St Mary's College, Strawberry Hill: A College of the University of Surrey: Glenn Richardson, Director of History, and Lois Lee, a Level 3 Student, Provide a Guide to Undergraduate History. (University Challenge)

Article excerpt

Big is best. We hear and see this kind of message very often in today's consumer society. Everywhere we are confronted with the evidence of globalisation, mass marketing, bulk-buying and consolidation in big industries. Make no mistake, higher education is also big business now and it is getting bigger. Many regional and metropolitan universities are increasing massively to attract a bigger share of government funding. But in this headlong rush for growth, do they always offer students a good experience of education? Does the `one size fits all' model of university actually suit everyone? Is big always best? We offer another way.

St Mary's College

St Mary's is a College of the University of Surrey and students become graduates of the University. However, it is not on the main University site at Guildford but on its own campus at Strawberry Hill on the River Thames, near Twickenham in West London. It is built around a truly unique and remarkable building, `Strawberry Hill House', designed and inhabited by the 18th-century historian, antiquarian and novelist Horace Walpole. The house gave its name to the flamboyant `Strawberry Hilt Gothic' architectural style and to the surrounding area. Radiating out from this historical centre, the campus is set within 30 acres of trees, gardens, parklands and playing fields. It is quite a hidden jewel in the suburbs of the capital. It can be reached by a 30-minute train journey from London Waterloo, and trains run four times an hour.

History at St Mary's

About 200 students study History at St Mary's within the School of Theology, Philosophy and History. We pride ourselves on being a supportive team of tutors working hard to help our students develop their potential. As part of our teaching programme we offer help with study skills, use a range of teaching methods and take students on visits to historical sites. The BA (Honours) degree can be studied on a single subject or combined honours programme. Students may pursue the degree on a full or part-time basis. St Mary's has a strong tradition of teacher-training and History may also be taken as part of a BA (ITT) degree.

Course Content

History can be taken either as a single or joint honours subject. You can follow a broad programme of modules from a range of historical periods. Alternatively, you can follow pathways in: Modern history, Early-modern history or Military history.

The modules are at three levels representing the first, second and third years of full-time study. At Level 1 all students must take the core module `The Making and Meanings of History' in which they look at what history is, how its study has developed, how it has been written and how it is formed today. They consider how the past is interpreted in the present through examining different historiographical approaches and controversies. They also have the opportunity to develop the skills needed for the study of history, to examine why these skills are important and explore how they will also be used in employment.

Students must also pick one module from each of the following pairs: `Politics and government in Tudor and Stuart England' or `Politics and government in 19th and 20th century Britain'; and `Culture and Society in Tudor and Stuart England' or `Culture and society in 19th and 20th century Britain'.

There are no core courses at Levels 2 or 3 and students have a free choice of modules. At Level 2 single honours students are expected to take seven or eight modules. Joint honours students take three or four. Level 2 courses normally cover more than one century and involve the study of more than one society. They are structured thematically but will cover the material in traditional subject areas such as Tudor England, Victorian Britain, the World Wars and contemporary British history.

They include:

`Art and Power in Europe' 
`Empires from 1700 to the present' 
`Civil Warfare 1500-2000' 
`Absolutism and Dictatorship' 
`The European crisis, of faith 1450-1700' 
`European Political Ideas' 
`Nations and Nationalism' 
`Cinema and Society' 
`Popular Music in the 20th century'. …