I have now been a graduate student for ONE WHOLE WEEK. It’s very exciting. So obviously now is the time to start planning my next degree. (There is method in my madness – if I plan to finish this one a bit *early* then I should be able to roll right into an overseas PHD program, on the arrogant assumption that I’m spiffy enough to get into such things.)
Having recently been through one round of applications, and having spent a couple of hours poking at the websites of various universities, I have some observations:
1. I thought the university of Sydney were crummy with their paperwork (don’t talk to me about paperwork. I somehow still don’t have a timetable!). But apparently Australian universities are models of efficiency! I applied in October and started in March. Investigation suggests that I will have to apply *this* October if I want to start *next* September/October overseas. Seriously, people, is your paperwork all done in stone tablets?
Note: this is no longer the logo of USyd.
The new one is “modern”. And ugly.
2. Does the University of Cambridge not WANT students? Their prospective grad students pages are the most depressing thing I’ve read for quite some time. Observe:
From “What we expect from you“:
The most important qualification for becoming a graduate student is a sense of vocation. Finishing a dissertation is hard work; it is also a test of determination. In deciding if graduate work is for you it is valuable to consider which elements in your undergraduate course you most enjoyed. It is not enough to have relished the excitement of reading new material each week and cleverly concealing what you did not know in your essays or coursework – although an enthusiasm for reading is one vital qualification for graduate work. If you felt frustrated about the limits of your knowledge when you were an undergraduate, and enjoyed the more extended forms of study which were required for a dissertation or extended essay, then it is likely that you will get satisfaction from graduate work.
From “What you cannot expect from us“:
Do not expect to be spoon-fed while you are here. You will spend long hours in the library working on a topic which on a black day might seem to be of interest to noone else in the world. You should bear in mind that you will probably be poor, and that you will almost certainly have to spend a great deal of time reading material which you find unappetising in order to master your chosen field.
Translation: We are CAMBRIDGE and we are HARDCORE. You must be HARDCORE to be at CAMBRIDGE. You’re SMART? Think again! ORDINARY SMARTS ARE NOT HARDCORE ENOUGH AT CAMBRIDGE. Students at Cambridge are so HARDCORE that they are MISERABLE ALL THE TIME! But that’s the way they LIKE IT because WE ARE CAMBRIDGE AND WE ARE HARDCORE! Come to Cambridge, earn a degree in MISERABLE, it’s HARDCORE.
Ok, Ok, I understand, they’re *Cambridge*, they don’t need to be nice to their students. But compare to the nice, businesslike pages for Medieval Studies at Toronto! Those pages tell us that the program is quite hard to get into, and Serious Business once you’re in, but for the rest of it, they don’t seem to feel the need to either scare people off or to target a select audience of intellectual masochists.
Is it just me, or is Cambridge’s pitch all wrong here? I can imagine receiving such advice in a friendly peer-to-peer orientation pack, perhaps, but for the university’s public face… surely there are ways to get say “you must be serious to come here” without talking down to your applicants or advertising the many miserable qualities of the degree in question.