LANCASTER University

History Review, December 2000 | Go to article overview

LANCASTER University


Dan Bish and Joana Woodhouse, who graduated earlier this year, commend their university.

Being the conscientious, pen-grinding history students that you are, you won't need us to tell you that Lancaster is steeped in a glorious past. From the Roman fort to the imposing medieval castle, and the more recent canal constructed to carry West Indian trade in the industrial era, the contribution Lancaster has made to British history is still very much in evidence. But these days, arguably the greatest contribution that Lancaster makes to the country is the thousands of well-rounded scholars that the University churns out year after year -- or that's what we think anyway!

The University and the College system

A ten-minute bus ride from the city centre takes you to the 250 acres of landscaped parkland in which Lancaster University is set and from which, on a clear day, there are views extending north to the Lakeland fells and west to Morecambe Bay. The campus is self-contained, providing not only accommodation and academic facilities but also a health centre, pharmacy, banks, restaurants, bars, a post office, hairdressers and numerous shops, including the life-saving Spar (responsible for curing thousands of hangovers in its short existence). One of the main attractions of university life at Lancaster is the working college system. There are eight undergraduate colleges and all students are designated to one of them for their whole university career. You metaphorically live, breath and sleep your college, and by the end of Freshers' week you'll have no doubt about your college identity. As well as providing you with accommodation and (possibly more importantly) your nearest bar, your college is important in giving you welfare support, a sense of belonging within the huge University and, essentially, your friends for the next three years.

Studying History at Lancaster

Lancaster University is one of the top ten higher educational institutions in the United Kingdom for research. The newly extended library adequately reflects this, nowhere more so that in the 80,000 books and periodicals that make up the history section. Indeed, the history department is one of the largest at the University and will be familiar to many secondary students through the well-known Lancaster Pamphlet series. One of the most attractive aspects of learning history at Lancaster comes as a consequence of this large and experienced staff as they are able to offer a wide selection of courses covering a range of periods, regions, themes and branches of history from which students choose their modules. This means that your history degree can be as broad or specialised as you choose it to be. Added to this flexibility, you are also entitled to take courses from other departments. Indeed during your first year you are obliged to take two other subjects. Personally, we both believe this to be a beneficial experience, as it provides a gradual introduction to study at university level and also a broader academic knowledge that is useful in preparation for a history degree. For some students the structure of the first year also provides them with the opportunity to change the course of their degree, either switching majors or combining their initial subject with something they have enjoyed studying in the first year.

Degree classification is based on second and third year performance. History majors are assessed by exams at the end of both years and a 10,000 word dissertation in the final year. Teaching generally takes the form of a combination of lectures and seminars of small groups; the latter are weekly or fortnightly, depending on individual tutors. A history student's timetable is fantastically small, but this is not as good as it may first appear because a lot of personal study is required to prepare for seminars and essays.

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