LSS UG & PG Student Handbook

Welcome message from Executive Dean, Simon Green


On behalf of all my colleagues, both academics and support staff, I hope that your time at Aston is both enjoyable and rewarding. We know that University now involves a significant personal financial commitment by students, but an Aston degree remains an excellent investment in your future: not only do our programmes provide a rigorous academic training in your chosen discipline, but Aston graduates are among the most highly regarded by employers of all kinds.

The information in this Handbook is designed to introduce you to the School and its organisation. We hope it will be useful in explaining the basics of the School's Undergraduate and Postgraduate degree programmes, together with a number of administrative details. If you do need any help or advice, do not hesitate to contact us: your Personal Tutor, the Programme Director for your degree or the School’s Programme Support Team will all be able to help you directly, or put you in touch with other relevant areas of the University’s extensive network of support services.

Lastly, I want to encourage you to make the most of your time at Aston. University is a unique opportunity to develop both personally and intellectually, and whether it is via your formal degree programme, or attending one of the many events the School typically hosts, or contributing to the Students’ Union and its societies, there are many ways to get involved.

Good luck with your studies!

Professor Jonathan Tritter
Executive Dean

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established research-active University, known for its world-class teaching quality and strong links to industry, government and the professions.  It is also an inclusive, forward-thinking and diverse institution, deeply committed to ensuring all of its students can maximise their achievements. 

Whether you’re a UK, EU or international student looking for advice on managing money, wanting to join or even set-up a student society or needing guidance and support when looking ahead to your future career, Aston has friendly and experienced professionals ready to help.

We take supporting our students very seriously.  Aston was proud to have been awarded Gold by the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) where we were acclaimed for “students from all backgrounds achieve consistently outstanding outcomes”.  Similarly, in the National Student Survey (NSS) Aston has achieved an overall satisfaction rate of at least 88% for the last four years (above the national average of 86%). 

We are dedicated to equipping our students with the skills needed to thrive in the world of work. Aston is ranked among the top four universities for helping students secure a work placement year during their studies, helping them gain invaluable experience.  With the aid of our award winning Careers+Placements team, Aston’s graduates are some of the most employable in the UK.  Six months after graduation, nearly eight out of ten Aston alumni are in graduate level destinations – an employability rate comparable to those of the traditional elite universities.

For those who do not want to take the traditional graduate route, however, our Careers+Placements team can assist with other options such as further study, voluntary or charity work, and starting your own business.  For postgraduate students we have a specialist careers adviser who can help with career planning and we also have opportunities for postgraduate internships that can provide important work experience. 

For students who are not based on campus Careers+Placements have an online collection of tools for career planning and research.

Having celebrated our 50th year as a University in 2016 and welcomed our new Vice-Chancellor, we are constantly adapting to the changing needs of our students. In keeping with the University’s progressive motto, ‘Forward’, we pledge to continue to do so.

HH Sig

Professor Helen E Higson OBE
Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor

LSS School Reception is located in Room MB775 on the 7th floor of the Main Building.

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm during Term Time and 11am to 2pm outside Term Time.

Key Contacts
Timetabling and module registration – Mingqing Jia, Timetabling Officer (m.jia@aston.ac.uk)
Student support team – lss_programmesupport@aston.ac.uk
Exams and assessment – lss_assessment@aston.ac.uk

Contacting Academic Staff

Please use the Staff Directory to look up contact details.

In addition, academic staff will advertise at least 4 hours a week during term time where they will be available for you to discuss your academic work and receive feedback. This is often called office hours or consultation hours.

How these sessions are managed is down to individual academics – you may be able to just drop in, or you might have to arrange a specific time either via email or through the WASS appointment system.

You may be able to arrange an appointment outside of these hours, by negotiation.

Who to contact?
If your query or issue relates to...

  • your academic studies on a specific module – the lecturer teaching the module
  • your programme as a whole – the programme director, or Head of Department, or your student course representative
  • pastoral, personal, or general academic problems – your personal tutor - see "Personal tutor information", below

You can also contact Dr Virginie Grzelczyk (Associate Dean Portfolio Development and Recruitment), Dr Sarah Jane-Page (Associate Dean Regulations and Awards) or Dr Raquel Fernández Sánchez (Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching) for matters that cannot be resolved by any of the above people. Appointments can be made via WASS.

Absences and Pastoral Care
Please contact us as soon as you are aware that you will be absent from class or if there are any matters that are affecting your ability to attend classes and keep up with your studies.

Please e-mail: lss_programmesupport@aston.ac.uk

Social media
You can also follow Aston LSS on Facebook and Twitter


Executive Dean – Professor Simon Green
Deputy Dean – Professor Frank Austermuehl (TP 1), Professor Jonathan Tritter (TP 2)
Associate Dean, Associate Dean Portfolio Development and Recruitment - Dr Virginie Grzelczyk 
Associate Dean, Regulations and Awards - Dr Sarah Jane-Page
Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching – Dr Raquel Fernandez-Sanchez


The School is organised into four different Departments.

They are responsible for the delivery of all aspects of a programme relating to that subject or discipline. 

Department Heads
English: Prof Urszula Clark 
Languages and Translation Studies: Dr Stefan Manz
Politics and International Relations: Dr Ed Turner
Sociology and Policy: Dr Gary Fooks (TP1), Dr Karen West (TP2)


Management Team
Head of Administration – Lisa Gregg
Academic Programme and Quality Manager – Yvonne Henderson
Marketing Manager – Mathew Gostelow
Examinations and Assessment Manager – Hayley Jones
Research Manager – Dan Thomson

Visit the Staff Directory for a full listing of LSS Staff.

