English Literature: student stories | Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) skip to content

Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)


Judith Roberts

The ICE catalogues are so beguiling – full of things you haven’t had time to pursue when you’re working. I started by going to weekend courses nearly 20 years ago, then did some modules from a Diploma in the History of Drama. After that I just couldn’t stop.

I did a Diploma in History of Art and then a Diploma in English Literature, catching up on things I didn’t study when I read English Literature at Lucy Cavendish in the 1970s.

Even though I retired in 2011, I want to use my time productively. I want retirement to be something where I keep my brain active, not put my feet up. I don’t like the idea of winding down. And ICE courses are more challenging than a book group – I want to be made to do some writing. Writing essays really clarifies your ideas, and it makes you spend time in libraries, with a goal in mind. I go to the University Library to read and have a bowl of soup in the tearoom. When I’m there, everything else disappears. You just bury your head in what you’re doing, and it’s lovely.

Jim McGivern

Returning to the world of formal learning after a gap of more than 40 years was a big step for me. I saw a flyer advertising a course on the poets Auden and Heaney. I was intrigued but very nervous about lifting the phone to inquire. Eventually I plucked up the courage to see what it was all about; I promise I am not exaggerating my worry.

Well it was all so easy: the staff from Madingley were so supportive from my very first contact. They could not have been more helpful. I did enrol for the course and have not looked back. The tutors were every bit as supportive as the admin staff. I had joined a very diverse group of people: some like me in their sixties; other in their twenties and thirties. Some had recent university experience, while some like myself were keen readers with a formal education as far back as the 1960s.

The discussions in the classes were great fun and how our tutor moved us along is still a mystery to me. I can honestly say I have rarely enjoyed anything so much. We studied Pinter and Beckett, Conrad and Forster, Shakespeare and George Herbert. It was a very rich and satisfying diet. There was help with the essay writing and eventually I even enjoyed putting my ideas down on paper. Over a period of three years I completed the Diploma and Advanced Diploma Courses and am now enrolled in a Master's programme at Birkbeck College London.

To be honest I owe Madingley a great debt. They gave me the confidence to tackle things I never would have tackled on my own. To have said to me a while ago you will be reading and watching Samuel Beckett's plays and understand what he is saying – it is wonderful.

I would encourage anyone to get into Madingley. It does not judge you on what you have or haven't got as qualifications. It listens to the concerns of those like myself who lack initial confidence and it has opened up for me the world of English Literature.

Any questions?

Sign up for email alerts

By signing up to our mailing list we will email you occasionally to keep you up-to-date with courses, events and other activities here at the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education.

Sign up now »

You can unsubscribe at any time. See our privacy notice for more information on how we take care of your data.