BA (Hons?)

There is some debate about whether or not people with undergraduate degrees in the UK can legitimately put “(Hons)” after their degree award… largely for the reason that almost all degree courses are honours degree ones, and you only get an “ordinary” degree if you fail a lot of modules in your final year.

I suspect it’s just another part of the general devaluation of everything academic in this country, if not this planet. As I’ve grown up, every qualification I’ve ever received has always been panned by the media at just the time I got it. This is true for GCSEs and A-Levels, and now it is even becoming true of degrees. Great timing, as always. Just when I stop to think “hey, I’ve done all right!” – the world bleats out its usual message of “you haven’t, try again”.

So people have started adding on “Hons” to make it sound better than it actually is. I look at the requirements to get an honours degree in other countries, and thus legitimately call yourself “Hons” but they seem so much harder. But this is where it gets ridiculous because of how low the grading is in the UK for arts based subjects. It virtually impossible to get above 80% (I haven’t heard of it)… whereas this must definitely be possible in Australia. Well, my only source on this is Wikipedia, but still…

The reason why all this is in my mind is because in the past week I’ve had my graduation ceremony. I was up at 6am, and I finally got back at 11:45pm. A very long day, but a memorable one. Me and my parents, plus my sister and my gran came with me. Unfortunately, my grandad couldn’t because he’s not well at the moment, which he was disappointed about. It makes me a little sad too… I know full well that I could have graduated last year had I not took a gap year or did a three year course. Then he could have been there.

Nevertheless, it was still a fairly proud moment. I realised just how few people get first class degrees, so that was a very nice moment. The ceremony wasn’t all good, however, as I was sitting next to two people I didn’t know, but unfortunately, they knew each other – so they spent all the time talking over me. It then got worse when the person sitting next to me kept bugging me to ask what the Chancellor had asked me when we did the little “stop and chat” (to use a Larry David-ism) that only people who get firsts are allowed to do.

It’s nice to get the recognition… but it has also given me pause for even more thought. The Chancellor gave a very good speech in which she said how delighted she was to hear (from her little chats) that so many people with first class degrees were going into teaching. That’s what I told her, cos I didn’t have anything else to say. I didn’t want to say I was drifting aimlessly. But she said how wonderful and noble the profession is and that it will be in safe hands with such high quality graduates.

Then, speaking to my tutors at the reception afterwards, they were all highly approving of my choice to do a PGCE. They believe it’s a very worthwhile occupation.

This is somewhat in contrast to my family. But worse, it is in contrast to most of the teachers I’ve ever spoken to, who take every opportunity to disparage their profession when I talk to them. They often say “You’ve got a first class degree and you want to be a teacher?”. I find this a bit weird.

The most disappointing part of the day, however, was the feeling I got from my gran, and I’ve got from the rest of my family in general. We’re all from very humble origins. I am the first to be a university graduate on both sides of the family. But they don’t seem to realise just how much of an achievement this is. Because my family don’t understand what it means, and a lot of them have a very working class attitude of “we stick together”, some of them think that going to university is just not the done thing for someone from a working class background. I definitely got this attitude to my gran. She has rather bizarre views that won’t let her speak to anyone who isn’t a Labour supporter…

This is all new to them, but they see it all as middle class, elitist and not something the normal workers would do. My gran deliberately went out to thank the people who’d built and were taking down the marquee as we left, (“the world doesn’t run without the workers!”) and told them they should take a bottle of the wine that was left over. It had nothing to do with her, of course.

I agree with her sentiment. But we are all workers. Class is a very sad state of mind, one that is absolutely useless and serves no purpose. But that’s politics, and best left out here…

Overall though, it was a very nice day. I know my mum and dad are proud. But now I’ve really got to get my thoughts into order to make this whole bloody thing worthwhile.

In A First Class Mood

Well, the day is finally here. The day of the exam results.

And, would you credit it, I only appear to have notched up a First.

How I’ve done it I don’t know. I do know that I worked myself into the ground for most of last year. Well, perhaps not that much, but I did do a lot of work, certainly far more than I did in second year. That may have been down to the dissertation, but I’m sure I also did more work preparing for tutorials and reading for essays.

Either way, it seems to have paid off. All that work to make the “21” sign turn into a “1” on the results website.

I still won’t believe it until I have a piece of paper in front of me telling me I did it. I haven’t even celebrated properly because of a terrible night’s sleep last night (too much dreaming about exams, sad bastard) and the anti-climactic nature of finding out my results before the designated time. The exam results website always releases the results much earlier than it’s supposed to, and it did so again today.

I’ve only just scraped home as a result of procedures allowing an average in the borderline (i.e. 69) to be upgraded if you have enough firsts in general (which I did), but if you’re going to get a degree classification then you might as well scrape home than be comfortable, for the simple reason that whether I get a first with 69 or a first with 80 it is still “only” a First. Would the extra work be worth it? Would it even be possible given the stingy marking of politics lecturers? Somehow, I doubt it.

In a way I’m relieved. After all this hype and all this expectation, and a string of good results this year (all of my essays, exams and the dissertation were firsts, except for one exam), I was beginning to think “I would be disappointed with a 2:1”. I hate saying that. It’s crazy, I know. At the end of second year I was ecstatic with being a solid 2:1er. I thought I’d worked hard that year and deserved a 2:1, so I was pleased with that.

Then I realised this year how hard I hadn’t worked. After all the effort I put it, I thought it wasn’t really worth it because there was no way I could reverse the middle-of-the-road result I’d got in second year. But no, it was possible.

And once things started turning in my favour I got an inevitable sense of “this is mine if I try hard enough”. And so I did.

And so it came to pass. And I round off my academic career (for now, anyway…) with the top grade possible.

It’s beginning to dawn on me what I’ve achieved over the past four years, but it will take a little longer to sink in.

What a day.