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30 years of studies in British Sign Language Interpreting celebrated by alumni


University of Wolverhampton alumni are celebrating 30 years of studies in British Sign Language Interpreting – hitting a milestone that’s helped to shape the careers of many students over three decades. 

5 years ago, the University celebrated 25 years of interpreter education and training through the Interpreting British Sign Language (BSL) degree. 

This month, the British Sign Language Interpreting course marks its 30th anniversary and Sarah Bown, one of the academics from the BSL course, as both witness and participant to that history, reflects on this important milestone, and opens the door for us to see a glimpse of our alumni success stories during the intervening years.    


She said: “Whilst examples of interpreting and translation can be traced back to ‘Ancient’ times, the late 1970s, 80s and 90s were a key period of innovation, creativity and growth for the establishment of sign language interpreter education and training, within forward thinking UK Higher Education institutions.   

“At the University of Wolverhampton, from our 1993 Bachelor of Arts (with Honours) British Sign Language Interpreting course inception, we are extremely proud of everything that has been accomplished by all of our students and every member of staff who was a part of this journey over those decades.  The national and international networks built and fostered along the way continue to benefit the student experience, feed into teaching and learning and provide many opportunities for externally related research, projects and collaborative activities.   

“A key aim of the course back in the 1990s was ‘to broaden opportunities for Deaf people, facilitate Deaf people’s access to higher education and to raise Deaf awareness within all areas of society and work’ (Kristiaan Dekesel,1994). 

“This course continues to meet those objectives and more, as it progresses from strength to strength, with profound recognition for the quality of its alumni.  Their learning and teaching journey whilst at this University, incorporates authentic experiences of the type that they will encounter in professional working life, by utilising a wide array of internal and external teaching resources and facilities.  For example, our Screen School professional film studio, Law Court, Clinical Skills Lab, Social Work flat and Conference facilities, together with regular contributions from external professionals; volunteering activities & field trips, our growing continuing professional development portfolio and our well-established relationships with UK wide employers, work placement hosts, public, private and charitable sector providers.   

“This year’s most recent examples include the new initiative of the presence of our final year interpreting students at several Wolverhampton Council Polling Stations and an invitation to BBC Wales to see their live broadcast news being interpreted, in a structured student learning event 

“Our interpreting alumni continue to achieve exemplary levels of graduate employability success and can be found working across the UK and further afield.  They can be seen working with deaf and hearing people in all sectors of society, for example; wide ranging community settings, on television and at international conferences.   

“The multi-faceted development required for an individual to grow into a well-rounded, humanistic, sign language interpreter, takes the skills and contributions of many.  This month, as we celebrate 30 years of our continuing educational history, we give the floor to our alumni and our course supporters, to share their individual stories, aspirations, achievements and reflections.” 

Janine Lowe, Director of Services and Fundraising at Sandwell Deaf Community Association, said: "SDCA is proud to work in partnership with the University of Wolverhampton. We have hosted a work placement student for the last 10 years and have visited the students on their Sight Translation modules. It is always exciting to meet the interpreters of the future and see what talent the profession can look forward to.” 

Marie Reilly, Interpreter supervisor - Deaf Academy, Walsall College, said: “Our Deaf Academy at Walsall College offers opportunities for work placement students from the University of Wolverhampton on an annual basis. We love the dynamic this experience brings: It encourages our staff, as interpreters to reflect on their own practice and allows staff to nurture skills and best practice in others. I have been fortunate to provide support and supervision to a range of placement students over the last two decades. As an interpreter myself who has studied the qualifications, I personally understand the student’s placement journey, being a placement student here myself in 2000. Seeing how Interpreting theory equates in the real world is an eye-opener and the realisation that what once was the dream job could now be reality is fantastic!” 

A spokesperson for CommPlus said: “CommPlus has been fortunate in being able to host work placement students consecutively over the last four years and we have great pleasure in doing so. It has been brilliant to foster the relationship between our organisation and the University of Wolverhampton, as a way of bridging the gap between the students’ academic study and then embarking on their careers as BSL Interpreters, through observation and safe, supervised co-worked assignments, allowing theory to be put into practice.  

“This collaborative relationship also benefits us as an organisation in many different ways, as students arrive on their work placement with fresh, relevant, academic knowledge and up to date guidance from the programme, which only strengthens the good and safe working practices we promote, as well as them enhancing reflective practice ability within our team. Many students completing their work placement with CommPlus finish their training and commence their employment with us, which is demonstrative of the positive work culture and environment that we also foster. This positive and professional working relationship between CommPlus and the University of Wolverhampton’s Interpreting programme demonstrates a successful example of reciprocity to the profession, and CommPlus are delighted to be able to share this vision and support the next generation of interpreters in this way.” 

Sarah Reed, a course graduate at BID Services Birmingham, & Interpreting work placement supervisor, said: “It is always a pleasure to see the next alumni of the Interpreting course. They always arrive to placement practising at a high standard and are eager to develop their knowledge and practice. The students always ask insightful questions which encourages reflection upon self-practice, enhancing the interpreting team here at BID Services. We look forward to welcoming the next cohort. 

“The course has given me the career I have always dreamed of. I love the variety of work that Interpreting brings and the challenges I face. I could not recommend the course enough to anyone who is interested in becoming an Interpreter. At the end of the course I was able to easily get into employment and felt well equipped to begin my career.” 

Dr Russell Aldersson, Registered freelance BSL Interpreter and Interpreting work placement supervisor, said: “I believe I was the third cohort on the interpreting degree back in 1995. In the three decades since, I have completed two Master’s degrees and a doctorate. I have had a long and fulfilling career as a practising sign language interpreter. Today I am a qualified assessor and supervisor and, for a time, I was a tutor on the program. My engagement with the program and the staff continues to this day as a placement supervisor for the work experience module and, a particular highlight, as a visiting lecturer. I owe a lot, in part, to starting out at the University of Wolverhampton.” 

Please check the University’s social media/web pages for the BSL subject’s further celebratory events to be held during this 2023-2024 academic year. We continue to welcome stories from our undergraduate interpreting Alumni.  If you would like to get in touch to share your career story, please contact Sarah Bown on  

Anyone interested in studying at the University should check out the course pages or attend one of our Open Days. 

A portrait of an alumni looking at the camera

Picture caption: Alumnas, Omoyele Thomas.



For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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