Our class of 2021 really are something to shout about. They’ve overcome challenges, helped others, grasped opportunities and developed their skills, showing their Essex Spirit in so many ways. And they’ve done it all during a pandemic when student life has been changed beyond recognition. We couldn’t be prouder of them so we’re telling their stories.
Wed 14 Jul 21
Amanda Cole has had a fascination for the Cockney accent and a curiosity for how it has reconfigured across Essex since she was a child so, when she was looking for somewhere to study it as a doctoral student there was only really one choice.
“I chose the University of Essex because, well, what better place is there to study the Essex accent?”
Growing up in the south of the county, Amanda comes from a family of East Londoners who now live in Essex. She is the first member of her family to go to university.
She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Southampton and a masters at University College London.
This summer she graduates with a PhD Linguistics, funded by the University of Essex Doctoral Scholarship. “My research has focused on the Essex accent and accent bias in south east England. In particular, I’ve researched the influence of Cockney on the Essex accent.”
Inspiration came from her own family: “Both sets of grandparents were relocated to council estates in southern Essex as part of government-led programmes to reduce poverty and overcrowding in East London and I have always been interested in this movement out of the city and the change in the accents of my family.”
But it wasn’t just the county connection that led Amanda to Essex, it was also the chance to work with a particular academic: “First and foremost I chose Essex because of my supervisor, Professor Peter Patrick. Peter has a wealth of knowledge and experience in sociolinguistics and saw the potential in my research.
“He found the perfect balance between firstly, guiding and supporting me, and secondly, challenging me to think creatively and ambitiously in exploring my research interests.”
"I chose the University of Essex because, well, what better place is there to study the Essex accent?"
Amanda’s especially proud that her research has attracted so much media attention, with coverage on the BBC, Radio 5 Live and in the Sunday Telegraph and Daily Mail: “I hope that the coverage has raised awareness, even just a tiny bit, of accent bias. I was particularly touched by the many emails from members of the public who got in touch with me after the media coverage, to share their personal experiences of living with an Essex accent.”
Amanda submitted her PhD in July 2020, just four months after the start of the pandemic, and in the same month began work as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Language and Linguistics and the Institute of Analytics and Data Science.
“What has made my transition from student to staff much smoother has been the fantastic support provided to me by members of my department. From the professional service staff to my fellow academics” she said.
Her work as a Graduate Teaching Assistant whilst still a student also helped: “I thoroughly enjoyed this role, and the experience was invaluable in preparing me for my new role and developing and delivering my own modules.”
Now supervising her own MA students and final-year undergraduates, Amanda is putting her own experiences of studying in a pandemic at the heart of her support for her students.
“I hope to channel the enthusiasm and sense of belonging that I experienced throughout my PhD into my role as supervisor so that my students can make the very most of their time at Essex.”