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Professor James Knowles

Professor James Knowles

Senior Vice-Principal (Education)

James Knowles joined Royal Holloway in August 2017 as Vice-Principal and Dean of Arts and Social Sciences, having previously been Professor of Renaissance Literature and Culture and Vice-Dean (Research) at Brunel University, London, and Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature and Head of the School of English at University College, Cork.

Since August 2019 he has been Senior Vice-Principal for Education. 

His remit covers all aspects teaching and learning across the college including the college’s Access and Participation Plan and he holds final responsibility for quality assurance and standards with the VP Quality and Standards. His role includes responsibility for curriculum change and teaching and learning development, especially technology enhanced learning, and for ensuring the valuing of teaching and education activities and educational innovation. He works closely with the student union to ensure the effectiveness of student representation and the recognition of the student voice in education. He works closely with the Director of Student and Academic Services to provide training and support for all aspects of educational provision through the Library, CEDAS, and EDC.

Education Projects and Activities

Since taking up the role James has led on the creation of the Integrated Foundation Year, the development and implementation of the Flexible Education Offer, and the creation of a blended learning model for the college during 2020-21. This included the redevelopment of the college’s educational technology (Moodle, Teams), the creation of a flexible learning model, and the creation of training and support for blended and online learning.

He is also leading on the development of the college’s west London strategy through two projects to bring a higher education presence to Slough and to develop long term community relationships in Feltham, working with the Reach Academy as part of the Feltham Convening Project.  He also chairs the Student Success project which aims to support activities to narrow attainment gaps for BAME and other students. He is currently leading the development of a new college Education Strategy (2021-24) focused on the opportunities for technology enhanced learning, inclusive teaching and learning, and promoting educational excellence across the university.


His research has focused on the masque and its political, theatrical, and social contexts; on Ben Jonson's masques and entertainments; on sexuality and gender in the early modern period and in contemporary writing; on space, spatiality and cultural geography; and on the new histories of the book, including the queer history of the book, and manuscript studies and codicology. He has held grants fellowships from the AHRC, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, the Huntington Library, and the Ransom Library, Texas, as well as being P.I. for six EU funded Marie Curie Sklodowska fellowships, most recently mentoring work on Anna of Denmark and cultural patronage (Dr Jemma Field, now at Paul Mellon Centre for British Art, Yale).

External Activities

  • Strategic Reviewer, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and a Member of the AHRC Peer Review College (2016- ) and reviewer for Rutherford Fellowship grants for RCUK (2019-19)
  • External examiner, UG English programme, University of Buckingham (2016-19)
  • Member of the TEF Subject Level Pilot panel (2018).
  • Previous activities. Until 2017, James was a School Governor, Sir William Ramsay School, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Other advisory roles include as consultant curator at the Rubenshuis, Antwerp, for the Royalist Refugees Exhibition (2005-6); as a historical and literary consultant for English Heritage for the redisplay of Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire (2012-14).
James Knowles

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