A series of unfortunate events featuring the English department

I have an image in my head of a notice board in each department containing a list of students with a strike across their names, warning tutors to avoid any and all communication. If such a thing exists, it is almost certain that I am on the board residing in the English department; every correspondence I have with them ends in bitterness and resentment from us both.

The first clash came upon the realisation that I was not cut out for the dual Honours course I had set out to do (English/Philosophy). I contacted the English department asking to become a single Honours English student, explaining that, not only did I not enjoy Philosophy, but was also having difficulty achieving decent grades. The latter was particularly worrying as, thanks to the arrangement of modules in English/Philosophy, the next time I was due to do Philosophy the marks would count towards my overall degree despite the fact that I would not have studied Philosophy for a year.

Due to the over subscription of English students this year, I was told a transfer was impossible. Coming from a school where a B at A-level was a grave disappointment, it came as a bit of a culture shock to be told by a tutor that they wouldn’t expect more than a low 2.2 from students, even if it is ‘just’ the first year.

I was left with the following piece of advice: “If you allow yourself to turn this into a negative situation, you’ll only help create the kind of difficulties and disappointment I’m sure you can overcome with a more positive approach.” I will leave the reader to consider how they would have responded to this.

Having been fed this line just hours after a friend was allowed a hassle-free transfer from Finance/Economics to single Honours Economics, it occurred to me only that I was being offered fewer options solely because of my chosen subject and that the English department have left themselves grossly oversubscribed (quoted by one tutor as having a body of “over 700 students”).

The second jolt in the ‘series of unfortunate events’ came with module choices for year two. Having admittedly left them to the last minute, upon collecting a form from the department I was encouraged to fill it out there and then, giving me little time to fully consider my options.

Having realised afterwards that ‘Late Renaissance’ meant two months of sonnets, it became apparent that I had made the wrong choice. Thus, expecting to be chastised for such a late change of mind, but comforted by the understanding that last term students had changed modules as late as week one of the term in which the module was taking place, I emailed the department about changing modules.

Call me an optimist for expecting some room for error within my degree.

“Module changes have to be made before Week Seven of last term,” I was told, the reason being that “it would become unmanageable with so many students.” Nor are there any waiting lists for modules which are full (offered in a number of other subjects), in case of spaces opening up – you are simply expected to find another suitable module, which might be easier if there were not just three modules to choose from each term (in comparison to seven or eight per term in Philosophy).

The resentment I feel at not being able to do the modules or subject I want to do wavers only when I think about students taking subjects such as History of Art, where students are actually forced to queue up in order to gain entry onto their desired modules; described as akin to fighting for festival tickets.

This experience is an apt illustration of how students’ needs are not at the forefront of department policies. If the problem comes from having too many students in a department, then lessen the student-load. Better students suffer the initial disappointment of not getting into university than the distress caused by spending three years doing a sub-par degree.

In contrast, the Economics department allows both transfers from dual Honours courses to single Honours Economics and last-minute changes in module choices. Their policy is to allow module changes to be made up to “Week Three of the term the module is taught.” Thus, had I a passion for numbers instead of words I would have a greater involvement in the arrangement of my own degree – a blow exacerbated further by the fact that I could probably also have gained entry into a better university had I not chosen to do English, one of the most competitive subjects when it comes to gaining a place at university.

Knowing as they do the competition for the places which their students have gained, one might hope that the English department would be willing to accommodate those students’ concerns. Instead the department rely on this competition, knowing that for every dissatisfied student that drops out there are ten more standing by to take their place.

As stated by Alexander Pope, “To err is human…” Just don’t expect the English department to forgive.

75 comments

  1. 26 Jul ’10 at 2:50 pm

    Head of the English Department

    It’s not our fault you’re obviously not cut out for the course. I suggest you give York St. Johns a call, maybe they’ll be more accommodating to your ‘waaaah I want the rules to bent to my every whim because I’m a bit of a ****’ approach.

    Note by moderator: this probably isn’t the head of the English Department.

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  2. 26 Jul ’10 at 4:50 pm

    here they are

    I understand your issues and even sympathise slightly. However, this article is really rather poorly written (considering you claim to be an English student) and furthermore comes across as somewhat tedious given its focus solely on your situation. Perhaps a development of the concerns raised in the penultimate paragraph of the article would be more useful here.

    What I will say is that the English department in York is renowned – particularly for its research resources and capabilities – with good reason. It is in the very nature of the subject to attract a somewhat maverick and enigmatic strain of individual and more often than not there is a significant element of luck in who you have to deal with regarding a certain module or seminar etc. Not all members of staff can be painted with the same brush.