Read the complete student charter HERE.

Extending Courtesy to Students and Staff

In addition to the undertakings in the Student Charter, the following Code of Good Practice has been developed within LSS as a guide to our expectations. It outlines how to ensure the best learning  environment both for you and for other students. It should go without saying that it is your responsibility to ensure that your behaviour is always courteous towards other students, members of staff and visitors to the University.

Lectures and Seminars

Lectures and seminars will start on the hour and end at 10 minutes to the hour in order to give students the chance to get to their next lecture. You should ensure that you arrive on time.

Lecturers will try to give as much notice as possible if they cannot hold a scheduled lecture or seminar. The lecture or seminar concerned will be rescheduled for a later date by agreement with students, or will be replaced by guided study materials if necessary.

Behaviour in Lectures and Seminars

Show consideration for the lecturer and other students in lectures and seminars.

Considerate behaviour includes:
  • Not disrupting teaching/learning sessions for example by talking privately or other anti-social behaviour.
  • Turning off mobile phones during classes and at other times and places when it is considerate e.g. in the library.
  • Preparing for and participating in seminar sessions as requested by the tutor.
  • Respecting the efforts of the tutor to direct and support your learning.
  • Using resources such as computer rooms, the library and other facilities sensibly and with consideration for other users.
  • Maintaining a safe, clean and tidy environment on the campus and in the buildings of the University.
  • Showing respect for your fellow students and employees of the University – even when you disagree with them!
  • Ensuring that you adopt an appropriately polite formal register and form of address when corresponding with staff.
  • Making sure that you are aware of the limits within which help and advice may be sought (availability of staff, any cut-off deadlines for project supervisions).

Students causing disruption in lectures or seminars will be reported to the Associate Dean Regulations and Awards, who will issue you with an informal warning as part of the University Disciplinary Procedure.

Term dates and university holiday information can be found HERE.


The role of a personal tutor is to provide advice and support in overcoming any academic or personal problems which may affect progress. They can also help you to take charge of your own learning, a vital skill at university.

How the personal tutor system works

At the beginning of your studies at Aston, you will be allocated a Personal Tutor, which is shown on your MAP account. They are available either at the times stated on their office doors or through WASS. If you are not sure who your Personal Tutor is, then contact lss_programmesupport@aston.ac.uk.

You will be invited to meet your Personal Tutor in the early weeks of each term. It is important that you then keep in regular contact with your Personal Tutor, seeking advice before problems develop and keeping them informed of your progress.

If at any stage you feel the need to change your Personal Tutor, please contact lss_programmesupport@aston.ac.uk. If your Personal Tutor is due to be away on sabbatical leave for part of an academic year, you will be informed of arrangements relating to personal tutor support during that period, but if in doubt, please contact lss_programmesupport@aston.ac.uk.

In Addition to your personal tutor each subject area has at least one Senior Personal Tutor.  The role of the Senior Personal Tutor is to oversee and offer additional advice and support to Personal Tutors and to work with Programme Teams to identify students who may benefit from additional support during their period of study.

The Senior Personal Tutors are:

Sociology: Dr Pam Lowe (TP1), Dr Elisabeth Schimpfossl (TP2), Dr Katie Tonkiss (TP2)

Politics and International Relations: Dr Andrew Glencross (TP1), Dr Jorg Mathias (TP2), Dr Parveen Akhtar, Dr Yaprak Gursoy

English: Dr Nur Hooton (TP1), Dr Marcello Giovanelli (TP2)

Languages and Translation Studies: Dr Nathalie Mrgudovic

References and Testimonials

These can be requested via MAP, in the “Academic References” section. You need to make sure your referee can comment on your academic progress so far, therefore an Academic Reference can be requested from your Personal Tutor, any academic who has taught you or your Dissertation Supervisor. 

Further information
More information about personal tutors can be accessed via the links below:

For information on academic and pastoral support, please see the following resources
  • The section of this handbook on Personal Tutor information
  • The section of this handbook on Useful Contacts
  • The Hub website, particularly the section on Academic Advice

Thinking of changing your course?

If you wish to change a module you are enrolled on, please contact LSS Timetabling Officer, Mingqing Jia (m.jia@aston.ac.uk)

If you are considering changing your programme of study (a “programme transfer”), you will need to speak to the Programme Directors of your current and desired new programme.

You may then also speak to Dr Virginie Grzelczyk (Associate Dean Portfolio Development and Recruitment) or Dr Sarah Jane-Page (Associate Dean Regulations and Awards). Book an appointment through WASS.

If you are in doubt, email lss_programmesupport@aston.ac.uk for advice on whether this is necessary. 

Thinking of taking a break from your studies?

If you are considering suspending your studies (“leave of absence”), or even leaving university altogether (“withdrawal”), it is vital you talk to your personal tutor in the first instance.

Leave of absences and withdrawals can be requested via MAP after speaking to your personal tutor.

Senior Tutor
Each subject group has one or more members of academic staff who undertake the role of Senior Personal Tutor.  As experienced Personal Tutors, the Senior Personal Tutor acts as a central source of advice where additional support is needed.

Each department has a Director of Undergraduate Programmes, as follows:

Subject Group/Programme

Director of UG Programmes

English Language

Dr Marcello Giovanelli

English Literature

Dr Marcello Giovanelli

Languages and Translation Studies

Aurélia Robert

Politics and International Relations

Dr Balazs Szent-Ivanyi

Sociology and Policy

Dr Demelza Jones

If you study on a Joint Honours programme taught entirely within LSS, each Director of Undergraduate Programmes above is responsible for their respective half of the programme.

