Exeter University: Bruce Coleman, Admissions Tutor in History, Tells You What He Looks for and What You Can Gain from the Course. (University Challenge)

History Review, March 1998 | Go to article overview

Exeter University: Bruce Coleman, Admissions Tutor in History, Tells You What He Looks for and What You Can Gain from the Course. (University Challenge)


As the History syllabus at Exeter has just undergone major revision and as the Department (currently one of History & Archaeology) is involved in structural changes as part of a `schooling' of the University, this is an appropriate moment to reintroduce History at Exeter to candidates, actual and prospective. Exeter offers one of the most popular History courses in the British university system, but that is all the more reason for trying to explain and justify its standing.

No doubt location is part of the appeal. Exeter is a medium-sized cathedral city with a population of about 100,000 in a pleasant and attractive part of the country. It lacks the `inner city problems' faced by some other universities and, in addition to a notably temperate climate, has attractive countryside and coastline near at hand. The main campus, not far from the city centre, is situated in the hillside parkland of a Victorian Italianate country house and enjoys commanding views across the Exe valley. Visitors agree it is one of the most handsome campuses in the country. It is also near Exeter St David's station for those who need to escape at weekends.

Exeter has good residential provision for students. All first-years are offered hall places; a few stay on there in subsequent years but most move on, either into university-owned self-catering accommodation (much of it built recently to conference standards) or to share with other students private-sector houses or cottages in or around the city. Overall there are few accommodation problems.

Student social life, as one would expect of a university with around 8000 students, is extensive and diverse. The main student organisations -- the Guild of Students and the Athletic Union -- are energetic and of high quality, and there are large numbers of recreational clubs and societies. Standards of sport are high and the University has recently introduced a Sports Scholarships scheme to recognise and assist students of outstanding sporting ability. Add in the student bars and the local pubs and altogether student life in Exeter is lively and varied, though it also manages to remain civilized.

The Department doesn't, however, want its students to choose Exeter just because of `quality of life' considerations. We want our students to be seriously academic and our standards of expectation are high. Our flagship degree is Single Honours History which admits 55-60 students each year. In 1996-97 there were 776 applications. Currently, though we have no `standard offer', the most common requirement for conditional offers is 26 points from three A-levels. As Admissions Tutor, my job is not to recruit but to select. Exeter History is clearly, with several other universities, in a market niche just below Oxford and Cambridge.

We also offer a range of Combined Honours courses: with Archaeology, Politics, Ancient History and five modern languages (French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish). For some of these courses, notably History & Politics, the entry requirements are similar to those for Single Honours; in others they are slightly lower, most commonly 24 points. In a Combined Honours course the History Department provides 50% of the content and the partner department the other half. When the Department becomes a constituent of a larger School of Historical, Political and Social Studies in August 1998, it will be more closely associated with the Politics Department (itself highly rated) and will merge with the former Department of Economic & Social History. These changes will permit us to broaden further the range of History degrees and modules we offer, including degrees in Economic & Social History and in History & Society.

Candidates who apply to Exeter should note that we do not interview `standard' candidates. (Mature candidates are, however, always interviewed before any offer is made.) That means that the UCAS form provides the key evidence for determining an offer or rejection. …

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