Director of DeafLondon, Thomas Lichy has a simple rule for Deaf students choosing a university:
“Universities are inherently problematic for BSL signers, as so much depends on developing networking skills. At the end of the day, go to the one with the largest number of Deaf students. It will have the best developed support network, and for hearing BSL students, the greatest BSL-using population to mingle with. Getting a degree is more important than what type of degree it is.”
There are five British universities where you can study Sign linguistics: Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh), University College London (UCL), the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN), the University of Wolverhampton and York St John University. The universities of Edinburgh and Leeds also have postgraduate courses for Deaf teacher training.
At Heriot-Watt University you can do a master’s course in BSL: Interpreting, Translating and Applied Language Studies.
UCL have a cognition and research laboratory for studying language acquisition in Deaf children. UCLAN focus on applied linguistics, Deaf studies and postgraduate interpreter training.
The University of Wolverhampton offers four Deaf studies courses combined with social policy, linguistics, English and special educational needs.
York St John University offers a course in BSL and Deaf studies where you get to study the history of Deaf society and culture. Sociolinguistics is also included so you can study the history of the manualist/oralist debate.
For those who can study in America, Gallaudet University is the world’s only university specifically for Deaf students with all lectures and seminars in Sign. It was the scene of a student uprising in 1988 demanding a Deaf president for the first time in the university’s 124 years. British Deaf News – “Gallaudet Univeristy – Deaf President Now”
It was founded as a college in Washington DC, 1864 by 27 year old Edward Gallaudet. His mother was Deaf and he was a native signer. His father was Thomas Gallaudet who helped found the first American Deaf school in 1817, the American Asylum at Hartford.
The first Sign linguist, William Stokoe came to Gallaudet in 1955, he published his findings five years later in Sign Language Structure.
It has more than 50 degrees available, nearly half the teachers are Deaf, it is open to Hearing students if they can explain how they would benefit from an education in Sign, so it is ideal for those training to be interpreters.
As wonderful as Gallaudet is, why should Deaf British students have to go abroad to study in their native language? Roughly one in a thousand of us are Deaf (I’m not including the hard of hearing whose native language is Speech, not Sign) so why isn’t there at least one Deaf university in Britain? This would not only vastly improve the social life of Deaf students but it would also make it easier to provide the necessary services and it would be a perfect place for interpreters to immerse themselves in Sign.