If you study on a Joint Honours programme taught between LSS and another school, please see the table below.

Programmes delivered jointly by LSS and ABS:


Programme Director 1

Programme Director 2

BSc Business & International Relations

Dr Balazs Szent-Ivanyi

Dr Breno Nunes

BSc Business & Politics

Dr Balazs Szent-Ivanyi

Dr Breno Nunes

BSc Business & Sociology

Dr Katherine Tonkiss

Carianne Wallace

BSc Business, Management & Public Policy

Dr Katherine Tonkiss

Carianne Wallace

BSc Business Management and English Language

Dr Marcello Giovanelli

Mr Dewi Lloyd

BSc International Business and French

Céline Benoit

Dr Leonidas Anastasakis

BSc International Business and German

Céline Benoit

Dr Leonidas Anastasakis

BSc International Business and Spanish

Céline Benoit

Dr Leonidas Anastasakis

BSc International Business, French and German

Céline Benoit

Dr Leonidas Anastasakis

BSc International Business, French and Spanish

Céline Benoit

Dr Leonidas Anastasakis

BSc International Business, German and Spanish

Céline Benoit

Dr Leonidas Anastasakis

BSc Politics and Economics

Dr Balazs Szent-Ivanyi

Dr Chris Jones

Programmes delivered jointly by LSS and LHS:


Programme Director 1

Programme Director 2

BSc Psychology & English Language

Dr Kate Nicholls 

Dr Nur Kurtoglu-Hooton

BSc Psychology & Sociology

Dr Richard Cooke

Dr Katherine Tonkiss


Programme Director

MA Forensic Linguistics

MSc Forensic Linguistics (by distance learning)

Professor Tim Grant

Dr Kate Haworth

Double MA Europe and the World (with Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Lille)

MA European Union and International Relations

Double MA Governance and International Politics (with Otto-Friedrich-Universitat, Bamberg)

MA International Relations and Global Governance

Joint MA Multilevel Governance and International Relations (with Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Rennes)

MA Emerging Europe in a Global Perspective

Dr Uwe Wunderlich

MA Sociology and Social Research

MA Policy and Social Research

Dr Hermann Aubié


Dr Muna Morris-Adams

MA TESOL and Translation Studies

Dr Sue Garton and Prof Frank Austermühl

MA Translation in a European Context

MA Translation Studies

Prof Frank Austermühl


MSc TESOL (by distance learning)

MSc Educational Management in TESOL (by distance learning)

Dr Sue Garton

MAP Check-in System for Attendance Recording 

Aston firmly believes in the value of attendance, and its relationship with engagement and achievement is very important.  Attendance at scheduled teaching sessions enhances the experience of all students, and provides the opportunity for you to benefit fully from the support and guidance the University offers.

You should ‘check in’ to timetabled classes by placing your uniCARD on readers on entry to all your scheduled teaching sessions including lectures, seminars, tutorials, lab session etc. You will then be able to access your record of attendance in My Aston Portal (MAP). This supports the University’s proactive approach to learning and we encourage you to assume responsibility for your own academic progress, and manage your time effectively.

Tier 4 students

If you hold a Tier 4 visa, MAP Check-in will create an automatic face to face engagement for you and will form part of your Student Engagement Monitoring information for the UKVI.

For further information please visit the MAP Check-in webpages


Attendance at lectures, seminars, tutorials, one-to-one supervision, and other contact sessions is compulsory and is monitored through signing-in lists.

At University, students are encouraged to assume responsibility for their own academic progress, and to manage their time effectively. Missing scheduled classes also means missing the opportunity to benefit fully from the learning experience and the support and guidance LSS offers.

Attendance Policy

It is our expectation that students attend no less than 80% of timetabled contact hours over the whole academic year.

If you attend fewer than 50% of contact sessions for all modules across a designated time period, you will be sent a letter advising you that your attendance is cause for concern and asking you to meet with your Personal Tutor.

If you attend fewer than the required number of classes and do not respond adequately when we contact you about this, you may ultimately be withdrawn from your programme.

Where students are experiencing problems which are having a serious impact on their ability to meet attendance requirements, they should discuss these problems with their Personal Tutor as soon as possible to see how best to minimise the detrimental effect on their studies. Please also see the section on Exceptional Circumstances.

Unauthorised Absence

Module leaders who observe that a student has been repeatedly absent from lectures and/or seminars may request that his/her attendance record throughout the School is examined. Where no reason for the absence has been reported disciplinary proceedings are likely to be instituted by the Associate Dean, Regulations and Awards.

  • A letter will be sent requesting that an appointment be made with your Personal Tutor to discuss the situation.
  • If attendance does not subsequently improve, a letter will be sent requiring attendance at a meeting with the relevant Associate Dean. Failure to attend this meeting is likely to result in disciplinary proceedings being taken.

If satisfactory attendance is not resumed, the Executive Dean may require the student to withdraw from the programme. It is important that students respond immediately to correspondence from tutors or officers of the School on the subject of non-attendance.


If you are absent from class because of illness, notify the relevant module tutor(s) and  the Programme Support Team: lss_programmesupport@aston.ac.uk 

Please do this as soon as possible, otherwise you will be contacted about your lack of attendance. For illness lasting up to 7 days, you should provide medical evidence and hand this in to the School Reception. For illness lasting more than 7 days, you must obtain a medical certificate from your GP or a medical centre and hand this in to the School Reception.

If you will be absent for a scheduled exam or a coursework submission day, it is a different procedure. Please see the sections regarding non-submission/attendance of assessments and Exceptional Circumstances on BlackBoard in LSS Undergraduate Information>Assessment.

