Sunday, 10 May 2009

Part 2: The Bad

The Bad

I have said that the self-reliance and expansive intellectual freedom is great. However, there is a flip side to this. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, a topic is so dull that you would rather use an angle grinder on your own face than listen to another 5 minutes. When you have to spend some 10 hours a week reading it, to then present it in a tiny seminar group there is NO place to hide. You will be on the spot, and silence becomes rapidly apparent. As does the colossal hangover you are nursing from last night. Why did I have that tray of shots? And where did that traffic cone come from? Sometimes, you just don't want to take part; being forced can be really quite grating. My last seminar for one module trailed by, as all of us sat there, only begrudgingly commenting; the looks shot between us indicated that in all honesty, we just didn't care.

I have also found myself frequently competing for resources. The content of my course is fairly specialised, so the the number of the books on the subject that I have access to is often few and far between. I intensely dislike having to fight over a single copy of the so called "core" reading for the next week, for a book which is then placed on week long loan, and subsequently facing the brunt of a rant from my lecturer about not having done sufficient work. Frankly, go and shove you core text book where the sun shines not. Whilst I am quite technology savvy, and have somewhat of a knack for finding obscure references from the dark and murky depth of the internet, some on my course have really struggled in the face of this, and this has even shown in the assessments where people's interests have overlapped.

The amount of contact time has been, on occasions, depressingly small. Many of my modules have had a total of 12 hours contact time, squeezed into 6 short weeks. Often, I found this to be mean that at the end of a module I was left feeling that I didn't know anything, and essays became almost a complete start-from-scratch affair with nothing but a few short references to go on and a serious dearth of relevant notes. This becomes rapidly worse when essay deadlines are some months away and by the time I get round to doing them, my head is a veritable desert of knowledge and any glimmer of an oasis is merely a tempting mirage. Of course, I could just be more organised, but who am I kidding? I won't be.


  1. Dear Oddy,

    It is interesting to hear your perspectives on Post-grad life. I took the LL.M route this year and can relate to both the good and bad points.

    It's really great to do finally be able to focus 100% on the area that interests you and to meet others who are equally interested - no-more sitting through the painful silences of undergrad tutorials (we've all been there!). Speaking for myself, motivation varied from week to week - but often topics I thought would be boring turned out to be really interesting.

    Competing for resources is a shame - it was only occassionaly a bit of an issue at my institution but was normally ok. We get free printing which - I have to say - was fantastic: I have almost every ECHR case stacked high in the corner of my room.

    To be honest, most universities love Masters students because they pay quite a lot and faculties don't have to do that much: just hold a few classes, mark a few exams and some dissertations. At my institution, there are more post-grads than undergrad for this reason.

    In my view, doing a masters is a great opportunity - it gave me an extra year (I only did the GDL) to moot, do minis, get involved in the faculty journal etc etc. In that respect, I think the masters-year is what you make of it. I hope you enjoyed it all!

  2. I know how you feel about specialised resources, there were 6 copies of Hart's 'Concept of Law' between 250 people studying jurisprudence! Which essentially meant that I had to buy my own copy... just like with everything else.

    Most students now are pro-active in picking the subjects they want to study, I know a few people who will do all the work for particular topics but just miss others out, I suppose that it better for the exam?

    Contact hours are always a problem, some universities give you 12 hours a week for 4 subjects, others make you work 9-5 making sure that you are actively busy... it all comes down to the student and how much you work I suppose!