and prestige of magic tricks, Bainbridge, A., Gaitanidis, A., Hoult, E. 16 Dec 2017, In: Pedagogy, Culture and Society
  • Poetry as method – trying to see the world differently, Hoult, E., Mort , H., Pahl, K., Rasool , Z. 1 Feb 2020, In: Research for All
  • The Social Uses of the Alien: An Account of a Science Fiction Film Project in a UK Men's Prison, Hoult, E. 2018, In: Foundation: International Review of Science Fiction
  • Adult Learning and la Recherche Féminine: Reading Resilience and Hélène Cixous, Hoult, E. 2012
  • Recognizing and Escaping the Sham: Authority moves, truth claims and the fiction of academic writing about adult learning, Hoult, E. 2012, In: InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies
  • Re-thinking Vulnerability and Resilience through a Psychosocial Reading of Shakespeare, Hoult, E. 2015, Psychosocial Imaginaries, London and New York, Palgrave Macmillan

  • Laura Thurman Understanding the Myths and Stories which Shape the Looked After – and Previously Looked After - Child’s Journey Through the Educational System in England. Start Date: 01/10/2022
  • David Nichol Becoming an academic in Higher Education: Staff perceptions of influences that support or deter the development of their professional identities Start Date: 17/03/2020 End Date: 26/06/2022

Dr Elizabeth Hoult is a Professor of Education at Northumbria University in the UK.  Her research interests include the application of literary theory and literary analysis to social research; resilience in education, and adult and community education as ways of nurturing hopeful futures.  Her research has been described as methodologically groundbreaking, stemming from her doctoral monograph ‘Hoult, E.C. (2012) Adult Learning and La Recherche Féminine: Reading Resilience and Hélène Cixous New York: Palgrave Macmillan,  in the way that it juxtaposes literary analysis and qualitative data in order to read social issues. She continues to think about the way that deep engagement with texts allows individuals and communities to imagine alternative futures. To this end she is interested in the civic university as a source of social renewal. Her recent writing has explored the uses of science fiction as a container for speculative and contemplative conversations about hopeful futures.  She is committed to an academic life which supports teaching, research and knowledge exchange as equally important and interrelated endeavours.



PhD completions 

Ursula Edgington - Performativity and Affectivity: lesson observations in England's Further Education Colleges (2013)

Christian Beighton - Deleuze and Lifelong Learning: creativity, events and ethics (latter part supervision, 2014)

Denise Cormack - Life-Writing as a Method of Inquiry: good enough mothering and life chances (2015)

Kate Thomas -  Dimensions of Belonging: Rethinking retention for mature part-time undergraduates in English higher education (April, 2016)

Beverley Hayward - Making the Invisible, Visible: the positioning of the learning support assistant in higher education adn the possibilities for resistance (2019)

Matthew Martinez - Reading Resilience: exploring non-normative modes of writing and being (2020)

Val Sanders - Losing and Finding Oneself in a Book: An exploration of the mysterious immersive experience of reading literary fiction (2021 )


  • Education PhD March 05 2010
  • MA November 01 2000
  • PGCE July 31 1993
  • English Literature BA (Hons) July 31 1992
  • National Teaching Fellowship
  • Member Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE)

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