Catching Up

Ask the lecturer for copies of any handouts and advice about guided reading. Check BlackBoard to see whether work has been posted there for the missed session. Please talk to the lecturer or your Personal Tutor if you are experiencing difficulties catching up.

Staff are not normally able to offer individual tuition to students who have missed lectures or seminars.

Advance Notice of Absence

If you know in advance that you will have to be absent for a time (e.g. for planned surgery), it will be necessary for you to negotiate an individual programme to catch up on missed work.

Absence of more than 1 week and less than 1 month: Contact the Head(s) of the relevant academic Department. Also contact the Prorgamme Support Team (lss_programmesupport@aston.ac.uk)

Absence of more than 1 month: Contact the Associate Dean, Regulations and Awards. Please also refer to the information on leave of absences in the "Where to go for academic/pastoral support information" section (“Thinking of taking a break from your studies?”) and HERE.

Term-Time Employment

If you are an international student, please refer to the information HERE.

Some full-time students undertake voluntary or paid employment during academic terms. Although we recognise that this may be a matter of financial necessity, or develops important skills and provides experience, you should ensure that such work does not result in absence from any timetabled activity or the late submission of assessments and does not have a detrimental effect on your academic performance. 

The Government recommends that no full-time student should undertake part-time work during term in excess of 12 hours per week. The legal limit for paid part-time work during term time is 20 hours a week. 

For information about Aston University and your Tier 4 visa, please click HERE.

Your individual timetable will be available online through MAP

More information about your personal academic timetable is available HERE.

Please check your timetable regularly:
  • For changes to times and rooms
  • For possible clashes
  • To make sure you are registered for the correct amount of modules and credits in each teaching period
If you notice or problem, or have any queries relating to your timetable or module enrolment, please contact the LSS Timetabling Officer, Mingqing Jia (m.jia@aston.ac.uk).

Changing Optional Modules

In Weeks 1 and 2, or 15 and 16, any changes to optional modules must be arranged through the LSS Timetabling Officer (m.jia@aston.ac.uk)

Changes after Week 2 or 16 are not normally permitted. After this point, any change that may exceptionally be agreed must be negotiated through the Head(s) of Department(s) concerned and final approval sought from the Associate Dean, Regulations and Awards. A form must be completed and handed into the School Reception.

Reading Week

Weeks 6 and 20 of the timetable are set aside as Reading Weeks. These allow you the opportunity to reflect on your studies, perform more in-depth reading, or be given specific guided study to carry out by your lecturer(s). You will be expected to be available during Reading Week for consultation and for guided study during your normal timetabled contact hours.

Please note, occasionally modules do not include a Reading Week and normal study and contact hours continue for Weeks 6 and 20.

The module specification should inform you whether this is the case, but if in doubt, please speak to the lecturer(s) concerned. Please be especially vigilant of this on non-LSS modules particularly if you are studying a joint honours programme with another school (e.g. Business and Politics, or Psychology and Sociology).

Learn Arabic, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, or Spanish at Beginners, Intermediate, or Advanced levels while you study.

More information is available HERE.

Please visit the Counselling Services website HERE.
The Enabling Team site is HERE.

For information on student equal opportunities, please see the Advice and Representation Centre (ARC) section of the Aston Students’ Union website.

More information about the financial advice offered by The Hub, can be accessed HERE.
Support with learning and teaching technology is provided by Adam Warren in NX04 on the 10th Floor of North Wing. A summary of some of the support services is given below, along with some handy tutorials and resources.

NX04 has about 1000 DVDs available as short-loan items, with films in English, French, German, Spanish and other languages.

Borrowing them is easy; just visit NX04, select up to three DVDs and fill in a blank paper form from the green box next to the DVDs – your name, email, the date and the DVD titles. The sign on the door says if NX04 is open or when it will be open again.

Please return them within a couple of days – there is a Returns slot next to the library, or just post them through the door if the office is closed.

If there are DVDs you would like bought, email the details to lss_nx04@aston.ac.uk – but we will only buy films that are not easily available elsewhere.

Of course there are other ways to view international films these days:

  • commercial services like Amazon and Netflix
  • Box of Broadcasts – TV recordings from all channels, including films
  • YouTube is always worth searching
  • Walter Presents (part of Channel 4) has a rolling selection of international, independent and art-house films and TV series – and is free!

Some assignments ask you to create a multimedia artefact that combines elements such as text, images, animation, audio and video, and presents them as a coherent experience.

Start by creating a detailed project plan:

  • What is the objective of the artefact? What are you trying to communicate?
  • Are there constraints? For example does it have to be less than six minutes or work on mobile phones?
  • Who is the target audience? Always design it with them in mind; what do they want to get from viewing the artefact?
  • How much content is needed? Aim for the ‘minimum viable product’ and then extend if time allows.
  • What is the artefact’s structure and sequence? Draw a storyboard; this provides a quick way to develop your ideas. Get this sorted before you start building – although you may build some rough prototypes at this stage to check if your ideas are do-able!
  • What resources are required? Make a list of what you need; texts; scripts, images, photos, graphics, audio, video and overall visual design.
  • Do you have the skills and software needed? You must design within your capabilities, although pushing at the limits of your abilities is more fun.
  • Who does what? If this is a group project, agree who is responsible for specific parts of the project, including the all-important project manager to keep it on track.
  • What is the timeline? Split the project into phases with deadlines, but build in some slack at the end if possible. Or work frantically overnight just before the submission date if you prefer…
  • Use agile project management techniques. Create prototypes early to test your ideas and find (and solve) any problems as soon as possible. This will also help refine your design and help your thinking, so you can adapt the design as you go.

