BA War Studies students at this university already feel marginalised, under-taught and neglected. We are constantly competing with regular History students for modules that should be ours preferentially, leaving some of us with war-unrelated modules that may cripple their degrees. We have struggled to differentiate our course from standard History, save that we have even fewer contact hours than History students. We understand that this is not a “cut,” but an investment in postgrads and research – but from our perspective, it has the same effect.
The teaching fellow and academic advisor whose positions are about to be lost are the heart of the undergrad course. It is their work and their contact – in class and in office hours – which make the difference. They are not flawless – but from here, it feels like they are all we have. The majority of the War Studies faculty, while their academic credentials are impeccable, are not primarily tutors; some have no experience in education, and based on those who have applied to them for dissertations, regard undergrads as an annoyance to be avoided wherever possible. This may not be the intention, but this is how the department is perceived.
I and my fellow students already feel neglected. Those of us having our dissertations supervised by the teaching fellows – of which I am one – are especially worried of the effects this decision will have on our final marks; you can be certain this lack of regard for our degrees will certainly be in the National Student Survey responses. From an undergrad perspective, this is not an “expansion” of the War Studies course; it is a reduction to an already under-taught BA. Regardless of your assurances, we have no faith that academics who are primarily being brought in to support research and postgrad supervision will be able to give us the same amount of time and attention.
I get three hours of academic contact a week. This lack of direct teaching is of course traditional in humanities; the idea that independent study foists a spirit of critical thinking and removes the need for instruction is an old, and persuasive, one – and when a degree was Government-funded, this was perfectly acceptable. But today’s undergrads are paying thousands of pounds for their degrees; they will shortly be paying tens of thousands. The question will arise: what are they paying for? Library access? The minimal attention we are getting is barely acceptable now; no student would want to pay twice as much for our current course, if they knew how little they were getting for their money. No student would now, if the tuition and guidance given to undergrads is being further reduced.
This is an interconnected world. Web forums and blogs allow opinions to circulate widely with future students. This trend is becoming more and more developed; the outspoken, connected students of today are increasingly influential in the choices of the students of tomorrow. We do not only inform our friends, our younger peers, our siblings; we inform the entire pool of potential War Studies applicants. We are the ambassadors of this course. You cannot afford to ignore us.
War Studies, class of 2012