    Being at University sometimes is about making sacrifices and compromises when you realise that though you may be paying a lot of money, you are part of a larger functioning machine which is composed of tens, hundreds and thousands of other people. Of course personal choice is important and you should follow this up with your personal tutor, yearly representatives and possibly HoD as far as you can – but you might also go some way to appreciating what else is going on in the living, breathing, 24-hour world of academia beyond the classroom and subscribing to humility therein.

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  3. Come on, you’re a first year, pull your socks up, stop whining and do something positive about the situation. You never know, it might not be as bad as you think. I have a degree in Philosophy and English, joint honours, the same as yours, except from Nottingham. After my first term I was really struggling with philosophy, and although I liked English, I wasn’t too enamoured with the department’s level of organisation. And that’s putting it kindly… I even looked into moving to York to do straight English, but realised that I was settled in Nottingham and after some advice from a sympathetic tutor, realised that it was only first year, it didn’t count, and it’s a big leap from A level to university. It would probably get better. I don’t think you’ve quite grasped this difference when you say “Coming from a school where a B at A-level was a grave disappointment, it came as a bit of a culture shock to be told by a tutor that they wouldn’t expect more than a low 2.2 from students, even if it is ‘just’ the first year.”

    As you say, there are 700 students in the English department, so you can’t expect the staff to work around you and pander to your every whim, when you couldn’t be bothered to read the module descriptions properly and give in your form in good time. Welcome to the world of the grown ups – now grow up.

    And this: ‘better students suffer the initial disappointment of not getting into university than the distress caused by spending three years doing a sub-par degree.’ You’d really rather have not got into university? Seriously? I somehow think not, and to imply otherwise is to be pretty disingenuous when there really will be a lot of kids who don’t get uni places this year.

    There is a silver lining to this: I started enjoying my course once I adjusted to being at university and started to understand what was expected of me by the tutors, in fact, I realised that I liked university so much I’m now doing an MA. I suggest that you take the summer holiday to have a proper think about why you picked the course, remember how ridiculously lucky and privileged you are to be able to go to university, and work on nudging that great big chip off your shoulder – hopefully you’ll come back in September feeling a bit more positive about second year. Cheer up, and good luck.

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  4. 26 Jul ’10 at 5:16 pm

    English Student

    We were told right at the begining of freshers week that transfers from english combined courses to straight english would not be possible. So it shouldn’t have come as much of a shock to you.

    Also have you considered that if the english department were not so over-subscribed you probably wouldn’t have got in to begin with.

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  5. You signed up to Late Renaissance and was surprised that this meant you would have to study sonnets? Really? You didn’t see that one coming?

    Modules have a huge list of info, including reading lists, attached to them so you know what to expect. They tell you you can’t waver from your choice right from the start. Perhaps you just need to be more organised when it comes to planning your degree? The English Department is very clear about its rules, and because it is oversubscribed, it has to be strict. This is why the constant references to an Economics degree are completely redundant – it’s a separate department! It’s just impossible to compare!

    I don’t understand why personal rants are published as ‘articles’. And this isn’t just a rant, it’s slander against a department which is oversubscribed because of its excellence. Just be thankful that you have managed to get into a very competitive course at a very good university!

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  6. You’ve got to realise that first year is basically an orientation exercise – learning what it’s like to live on your own, finding out what’s required of you, understanding how to work at a higher level of study, etc. In fairness, they really should tell you that when you arrive.

    Oh, and I suspect the reason why Economics are always so flexible is because (speaking from experience) they couldn’t give a damn about students in general.

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  7. 26 Jul ’10 at 7:43 pm

    Camlan Leitner

    I admit that this is not a particularly well-written article. After several re-writes I decided to send in the article regardless of the fact that it hadn’t ended up as I had wanted it to. And yes ‘here they are’, I am an English student, I don’t just ‘claim’ to be one.

    @Hannah- just as a defence of what I have written, I maintain that I would rather York had rejected me in the first place IF it meant that they were not oversubscribing themselves and thus, would be able to let their students change modules/transfer etc.

    @Catherine- Ofcourse I was aware the module would involve sonnets. I am dissapointed that it seems almost entirely devoted to sonnets (looking at just 2 of Shakespeare’s plays for example, and focussing on a number of his sonnets, which I think everyone can agree are not his best works).

    As for: ‘waaaah I want the rules to bent to my every whim because I’m a bit of a ****’ . That’s not exactly my position. If the policies were the same for all subjects, I would have gone on with life without so much as questioning the need for flexibility. Contrary to what this article suggest I am actually fairly easy-going.

    It is the frustration that these difficulties come only with doing English that led to me writing this article.