Finally, a word about copyright. Don’t use images, graphics, photos, music or video you do not own (i.e. have created) unless you have permission to use them. Search for resources that have a Creative Commons licence, and make sure you acknowledge all your media sources, just like you would cite sources in an essay, like this:

Gaudi Image for Student Support

Casa Batlló – Barcelona – Andrew Booth

These are some tools that you could use:


PowerPoint is actually a really good tool to develop multimedia where the user can navigate from screen to screen and make choices. It gives you complete control over the visual design, content and interactivity.

  • No bullet points! Use the blank slide layout and add text and graphic objects to it.
  • Use Slide Masters to control the appearance of slides , so that a change to a master slide updates every slide that uses it. You can have multiple master slides.
  • Record the narration for each slide, so you can easily re-record to get the quality you want.
  • Use hyperlinks from text and graphic objects to create navigation links between slides. For example you can create navigation buttons or photo buttons.
  • Use animation to add movement and control timing. You can add triggers so that an object only appears when another is clicked.

 You can save your animated presentation as a video or as a PowerPoint Show file.


This free online tool allows you to record anything shown on your screen and save it as a video file or upload it to YouTube. The free version has a 15-minute time limit. You’ll need to buy an annual Pro licence for $18 to be able to edit your videos.

Articulate 360 Storyline

This is a professional multimedia authoring tool, perhaps a bit like PowerPoint on steroids. There is a free fully-featured 30-day evaluation trial, so if you are quick you can complete your project before it runs out. Beware; although it can create really sophisticated multimedia that also means a steep learning curve. The online tutorials are excellent, and you should study these before starting your evaluation trial.


A free tool that creates animated narrated cartoon videos [example]. The free version is a bit limited, but they have an education plan where for $36 you can get most of the Pro features for a year.


Another free tool for creating animated cartoon videos with music and text [example]. Again the free version is limited, while the Pro version costs $99 per year but includes thousands of video clips to give your production a professional polish.


This free tool creates ‘hand-drawn’ animated narrated videos [example]. The free trial is only 7 days, so you’ll have to be quick when creating your project, or you could buy a one-month licence for £18.

Explain Everything

This free tool creates animated narrated videos, and provides great control over the animation and timing of the content [example]. If you need to draw animated objects, such as text and arrows, this is your top choice. It works really well on touch-screen devices such as iPads and Android tablets, but there is also a Windows 10 version. Your project is stored online, but you can provide a link or export it as a video.

Some assignments require you to create a poster, and this brief guide provides advice about the design and production process. You can also download this guide as a PDF: Creating Poster Presentations

Before you start: why, what and who?

Why create a poster? You see posters everywhere, advertising everything from food, drink and phones to TV shows, charities and safety campaigns. Their aim is always to attract your attention and then deliver their message quickly and memorably. The same is true of academic posters like the one you have been asked to create. These are typically seen along corridors in your department or on display at conferences and provide a brief overview of some research.

Beware! A poster is not a condensed version of a journal article that follows a set structure: abstract, literature review, experimental study, data analysis, conclusion and references. Instead, you may want to think about these questions – although you may not choose to answer them in this order on your poster:

  • What question or problem were you trying to answer?
  • What did you find out? Why is it important?
  • What are the key pieces of prior research?
  • What recommendations do you have for further research?
  • How did you gather and analyse your data?


Remember that no-one will spend longer than a couple of minutes reading your poster, so make sure you get the words right before you start the visual design. Posters usually have between 300-800 words. If you have a lot of text, the font size must be smaller to fit it on the poster and that immediately makes it more difficult and less appealing to read. Less is more! Think of it as the visual equivalent of the ‘elevator pitch’ where you have just a couple of minutes to explain what your research topic is and why you find it fascinating and important.

It is essential to think about your audience. Who will be reading the poster? What are they hoping to learn? What language, jargon or assumed knowledge is appropriate? For academic posters, the audience is usually other academics working in the same field, so the language needs to be fairly formal but you can assume a good deal of specialist knowledge.

Finally, if this is an assignment you need to pay special attention to the marking criteria to get the best mark you can. And if it is your poster for a conference, get some feedback from friends and colleagues on your first draft; it should be easy to print out an A4 version or send them a PDF.

Practical issues

Conferences usually specify the size and orientation of posters. For example, they frequently need to be A1 and portrait, so if you turn up with an A0 landscape poster there may not be room for it on the display boards. If in doubt, ask the organisers.

Portrait posters are taller than they are wide (e.g. A1 is 59cm wide and 84cm tall) while landscape posters are wider than they are tall (e.g. A1 is 84cm wide and 59cm tall).

Posters are printed in standard sizes. Normal photocopier paper is A4 (21x30cm) and A3 is twice as big (30x42cm). A2 is twice as big as A3, A1 is double again (59x84cm) and A0 is a massive 84x118cm. Needless to say, the bigger the poster the more it costs to print. This is an excellent reason to print out a small A3 version of your poster to check VERY CAREFULLY for errors and typos before you pay to have the full-sized copy printed.

It is well worth paying a bit extra to have your poster laminated with a plastic coating; it makes the colours more vibrant, prevents creasing and looks more professional. Your poster will last much longer, especially if you plan to display it in your department afterwards.

Top tips for poster design

Use headings to break up your text and clearly identify each part. Conferences often have a lot of posters, so many attendees look first at ‘what you found out’ to see if it is interesting and relevant, and move swiftly on to the next poster if it isn’t.

Use bullet points, lists and tables to summarise and organise information.

