What is The KU Big Read?

The KU Big Read is a shared reading scheme aimed at promoting a sense of community for our new students before they even arrive at the university.

Based on similar schemes running in the USA, the scheme offers all new students something that they have in common with all other new students and staff right from the beginning. It allows for conversation to get started, groups to be formed and also gives ample opportunity to meet and talk to those students and staff who are already at Kingston.

Each year a new, carefully selected title is chosen and sent to all of our new students along with a letter from the author, and includes special content such as a letter from our Kingston University’s Vice Chancellor and discussion questions about the book. There are also various online opportunities to participate over the summer via Twitter, such as our ‘Extreme Reading’ competition.

Where can I get my copy of the book (students)?

If you are a new student (undergraduate or postgraduate) who has accepted your offer to attend Kingston University then a book will be sent to you directly in the post at the address you listed during the enrolment process.

If for any reason you did not receive a copy of the book (i.e. if you came to university early, only accepted your offer late after clearing or if there were issues with the post) then there books are available on each of our campuses at various locations.

Key places you can find books;

  • Reception desks on each campus
  • Libraries on each campus
  • The Welcome Centre at our Penrhyn Road campus
  • The Student Wellbeing Centre at Penrhyn Road
  • Freshers' Fayre


As well as these locations, various teams that you will come into contact with during your induction and orientation weeks will also have copies of the book to hand.

If for any reason you still haven’t been able to get your copy of the book then please email;


Where can I get my copy of the book (staff)?

Books for staff can be collected from many of the same spaces as with the students (reception, libraries, etc) and some may even be offered a copy of the book at various events.

If for any reason you still haven’t been able to get your copy of the book then please email;


Can I get a digital copy of the book?

The physicality of receiving the book is a key factor for the project however; we know that there are some of our staff and students who may require digital copies for various reasons.

It has been a little harder to make alternative versions available this year due to licenses but as a student, if you are registered 'FA' with the University, then there will be a difgital version of the book available to you through your iCat account.

For any staff who have trouble reading a physical edition, please get in touch with us directly at KUBigRead@kingston.ac.uk as necessary.

Alternatively, we work closely with the public library service in Kingston who have digital copies available for library members to borrow (staff and students as well as locals) and are striving to provide audio versions as well (as read by the wonderful Lenny Henry).

Who else is involved?

In 2016 we partnered with Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland as well as our Kingston Borough Council and the local community group The University of the Third Age. This year we have gone on to partner with the University of Wolverhampton as well as some international universities such as Malmo University in Sweden as well as more local groups in and around Kingston. We have purposefully opened up the scheme to include more members of the wider community because this will soon be your community and we wish to provide every opportunity for you to feel a part of it and for residents to get to know you.

How can I get involved with The KU Big Read?

There are a number of ways in which you can get involved with The KU Big Read – from reading the book, to taking part in our Twitter competitions and attending the various events once you get here. Or you might even be inspired to start your own book club, take the book further into the community by using it in volunteering or in any other number of ways.

All suggestions for future titles are submitted into our algorithm so if there is a book that you think would make a great Big Read title you can send all suggestions to KUBigRead@kingston.ac.uk. You never know, your favourite book may very well be next year’s title – read by thousands of students and staff.

Our selection committee is made up of Kingston volunteers and we want a full range of voices to be a part of this process so if you would like to be a part of the final selection process please email KUBigRead@kingston.ac.uk. No matter what you study, what year you’re in, whether you are academic staff, new student or one of our support staff, we want you to help us select next year’s book. As a student, being a part of the selection committee has the added bonus of contributing to your Kingston Award points.

Can I tell you what I thought of the book?

This project is in part a research project and we your feedback is extremely important to us. Last year’s feedback directly affected how we went about in selecting this year’s book so it really does make a difference.

We do send out a ten-minute questionnaire to participants’ Kingston email addresses a little later in the year and we would appreciate if you take the time to fill this in.

If you just want to drop us a line then please email us at KUBigRead@kingston.ac.uk.

What happens to the leftover books?

There really haven't been any leftover books to date (in fact, more often than not we have had to reprint in order to keep up with demand) but we do have measures in place as part of our ethical report that ensure that in the case of any leftover books, these will be taken to various charities.

What events are there to do with The KU Big Read?

We offer a range of events, the biggest probably being our author events. The ability for the author to be able to join us at the university and meet the students is considered so important that this is a key factor in deciding which book will be our Big Read.

We also host a range of discussion groups for staff and new students during Welcome Week where those who have read the book over the summer can come together to discuss it, either independently or following the lead of the discussion questions in the back of the book.

An event which has proven popular and is open to all is our Balloon Debate. Several members of staff come together and discuss themes from the book in relation to their position within the university. A whole host of people get involved in this and we even have a waiting list of speakers.

These are our key events but we welcome staff and students to put on or continue with their own events based around the chosen title, or else make suggestions by emailing KUBigRead@kingston.ac.uk.

I'm an alumnus, can I participate?

We are happy to say that we are now able to copies of this year's current title and back issues to our alumni as part of a limited package deal. After several alumni contacted us expressing an interest to continue adding to their collection of Big Read titles already owned, we were keen to make this a possibility. A percentage of the donation will be put back into The KU Big Read, helping us to ensure that books are being put into students hands, the rest will go to Care-Leavers bursaries in honour of the protagonist of this year's title, Leon.

More information can be found through the alumni pages and newsletters or you can visit the alumni website.