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  8. 26 Jul ’10 at 7:50 pm

    Camlan Leitner

    One last point, ‘head of the english department’ (hilarious though that username is.. seriously, a verifiable display of genius right there.. but maybe a better choice would have been having the balls to put your name next to your insults), I am cut out for this course and this university.

    Personal attacks sent from behind the safety net of a false username are more suggestive of someone who is wrong for this university than the desire for a more flexible degree structure.

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  9. What do you mean by verifiable display of genius?

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  10. 26 Jul ’10 at 9:50 pm

    Camlan Leitner

    @Chris- sarcasm (beyond that I hadn’t thought into it much)

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  11. 26 Jul ’10 at 10:04 pm

    Camlan Leitner

    *i meant veritable, not verifiable if thats what you were referring to (although if thats all you meant to point out, that seems rather an insignificant point to make..). bit too eager to finish my comment there i guess.

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  12. 26 Jul ’10 at 10:18 pm

    Head of the English Department

    I thought you would have maybe welcomed a sliver of humour, given how humourless and sour your approach to university life appears to be.

    “If the policies were the same for all subjects, I would have gone on with life without so much as questioning the need for flexibility. Contrary to what this article suggest I am actually fairly easy-going.”

    So you’d be happy if every single department was mired in bureaucratic nonsense (or rather, what you perceive as unfair and arbitrary bureaucratic nonsense)? You’d be happy if everyone shared your predicament? What an odd view to have. I’d rather York rejected you and all.

    As others have said, it’s first year – take it from an old hand, in the moment it seems like the culmination of a life’s work (just as GCSEs and A-levels did) at the time, but a year down the line when you’re reading your hundredth Shakespeare sonnet and bloody loving it, you’ll wonder what you were harping on inanely about.

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  13. “If the policies were the same for all subjects, I would have gone on with life without so much as questioning the need for flexibility.”

    Camlan, the rules for many other departments are actually even more inflexible. In the Computer Science department, for example, we have 12 standard modules per year; there is effectively no element of choice from the part of the student. Only in our third year can we choose modules, and the options are very limited. Inevitably, I (and many others) found some of the compulsory modules to be exruciatingly boring.

    Of course that doesn’t mean that you should be happy about having to attend a module you have no interest in, my point is that you are hardly the only person out there who has to go through that. Unfortunately, learning to put up with the fact that not everything in life is fun and frolics is part of growing up. I suggest you follow your department’s advice and try to be positive about all this.

    Also, I agree that some of the above comments are a bit out of order. No need to get personal about such an issue people..

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  14. 26 Jul ’10 at 10:19 pm

    Head of the English Department

    In summary, I suggest you Leitner up.

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  15. 26 Jul ’10 at 10:30 pm

    Camlan Leitner

    Right, clearly the way this article was written has caused problems in getting the right message across, which was not my intention.

    I will cut it down to its simplest concepts.

    1. The English department has allowed itself to become grossly oversubscribed, with a body of students of over 700.

    2. This oversubscription has forced the department to put in place restrictions on policies regarding module changes/transfers into English (which is bad).

    3. It is unnacceptable for staff within the department to claim that a low 2.2 grade is to be expected.

    If anyone believes these points to be refutable, I would be more than happy to debate this.

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  16. 26 Jul ’10 at 10:37 pm

    Camlan Leitner

    “So you’d be happy if every single department was mired in bureaucratic nonsense (or rather, what you perceive as unfair and arbitrary bureaucratic nonsense)? You’d be happy if everyone shared your predicament? What an odd view to have. I’d rather York rejected you and all.”

    Is it even worth saying that that’s not what I meant? Ofcourse it’s not. I simply meant that, if this was just how university was, in all subjects, all the time, I would have no reason to react towards it as it would have been what I signed up for.

    As for your ‘sliver of humour’, it might be the fact that you accompany it with digs such as ‘I’d rather York had rejected you and all’ that makes it less than well received. Why get childish?

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  17. 26 Jul ’10 at 10:42 pm

    Camlan Leitner

    react against it*

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  18. 26 Jul ’10 at 10:46 pm

    Camlan Leitner

    @George- I feel for you having to do modules which you have not chosen to do and I do understand that a number of people are in a worse position than me (which is why I mentioned the recent issues with the History of Art department). I guess the difference is that I was told I would have greater input in what modules made up my degree.