The text must be readable from about 2m, so the minimum font size is 18 points and ideally 20 or 24 points. Use a serif (e.g. Arial) or san-serif font (e.g. Georgia). As a general rule, avoid Comic Sans and other fancy fonts.

Ensure that the text colour is a good contrast to its background colour; so dark text on pale backgrounds or vice versa. Avoid red, green or mid-tone colours such as brown as many people find them difficult to read.

Keep line lengths relatively short (50 – 75 characters) and left-justified to enhance readability. The line spacing should be around 1.2 times the font, for example 18pt text on 22pt spacing.

Carefully proof-read ALL the text, especially the title and headings. Somehow, the bigger the font the easier it is to miss errors. Don’t be the person with a typo in the title!

If possible, present data as a chart or graph. Make sure these are easy to take in at a glance by careful use of colour, line thickness, font sizes and labels. If possible, avoid legends and instead label the data directly. All charts and graphs should have a descriptive title above or below them so it is clear what they are showing.

If your topic has suitable relevant graphics such as photos, diagrams or maps, use them! Make sure they are good quality and of sufficiently high resolution. For photos, a good rule of thumb is at least 150 pixels per inch (60 pixels per cm) when printed, so a 6-megapixel image (3000×2000 pixels) can be up to 20 inches or 50 cm wide.

If you need to include the logos of your institution and/or funding bodies, make sure they are high-quality images; not one grabbed from a web page and enlarged so it is blurry! If you can’t get a proper image file, you can often download a PDF document that includes the logo, zoom in until the logo fills the screen and then take a screen-grab. Use an image editor to crop and save just the logo as a PNG file for best quality.

Don’t fill the poster with information; leave plenty of room around each element (text, graph, photo etc.) so they don’t crowd each other. The more ‘dense’ your poster looks, the less likely people are to try and read it. But at the same time, you need to include enough detail to satisfy your audience. It’s a balancing act that may require careful editing to add, remove or rewrite text and/or change the size and position of graphic elements.

Don’t forget to include your name, contact details, research group, department and institution. If applicable you will also need to acknowledge your funding bodies. You should also include any references required in the correct format, but can use a smaller font (14pt) for these.

Think carefully about the main title of your poster as it probably the most important way of attracting people to come and look at your poster. How can you ‘sell’ your research? Can you phrase it as a question? Try and keep it to one line, or one line and a slightly smaller font subtitle.

If you have graphic design skills, you can try more adventurous or visually striking layouts, but the design must help communicate your message. Make sure you get your text and supporting graphics right and don’t fall into the trap of focusing on style over substance.

The best way to learn how to design good academic posters is to take a second look at any that you see. Your first look is about the content: “Is this research relevant or interesting to me?” Your second look is at the design. Do you like it? What are its good features? What are its bad features? Are there any parts of the design that you could adapt and adopt for your own posters?

All graphic designers “borrow and blend” visual ideas that they see… so why snap a photo of posters you like to inspire your next creation? Search for ‘conference posters’ to jump-start this process; in fact you can often immediately see from the thumbnail images which ones work best (or not).

Tools for the job

Professional designers use vector-graphics programs like Adobe InDesign or the excellent but affordable Affinity Designer, but these sophisticated tools have steep learning curves. You can also use image editors such as Photoshop if you already have expertise.

I recommend PowerPoint as the best choice for most users; it is a surprisingly good tool for graphic design and will make it easy to create slide presentations that complement your poster. You’ll need to learn a few new tricks, but these are detailed in this guide: Creating Posters Using PowerPoint 2016

Alternatively, there are some interesting web-based tools that can be used to quickly create attractive posters, but they lack the flexibility of PowerPoint and are less suitable for academic posters. The one I recommend is Canva which is free to use but offers in-app purchases, such as a vast library of stock photos.

Most assignments are now submitted online, using Blackboard Assignments or Turnitin. Both systems enable you to upload a file which is then either printed and marked by hand or more likely graded online by your tutor(s). Once the grades have been checked you are able to log into Blackboard to view your grade and feedback.

The systems accept a fairly wide range of file types, but there have been a few problems with posters and especially Apple Macs e.g. Pages and KeyNote files. The advice from LSS is therefore to ALWAYS upload your assignments as a PDF file.

Think of the PDF as the ‘printout’ of your essay or poster – it is a fixed format that cannot (easily) be edited. You can quickly check your PDF before you upload it to make sure it is the correct version, and not an earlier draft; you’d be surprised how often that happens! The final advantage is that PDFs always look just the way you expect, whereas Word files sometimes change their layout and pagination if the viewing computer doesn’t have exactly the same version and fonts available.

Simply Print your file to PDF. At this stage you might also edit the filename to make it easy for you to identify e.g. LF2020 Assignment 3.

Remember that the file and filename must not include your name, initials, username etc.  The LSS Assessment Handbook says: The School of Languages and Social Sciences practises anonymous marking for all purposes and for almost all modules. All submitted work therefore should show your 6 digit candidate number on the title page and NOT your name or SUN number, unless specifically instructed to do otherwise.

There are a number of digital audio recorders available to borrow from NX04. All LSS staff and students are able to borrow these, typically for a week or two while conducting research projects.

Philips Voice Tracer

An easy-to-use device that you just plug in to your PC to copy your MP3 recordings. Each is provided with spare batteries, a USB lead and a simplified set of instructions. They also support more advanced features such as index marks, voice-activated recording, and control of sensitivity and quality – see the online PDF manual for details.

Tip: the manual text is tiny, but you can easily magnify this in your web browser:

Windows: press the Ctrl and +  keys to zoom in,  Ctrl and – to zoom out

Apple Mac: press Command and + to zoom in,  Command and – to zoom out

Linguistics students may need to use software to conduct corpus analysis such as word frequency, concordance and N-gram clusters. LSS have chosen AntConc by Professor Laurence Anthony since it is free, simple to use and works on Windows, Mac and Linux computers.

AntConc Homepage – downloads, printable guides, video tutorials, discussion groups.

Scroll down the page to find standardised English word frequency lists and lemma lists for English, French and Spanish.

Note that the download is an .exe program file, so you can save it to a USB drive and run it from there with no need to install on the PC (and you can’t install on anything on the PCs computer rooms in any case).

Abraham Lincoln speeches as TXT files – useful for learning to use AntConc

Information on appealing your formal assessment results can be found HERE.
Information on making a formal complaint can be found HERE.
If you are experiencing events or problems that are affecting your ability to perform at your best, information on the exceptional circumstances procedure can be found HERE and HERE.

The formal requirements for degree programmes are contained in the University’s General Regulations which can be found HERE.

The disciplinary regulations for students can be found HERE.
LSS information on plagiarism can be found on BlackBoard. For Postgraduate students it is located in LSS Postgraduate Programmes>General Study Information>Avoiding Plagiarism. For Undergraduate students, it is located in LSS Undergraduate Information>Plagiarism – avoiding it.

University regulations on plagiarism can be viewed HERE.


Towards the end of each module you will be asked to fill in an anonymous questionnaire. This provides LSS and the individual lecturers with valuable information which is used to enhance and improve our learning and teaching strategies.
For interim feedback, please speak to the module leader, or a student representative.


At Undergraduate level, final year students are asked to fill in the National Student Survey (NSS). At Postgraduate level, students will be asked to fill in the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES).

These surveys are run by external organisations and ask all students nationally the same questions.

For non-final year undergraduate students, the University also runs the Student Satisfaction Survey.

We value your opinions and so we use the results of these surveys to enhance and improve your learning experience.

General Feedback

If you experience problems with a module, please first try to resolve it with the lecturer or module leader. If the problem persists, then please refer the matter to the Head of Department, or the Associate Dean for Regulations and Awards.

General problems relating to programmes or subjects as a whole can be referred to a student representative, or the Programme Director.

If after this you are still experiencing problems, please refer to the section on Student Complaints.

Careers support is available for all Aston students and graduates (up to three years after graduation). 

The Careers team provide help with:

  • Exploring career options and gaining skills and experience
  • Meeting employers and finding vacancies in the UK and abroad
  • Applying for jobs and postgraduate study – support with CVs, applications, personal statements, interviews, psychometric testing and assessment centres
  • Setting up a business or social enterprise and/or planning alternative career options
  • Placement Support is available for all UG students seeking a 12 month placement in the UK or overseas.

Find out more.

A placement year is compulsory for:

  • students studying French, German or Spanish as part of their programme
  • students on joint honours programmes with Business, Economics or Psychology

The compulsory placement year takes the form of a Year Abroad for students studying French, German, or Spanish.

For students on joint honours programmes with Business, Economics, or Psychology, both UK and overseas options are available

The placement year is optional but strongly recommended for all other programmes.

For students on programmes with an optional placement year, both UK and overseas options are available

Placements generally fall into one of three types:

  • British Council Assistantships Abroad provide an opportunity for those interested in working with young people and who may be considering a career in teaching to gain first-hand experience in a school. Selection is by application form and preliminary interviews with the Careers and Placement Team. Applications are then forwarded via the British Council in London to the authorities abroad. The deadline for applications is normally mid-November. You must be a native speaker of English to be eligible.
  • Study Opportunities Abroad provide an opportunity to study a wide range of subjects either at an exchange university, or occasionally at an approved non-exchange university. If students are combining a language with another subject at Aston, they may choose to study that subject in the foreign language. Such courses also provide first-hand experience of a different education system, and an opportunity to meet and study with students from that country and elsewhere. This option can provide the opportunity to gain a recognised additional qualification at the place of study.

    The School has established ERASMUS partnerships with a number of universities in France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Turkey and Finland.

    For English Language, Sociology, Politics and International Relations students, there are also opportunities for study abroad in English-speaking institutions.

    Selection is by application form and interview. Students are encouraged to attend information meetings during visits by colleagues from partner institutions, and to liaise with students from these universities who come to Aston to study in the School.
  • Placement Opportunities Abroad and in the UK provide an opportunity to gain first-hand experience of employment and to apply relevant aspects of studies at Aston.

    Application is by CV and letter to the company. Selection normally involves an interview by phone and/or in person with at least one representative from the company. Interviews are normally held in the UK, but students may occasionally be expected to attend interviews abroad.

Academic supervision and support are coordinated by:
Year Abroad Tutors: Dr Nathalie Mrgudovic for French (n.mrgudovich@aston.ac.uk), Dr Claudia Gremler for German (C.Gremler@aston.ac.uk), Dr Raquel Fernández-Sánchez for Spanish (r.fernandez-sanchez@aston.ac.uk), Dr Brian Sudlow for Translation Studies (b.sudlow@aston.ac.uk), Dr Katy Pilcher for Sociology and Policy (k.pilcher@aston.ac.uk), Dr Jörg Mathais (J.Mathias@aston.ac.uk) for Politics and International Relations in TP1, Dr Uwe Wunderlich for Politics and International Relations in TP2 (j.u.wunderlich@aston.ac.uk), and Dr Krzysztof Kredens for English Language (k.j.kredens@aston.ac.uk).