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  19. 26 Jul ’10 at 11:50 pm

    English Firstie

    I think one of the major problems is that you don’t appreciate the level that York’s English department is at. Not only is it well-respected, but it is one of the leading departments in the country. It is recognised as the single best English department for research in the UK, and is sometimes ranked above Oxbridge for quality purposes. As a result, it is to be expected that the department has a high application rate. The way that all uni departments across the world work their offers system is to offer more places than they can actually provide for, with a projection as to a percentage of students not meeting that offer. Of course, there is the inevitable situation that sometimes more students make the grade than expected, and end up at the uni. York had this problem a wihle back when it didn’t have enough rooms for the students that were accepted into the university.

    The Department has to provide restrictions on changing module choices, and students are warned about it well in advance in handbooks and at course introductory talks. In the same way, students are informed about changing subject — it just wasn’t possible this year. It is standard practice in many departments to work this way, especially English departments which, in general, tend to be oversubscribed as they are one of the most popular arts degrees in the country.

    Staff suggesting that a 2:2 grade is acceptable is, I think, entirely acceptable. The department doesn’t give grades in Term 1 for the very reason that they don’t expect students to be doing high-level work as soon as they come into the university. Few students in the department achieve firsts in their first year on a regular basis, indeed most don’t score above 65 or so, and many will not break into the 2:1 barrier in their first year. That is also normal for english departments, and it’s a way of comforting students who, like yourself, are used to high achievements. I myself received a mixture of 2:2 and 2:1 essay marks this year, and am happy with the results as a result of these talks.

    The level of work produced at the end of the degree is marked by the same scale as the work produced at the start of it. Hopefully by the end of Term 8, students are producing work that is markedly better than that of Term 1, and so Term 1’s work is unlikely to be that of a first. If you’re achieving a first during Approaches or Historical Approaches on a regular basis, then you probably don’t need to be doing a BA. To tell you that a 2:2 is acceptable in first year makes plenty of sense.

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  20. 27 Jul ’10 at 12:17 am

    here they are

    I’ll go back to my original point about humility. I can accept the view that the English department is “oversubscribed” – the reason for this is evidently not that the department wishes to effectively screw itself over by admitting a greater number of students than it is capable of handling, but rather that a top class department is willing to stretch its resources to accommodate a larger quantity of students which might benefit from its academic quality (teaching, research etc.). I am not naive enough to deny that money may also be a factor but this is mere speculation, of course. However, what you must realise as a first year is that the choices on offer to you are unlikely to reflect exactly what you wish to study. University, as myself and others have previously mentioned, is a time of learning different new things – the whole point is that you might grasp concepts previously unknown to you, or that you uncover time periods or nuanced schools of writing you may not have encountered beforehand. Once again I can’t speculate on your reading habits or knowledge gained independently from schoolwork but I’m not sure you can brashly claim Shakespeare’s sonnets “are not his best works” merely because they are less popular; indeed, a detailed module on and rigorous study of his sonnets might go some way to illuminating your ideas about this.

    I did my undergradate degree at Leeds (Joint Honours too, incidentally) and one of the things I rapidly discovered was that a hierarchical system was in fact in place – as I progressed through my degree more freedom in terms of choice became available, and as for the earlier years, well, whether I liked what was offer or not, frankly, I dealt with it. Civil War & Restoration literature was hardly what I ‘wanted’ to do but as the semester went on I tried to focus less on my own bitterness and resentment and more on the fact that it was a learning curve in more than one way.

    As for departmental “expectations” you would do well to forget them and knuckle down to your own study. You will get what you deserve at the end of it all.

    P.S. The very fact that you’re doing a joint degree means you have far wider a variety of study options available to you in comparison to other single honours students. Variety IS the spice of life, and no I’m not related to Madhur Jaffrey.

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  21. I would have understood the sarcasm had you said veritable, but alas, you didn’t.

    With regards your dilemma, 700 students is only over subscription if it is causing a problem. I happen to know that your tutorials hardly ever exceed 10 students, tutors meet with you as individuals to discuss your progress and your department even ensure that procedural work is assigned, marked, and you are subsequently offered feedback on your work.

    The English Department was the highest-ranking English Department in the recent RAE and consistently turns out decent graduates with good grades.

    Maybe the restriction on module switching is related to your department’s desire to ensure that modules do not become crowded, seminars are prepared in advance, and all modules that are offered remain viable (i.e. numbers that seemed firm enough to support group learning do not drop so low as to damage the collegial learning experience).

    Finally, a 2:2 may seem disappointing however it is true that you will get better and indeed most degrees are weighted to reflect such student progression.

    It could be of course that the person providing your feedback didn’t have the heart to say that a 2:2 grade is to be expected from you personally, rather than students in general.

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  22. 27 Jul ’10 at 1:20 am

    Camlan Leitner

    A lot of you are talking about how good the department is. The English department here is highly regarded and I don’t refute that. Moreover, the course is surprisingly innovative (daring to stray from the more traditional routes taken by Oxbridge/UCL etc).

    However I don’t think that the department’s reputation is reason enough for us all to keep our mouths shut and be happy with what we’ve got. Oversubscription is causing problems (as you pointed out, they were even having trouble housing people as a result). I am all for humility, except for when it entails being ‘politely passive’ (one of many definitions). For Gods sake, we’re students! Being able to protest when we believe we are being wronged is like a birth right.

    As for the tutors ‘accepting’ lower grades, that is not what I said. I am not condemning anyone who got a 2.2. I was told a low 2.2 was expected. This is just plain wrong as, albeit with some encouragement about how 2.2s are not that uncommon in first year, you should be pushed to do the best you can, period.

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  23. I really think you should be glad that they told you they weren’t expecting high grades in first year. No-one told me that at Nottingham, which pretty much meant that I spent the whole of first year and the start of second really worried that I wasn’t achieving consistently like I had been at A level, wondering what had gone wrong.

    Also, don’t knock the sonnets, they’re great, as perhaps you’ll see once you’ve actually read them. It’s good that York gives priority to teaching non-canonical texts to help encourage students to think more independently and allow them to write more original work, rather than just seeing an English degree as a box-ticking exercise in reading all the classics. ‘King Lear – check, Lady Chatterley – check, some dull stuff by Dickens – check.’ Yawn. I’d like to think English degrees are a bit more than a three year apprenticeship in sounding smart at dinner parties.

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  24. It’s your first year – I suggest you relax about the whole thing.

    As you have mentioned, the English department is one of the best in the country. Therefore, it is probable that they know what they’re doing and how it should be done. They are professional (and very successful) academics, and to be brutally honest about it, who are you to question their methods as someone just arrived on the scene? That’s not an insult – you just need to trust that these people are doing their jobs well.

    Further to your comment, “we’re students! Being able to protest when we believe we are being wronged is like a birth right.” It’s wise to first develop the maturity to know when you HAVE been wronged, rather than stamping your feet when things don’t go as you expected. Not everything is wine and roses, and there are some things in life you just have to put up with. Every student, in every subject, has taken modules they have hated or found incredibily tedious, and has had admin problems with their department. It’s about as universal an experience as there is.

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  25. Expected from you?

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  26. yeah it seems pretty clear you’ve decided – “i’m a student, therefore i can moan (guised as “protest”) about basically anything i feel like, or anything i don’t like”. i’m afraid that’s not really the way to get things done, or to be a “real student”. don’t get caught up in your own cliché. as well as being tragic (oh! Hamlet – that’s famous) it is pointless and not particularly constructive.

    “you should be pushed to do the best you can” – this seems to typify your attitude which lies ironically alongside the definition of “humility” you chose to pick out of the dictionary. frankly, you’re wrong. you should push yourself to do the best you can, because nobody else will, nor should they. your fate is in your own hands and tutors will help you as much as they can beyond the subject itself, but self-motivation is crucial. if you do bugger all except wallow in self-pity, on your head it will be. i reckon you need to buck your ideas up next year but make the most of the depleting summers.

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  27. 28 Jul ’10 at 3:58 pm

    Think about it..

    Considering pretty much every single person who has commented on here has told you to basically get over yourself and be happy you’re doing a good course at a good university, maybe you should take a while and think about that side of it as opposed to trying to defend your ‘argument’.

    Not least because you’re failing miserably, and it’s embarrassing to watch.

    I’m not going to repeat what everyone has already said, but a 2.2 in first year is fine, and not researching modules/not applying for modules in time is completely your own fault. Stop blaming the department.

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  28. 28 Jul ’10 at 4:14 pm

    Think about it..

    Also, your last two articles complain about contact hours and the cost of the gym.

    Why are you even here?

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  29. 28 Jul ’10 at 4:37 pm

    2:2 in first year

    is totally fine.
    Because it means that if you handed that essay in as a third year finals essay, you’d get a 2:2. And if you’re getting a 2:2 in first year for what essentially could be a third year piece, you’ve got two years to go up two grades…making third year results a 1st if you look at it that way.

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  30. Don’t you also write for Vision?

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  31. Apparently so, I found one article on York Vision which was actually called a ‘lament’.

    Bloody hell, learn to have some fun and stop complaining.

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  32. “In summary, I suggest you Leitner up.”

    Genius.

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  33. Didn’t Nouse have an article recently saying 90% of students get a 2.1 or above. Just spell your name right on your essays and you’ll be alright, and count yourself lucky you don’t do Physics, where I’m led to believe less than 20% got a 2.1 or above.