Information, preparation and funding

Documentation on assistantships, companies and universities is available for reference from the Careers+Placements Team. A complete series of briefing meetings, presentations and workshops takes place at various points throughout the year to assist Stage Two students with CVs and placement applications, and detailed supporting documentation is provided. An opportunity will be given to Stage Two students in October to meet final year students who have returned from their Year Abroad placements.

For placements in Europe, students are normally eligible for additional funding via the Commission of the European Communities’ ERASMUS student mobility work placement programme.

The Careers+Placements Team provides students with individual support during the placement process and continues to monitor and assist students throughout their placement year.

The Placement team services include:

  • Advertising work and study placements in the UK and abroad
  • Delivering briefing sessions and skills workshops and hosting employer events on campus
  • Checking CVs and application forms and preparing you for all types of interviews, psychometric tests and assessment centre

Find out more.


  • Do you want to help us improve your learning experience?
  • Do you want to make a positive contribution to university life for your fellow students?
  • Do you want to enhance your skills and your employability?
Then nominate yourself to become a student representative!

What’s Involved?

You will:
  • be a point of contact for students on your course,
  • represent their views effectively
  • contribute to activities that seek to improve the quality of the learning experience.
Training and development will be included in the role, and you will work closely with key academic staff responsible for driving forward the student voice at Aston.

The University is committed to listening to the views of its students and to including them in the development of their own learning experience.  If you are interested in finding out more about what a Student Representative does please contact Aston Students’ Union Vice President Education and Welfare at union.vpew@aston.ac.uk.  Elections for Student Representatives will be held early in the Autumn Term and we would like to encourage all students to participate, either by standing for election or by taking part in the democratic process and casting your vote.   Aston Students’ Union are looking for students to volunteer to stand for election to represent the members of your course.     If you would like to get involved please visit the student rep webpage.

How is Student Representation Organised?

Each subject group elects a number of student reps. These reps will attend the Student-Staff Committee (SSC) for the subject group once a term. One rep will co-chair this meeting with an academic member of staff. A student secretary will also be appointed to keep track of discussions and decisions.

In addition, the co-chairs of each subject level SSC will be invited once a term to School Forum, where school level issues can be discussed.

The sorts of things that may come up in SSC or School Forum include; conversations about future programme and module content, assessment types and intensity, external examiner reports, reviews of academic quality and standards, personal tutors, learning spaces and resources.

Student Representatives will also sit on School Learning and Teaching Committee, Undergraduate Programme Committee, and Postgraduate Programme Committee. These committees are the principal means by which matters to do with your learning experience are discussed, progressed, and resolved.

It is important to note, that the whole system is principally student-led. It is your opinions, points, and ideas that count the most.

How do I become a student rep?
You can find more details about Aston's Student Rep structure and processes on the Aston Student Union (ASU) site.

Elections will then be held via BlackBoard, with the results announced by Week 3 of Term 1.

Once the results are announced, and you have been elected, your training and induction will commence and you will be invited to the relevant meetings.

General Undergraduate LSS marking and assessment criteria are outlined in the LSS Undergraduate Assessment Handbook available on BlackBoard in LSS Undergraduate Information>Assessment. Please refer to the following sources for specific assessment and marking criteria for these disciplines and levels of study:

English Language UG

BlackBoard – LSS Undergraduate Information>English Language

Languages and Translation Studies UG

Generic LTS marking criteria are available in the BlackBoard areas for specific LTS modules

Politics and International Relations UG

Use General LSS UG criteria

Sociology and Policy UG

Use General LSS UG criteria

Translation Studies PG

MA Study Companions (distributed to students)

TESOL Distance Learning PG

 MSc TESOL Study Companion



Politics and International Relations PG

MA Programme Handbooks (distributed to students)

Sociology and Policy PG


MA Forensic Linguistics


MSc Forensic Linguistics


Arrangements for supervision of dissertations and projects will be detailed in the appropriate module guides and specifications. Alternatively, more specific information can be obtained from the relevant module leader.

Your examination timetable will be available from your MAP homepage.

Exam periods and dates of timetable release are available from a link on your MAP homepage: ‘View when Examination Timetables will become available’.

Your coursework submission dates will be available from the module specification published on Blackboard.

Marks for assessments will be made available within 4 term-time weeks of the assessment date. 

A programme specification is a general overview of the structure of the programme. It includes information about modules available on the programme, learning outcomes, assessment, and teaching methods. Programme specs are available on MAP.

Module Specifications
A module specification is a published statement regarding the learning outcomes and aims of a module and contains information on assessment and feedback methods, content, and teaching methods. The information in module specifications should be taken as definitive. Take time to familiarise yourself with the information they contain.

Specifications for all modules are stored in the University Module Directory, which can be accessed via MAP. If you are enrolled on a module, you will be able to view its specification via a link in the appropriate BlackBoard area for that module.

If you know the code for a module and you want to see the specification, you can generate a direct link by adapting the link below:

Module Outlines
Module outlines will be distributed to you at the start of your module by your tutor. These are different to module specifications. The information included will vary from tutor to tutor, but they will include additional information related to the academic content of the module. It is your responsibility to make yourself familiar with the details provided for each module that you are required to study, including required reading, preparation for weekly lectures and seminars, and assessment (format, type, timing or submission dates). You should check BlackBoard regularly to ensure you are aware of all such requirements, including those which may be announced in between scheduled meetings.

Reading lists for all modules are viewable HERE. Use the search box to search for modules by code, title or keyword.

More information: http://www.aston.ac.uk/library/

The Alumni and Development team is HERE.

For information about these services, please click HERE (PDF download).