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  34. Some of these comments are pretty repulsive.

    My sympathies, Camlan, that you should have to put up with that.

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  35. *”that” being the comments, that is. (Although I sympathize with your course situation as well.)

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  36. This is going to be a long summer.

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  37. I’m also a dual hons student, completely separate from the English Department! I wouldn’t ever expect to just switch from one to the other. They took you on as a “half” person, they have quotas to fill. It’s unreasonable to expect a change, especially a smooth transition from first to second year. Did you discuss with them the possibility of re-applying to straight hons?

    The article would have been more interesting if you involved other stories, and compared/contrasted to different departments! I think the whingey undertones to the article is what created such a backlash.

    I hope you get to switch, if not grin and bear it. Next year I have to take 2 compulsory modules of doom, totally dreading it. But just think how insignificant they are in the greater scale of things…

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  38. 30 Jul ’10 at 11:31 pm

    Thoulalallalalala

    I’m a big fan of the English department and, as such, take issue with this article.

    Re: the 2:2 remark – am not sure whether the degree marks for Class of ’10 are still on the dept webpage, but I’m pretty sure there were only TWO or THREE 2:2, and maybe a third of FIRSTS and the rest 2:1s.
    The way our course is structured allows you to get lower marks at Level 1 (which doesnt count) and Level 2 (which counts less) such that you can refine your essay writing technique and fulfill your potential.

    Finally – until you get to special modules, there will always, repeat ALWAYS, be modules you’re less interested in. MAN UP. You should take this as a challenge rather than adopt a defeatist attitude and complain about it. Anfd if it *is* worth complaining about, you might want to take it up with your supervisor and/or the board of studies.

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  39. 31 Jul ’10 at 1:13 pm

    Physics '10 grad

    @Jim, I believe the figure for this year was about 17% of people getting a 2i or a 1st from the BSc. This comes with two caveats. Generally the people expected to get 1sts and follow a career as a physicist do the MPhys (4 year intregrated masters) course. Secondly, our physics cohort isn’t the strongest that has ever been, although by what margin I’m not sure.

    Still, 8 people in the course getting a 2i or above is worrying, but there’s nothing wrong with a 2ii (what I got!) in physics, or so my supervisor told me whilst consoling me, it’s just one of those courses where a low grade is actually possible when you still hand work in. Frankly I could have worked much harder and been borderline 2i, I have noone else to blame, nor do the 60% of people who got a 3rd, I was one of the happy ones with my grade.

    Adding to other people’s comments, I might add that in doing Physics with Astrophysics, I only had 5 optional credits out of 360, and that was in the first year. I too have a place on a masters course at York for next year so it’s all good.

    As for the article get over yourself. When I’m having a rant I talk to Jason Rose in the RKC over a baguette and a medium quality coffee, I don’t get space online alongside real issues. We bitch, we both agree, it’s much more satisfying, although like you we are still wrong and just whining.

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  40. “Having realised afterwards that ‘Late Renaissance’ meant two months of sonnets, it became apparent that I had made the wrong choice”

    How bloody naive can you get? You don’t have to be an english literature professor to realise that If you’re looking to avoid sonnetry in all its many forms then the Late Renaissance isn’t the period to choose a module on! All they did back there was recite sonnets at each other whilst comparing ruff/armada sizes! What on earth were you expecting?!

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  41. I’m sorry that everyone has been rude towards you but the way you have written this article seems to admit your own faults, in that you say you were late with deadlines and wanted to change your mind. Even if the department weren’t ‘oversubscribed’ (which I will come to in a moment) pretty much no university department would allow you to change your choice past the deadline.

    I don’t think the course is oversubscribed. I do English in 1st year at York and despite the fact that lecture-rooms were crammed for our first introductory module, our seminar class sizes are between 10 and 12 people. As many people use Oxbridge as a measure of good academic practice I’d like to point out that our class-size average for seminars is 10-12 and theirs is 8-10 so tutor/student ratio is still some of the best in the country.

    Someone has mentioned that you elsewhere complained about the contact-time. One of the main focuses of an English degree is research and self-motivation. Some second-year friends encouraged me to attend an optional lecture, in which we met a really interesting writer, also tutors always have open-office hours. I didn’t choose York because I thought it was an amazing department, I chose it because it is a nice place to live, but since I have got on the course I am aware that I am lucky and that the department does do a lot for us.

    However, you get back as much as you put in on an arts subject course. Maybe you should put a little more in, thoughts-wise. And I don’t mean airing your ill-considered opinions.

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  42. Dude I did the Late Renaissance and we didn’t do a single shakespeare sonnet. The majority of people I talked to on the course did few of them as well. We did however do 3 shakespeare plays, 2 jonson plays, ford, milton, vanbrugh, herrick, lovelace, herbert and marvell.

    And did you not read the handbook which says how you can’t swap modules? Or look at the reading lists online? Or ever go to your supervisor to ask about these modules. What a self-indulged rant. If there are 700 students why should everything be tailored to you when you have obviously made the minimum amount of effort? Grow up

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  43. 1 Aug ’10 at 3:03 pm

    Immanuel Kant

    I suggest you come to terms with spending the next two years studying philosophy, and resolving to do as well as you possibly can in the subject to ensure that you get the highest degree classification you are capable of.

    To start, get yourself down to Blackwells and pick up some intro level philosophy textbooks; download the whole back catalogue of ‘Philosophy Bites’ and ‘Philosophy: The Classics’ podcast series by Nigel Warburton and David Edmonds ( http://www.philosophybites.com/ , http://www.philclassics.libsyn.com/ ); and get used to looking through the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy ( http://plato.stanford.edu/contents.html ), the Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy ( http://www.iep.utm.edu/ ), and the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy ( http://www.oxfordreference.com/pages/Subjects_and_Titles__2E_R08 ) to which you should have Shibboleth access. Beyond that you might find an episode of In Our Time which can help you ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/in-our-time/archive/philosophy ), or an episode of Philosophy Talk ( http://www.philosophytalk.org/notesPastShows.htm ) which is free to stream but not to download.

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  44. 1 Aug ’10 at 4:31 pm

    Head of the English Department

    Alright that’s it, you’re off the course. I won’t have freshers badmouthing my exemplary department in this manner.

    If I see you in the English dept next year I will kick off.

    I’m off to read my anthology of Shakespeare sonnets, bloody love it.

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  45. Madam,

    I believe the reason why you have provoked such a critical response (with the honourable exception of my friend Kant, whom I awoke from his dogmatic slumbers after a night at the Willow) is because you appear to have done sweet f*ck all research and planning, expected the good staff of the English department to accomodate your failings, and took it upon yourself to slander them publicly when they did not. Furthermore, you assume it is your positive right to do so. Such naked hubris!

    It is possible, however, that pernicious moral systems and hypotheses have perverted your natural understanding, and for that we must allow exception. From these outward sentiments, I hope you derive the proper materials of thinking, and I look forward to occasioning your future career as a philosopher.

    Please consider yourself Hume’d.

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  46. Once again, readers of this website have proven how uncivilised and rude they can be, hiding behind a vail of anonymity. If you disagree with the author, you should argue politely.

    A.

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  47. Once again you’ve proven you can’t keep your nose out

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  48. 2 Aug ’10 at 12:04 am

    here they are

    “Rude” (x2) and “uncivilised”. Oh the barbarity of it all. I am so ashamed of myself and everyone else who has commented on this “article” with little hint of sympathy or altruistic fellow-feeling. The world is such a cruel and terrible place!

    On the other hand, you should be grateful to herr Kant. I was last night.

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  49. No need to be sarcastic, I know you are not ashamed at all – and this is the problem. Chris, your contribution is invaluable.

    A.

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  50. As invaluable as yours

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  51. 2 Aug ’10 at 4:21 pm

    here they are

    Does the ‘A’ stand for ‘Ah I’m having immense difficulty getting over myself as a warrior for the preyed upon’ or ‘Ah poppycock! I just fell of my high horse and seem to have ended up with a bruised Aris’? I don’t think anyone’s particularly impressed either way. I’ll ignore your witty juggling of sarcasm.

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  52. So now you have to be on a high horse to have a problem with people being unnecessarily offensive or impolite? Can you not take a minute to think about your behaviour? Does it really make you feel better offending someone online? Do you think you make a positive contribution?

    By the way, the correct spelling is ‘fell off my high horse’.

    A.

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  53. I apologise for the comments made by my younger brother. He always was the sheep-fancier in the family. As Plato used to say, the empty bucket makes the most noise.

    I also see we have comments by a deontologist (Kant), a utilitarian (Hume) , and a eudaimonist (me!). Quite a feet for an article which slags off philosophy!

    Kant, Hume, fancy grabbing a pint after work, lads?

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  54. 2 Aug ’10 at 7:45 pm

    Head of the English Department

    @Aris – What exactly, dear friend, is a ‘vail of anonymity’? EPIC VAIL (oh sorry, I meant EPIC FAIL).

    I suggest you remove your ‘veil of ignorance’ (if you will permit me the complete misappropriation of Rawls’ term for the sake of the poor joke) next time you comment on this article.

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  55. Not an ‘Epic Fail’, particularly not for a non-native speaker. Without wanting to sound arrogant, I’d like to think that my English is at a fairly good level. Also, are you referencing Rawls to show off?

    A.

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  56. I think he referenced Rawls so as to be in keeping with the Philosophy theme that has burgeoned throughout this thread.

    How do you know that ‘here they are’ is not also a non-native speaker? You were happy to correct them, why shouldn’t you be corrected?

    I would suggest that you take a minute to consider the responses your comments always solicit and maybe, maybe, also consider moving on and leaving York behind.

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  57. You fellows have nothing better to do than argue on the internet?

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  58. … although I have to admit that it is kind of lame to make a spelling mistake when criticising someone else for one.

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  59. That concession does at least make you better than ~

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  60. 2 Aug ’10 at 9:11 pm

    Grammar Nazi

    Speaking of spelling mistakes, it is ‘quite a feat’ not ‘quite a feet’. But I guess spelling is only an issue when someone disagrees with you or isn’t a native English speaker.

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  61. Spelling is only an issue if you are arrogant enough to criticise others hiding behind a vEil (:P) of anonymity.

    A.

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  62. 2 Aug ’10 at 11:11 pm

    Miranda Fay Thomas

    Oh, why can’t this picture appear instead of a comment section?

    http://bit.ly/dwC1pf

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  63. 3 Aug ’10 at 5:00 pm

    Head of the English Department

    Internet comics are the lowest form of wit. And anyway, that would only be apposite if I had someone to go to bed with.

    So you’ve embarrassed yourself.

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  64. Indeed, she has fucked that right up

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  65. To return to the actual article…

    Just like to say that I did English and Philosophy, and found the English department nothing if not accommodating, helpful, and understanding.

    I don’t really see any issues with the way they acted in any of the situations described here. Single honours English is always oversubscribed. You can’t expect to be transferred to another course (which has more stringent admissions criteria) because you didn’t get on with your original choice. It’s at the department’s discretion.

    On the subject of module choice, I (and I’m sure most other English students) found the variety of modules to be fantastic. So, you handed in your module choice at the last minute, and then a module you chose turned out to be one you didn’t want. I’m sorry, but I don’t really see what the department could have done here. It’s only first year in which there’s a module choice of only three modules. I have to point out that Bristol’s Eng/Phil course last time I checked offered no room for module choice whatsoever, at least in first year.

    Lastly, I’d suggest that contacting your Board of Studies rep (who is presumably the excellent Zahra) or the department themselves would probably be a better than venting your frustrations on here.

    Stick with it, English is a great subject – and there are few better places to study it than York.

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  66. “Coming from a school where a B at A-level was a grave disappointment, it came as a bit of a culture shock to be told by a tutor that they wouldn’t expect more than a low 2.2 from students, even if it is ‘just’ the first year”.

    I came from a school where a D at A level was considered quite the feat! Your public school sense of entitlement absolutely disgusts me! I managed to get into York from a state school and obtain a first and I did so by knuckling down and working, not whining. I feel absolutely disgusted that you have slandered the English Department. Do you not realise that you are in one of the top English departments in the country? I know it has been said before, but do you realise that? Do you not realise how immature you sound when you rant about a department that people have worked so hard to get into? How dare you embarrass the English department by ranting on here. Shame on you.

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  67. 4 Aug ’10 at 11:23 am

    Daniel Rowdon

    ^^^ Thoroughly boyed out

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  68. not sure what was wrong with that

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  69. Sorry about that Chris. Your comment was automatically blocked by our spam filter for some reason and deleted before it could be rescued! Feel free to repost it.

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  70. Wasn’t interesting anyway

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  71. Don’t think that English students can write. In my experience their prose is awfully turgid. And no, it wasn’t interesting anyway.

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  72. 5 Aug ’10 at 11:49 am

    Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells

    I left my module choice until the last minute, picked one on a whim and found that the module wasn’t to my liking? And because I didn’t plan ahead or do things with enough time to consider my choices properly I wasn’t able to change. The stuff of Shakespeare that.

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  73. I don’t think they make violins small enough.

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  74. 5 Aug ’10 at 11:36 pm

    here they are

    yeah i think i did make some pretty useful points, actually. that is what the comments section is for – people to express their opinions, not necessarily just to congratulate the writer for their situation or expressive ability. perhaps you should move to the democratic people’s republic of korea. it does what it says on the tin.

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  75. NEWS FLASH: Some public school girl has a ridiculous sense of entitlement.

    IN OTHER NEWS: Titanic hits iceberg.

    What an utterly ridiculous article. Is it a parody?

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