The University’s Strategy for Teaching and Learning has identified a number of generic transferable skills which all students are expected to have developed by the end of their degree programme. In following this programme, students will have had the opportunity to enhance their skills relating to career management, communication (both written and oral), information handling, numeracy, problem-solving, team working and use of information technology.
The MA (Res) in Modern History is designed to ensure that students continue to develop these transferable skills, in parallel and integrated with the acquisition of more specialist knowledge, understanding and skills concerned with the conduct and management of historical research and enquiry appropriate at a postgraduate level. The programme is recognised by the AHRC as providing appropriate research training.
In the Autumn term, all students follow two core courses. The first of these, Historical Skills and Resources, is an intensive induction into fundamental bibliographical, archival and methodological skills. The second, Modern History: Theory, Practice and themes, deals with the theory and practice of history through a number of case studies designed to develop students’ awareness of the development of different fields of study within history and the different methodological and theoretical approaches which have been applied to them. Students also begin work on the dissertation, initially identifying and refining a suitable topic and locating potential primary source material under the guidance of a tutor who continues to act in a supervisory capacity throughout the student’s period of registration. In the Spring term, students choose two options, which complement the work done on the Modern History: theory, practice and themes course; they continue the course on Historical Skills, leading up to an oral presentation on their research topic; and they intensify work on the dissertation. The Summer term is given over to detailed research and writing up of the dissertation under the guidance of the supervisor.
Further elements, such as database training, foreign language work or palaeography, may be arranged according to the specific needs arising from the research project, and will normally be substituted for one of the Spring term options.
The MA (Res) in Modern History is designed within a 180 credit modular structure, with 90 credits awarded for the dissertation, 30 credits for the module in Historical Skills and Resources (compulsory core course), 20 credits for the module in Modern History: theory, practice and themes (compulsory core course), and 20 credits for each of two option courses as shown in the table below.
The programme may be taken part-time over two years or in ‘flexible’ modular form over 3-5 years. Part-time and modular students take the same modules as full-time students, and normally in the same order, but with appropriately revised deadlines.
For Masters Degrees
To pass the degree of Master students must gain an average mark of 50 or more overall including a mark of 50 or more for the dissertation and have no mark below 40 in the module on Historical Skills and Resources. In addition the total credit value of all modules marked below 40 must not exceed 30 credits and for all modules marked below 50 must be less than 60 credits.*
Students who gain an average mark of 70 or more overall including a mark of 60 or more for the dissertation and have no mark below 40 will be eligible for a Distinction. Those gaining an average mark of 60 or more overall including a mark of 50 or more for the dissertation and have no mark below 40 will be awarded eligible for a Merit.
For Postgraduate Diplomas (120 credits)
Students take the following Modules:
-Historical Skills and Resources
-Modern History: theory, practice and themes
-Diploma Extended Essay
To pass the Postgraduate Diploma students must gain an average mark of 50 or more and have no mark below 40 in the module on Historical Skills and Resources. In addition the total credit value of all modules marked below 40 must not exceed 30 credits and for all modules marked below 50 must be less than 60 credits.*
Students who gain an average mark of 70 or more and have no mark below 40 will be eligible for the award of a Distinction. Those gaining an average mark of 60 or more and have no mark below 40 will be awarded eligible for a Merit.
For Postgraduate Certificate (70 credits)
-Historical Skills and Resources
-Modern History: theory, practice and themes
To pass the Postgraduate Certificate students must gain an average mark of 50 or more and have no mark below 40 in the module on Historical Skills and Resources. In addition the total credit value of all modules marked below 40 must not exceed 10 credits.*
*The provision to permit a candidate to be passed overall with a profile containing marks below 40 is made subject to the condition that there is evidence that the candidate applied himself or herself to the work of those modules with reasonable diligence and has not been absent from the examination without reasonable cause.
Students have the right to one re-sit of any failed element. They may also wish to re-sit a ‘failing’ element but are not obliged to do so. Taught modules are normally re-examined in September; a failed dissertation is due for re-submission within one year of the original submission date. Candidates presenting themselves for re-examination are not eligible for the award of a Distinction or Merit.
Summary of teaching and assessment
The relationship between class contact hours, visits to Libraries and Archives, workshops, tutorials and student-centred learning varies across the modules and is detailed in the individual module descriptions. In general, the programme is structured so that the Autumn term provides a foundation for the inculcation of methodological principles, core research skills and broad debates. In the Spring term students apply this broad based learning to ‘microcosmic’ situations.
Assessment is solely by means of coursework. This comprises one essay of 4,000 words in respect of all four taught modules, except that students choosing History and Computing as one of their topics will be assessed on the basis of a project. The student’s individual research project is assessed by a dissertation of 20,000 words. Where an additional element, such as foreign language work, has been substituted for one of the options, this will be examined by an appropriate test of similar weight.
Entrants to the programme are normally expected to have obtained an Upper-Second Honours degree in a course with a substantial element of History. However, approaches are warmly invited from overseas candidates and from those with non-traditional qualifications who can demonstrate suitable ability and commitment. Each application is considered on its merits.
Admissions Tutor: Emily West
Support for students and their learning
University support for students and their learning falls into two categories. Learning support includes IT Services, which has several hundred computers and the University Library, which across its three sites holds over a million volumes, subscribes to around 4,000 current periodicals, has a range of electronic sources of information and houses the Student Access to Independent Learning (S@IL) computer-based teaching and learning facilities. There are language laboratory facilities both for those students studying on a language degree and for those taking modules offered by the Institution-wide Language Programme. Student guidance and welfare support is provided by Programme Directors, the Careers Advisory Service, the University’s Special Needs Advisor, Study Advisors, Hall Wardens and the Students’ Union.
In the School, a Director is in overall charge of the programme and has responsibility for allocating students to modules and to research supervisors, ensuring that students and supervisors meet regularly, overseeing the progress of individual students, providing detailed feedback on their work, as well as offering pastoral care and support. The programme begins with an induction session. Students are provided with a handbook which outlines the programme, gives bibliographical advice and contains practical information about staff, sources of specialised help, submission deadlines, etc. Students are encouraged to attend meetings of the History Research seminar and the Postgraduate History Group. The latter comprises MA, MPhil and PhD students, and arranges seminars on a three-weekly basis throughout the year, and it is within its programme of seminars that MA (Res) students give an oral presentation on their research topic in a setting which is both supportive and stimulating. Students are also provided with details of research seminars at other institutions, notably those held at the Institute of Historical Research, of which the School of History has institutional membership. The School of History has a Library which complements the material held in the Main University Library. As well as its holdings in books, the School Library has complete runs of some significant periodicals, such as Past and Present, and provides a quiet study space, photocopying facilities and networked computers. The Rural History Centre has an extensive and nationally important library and archive collection. A prize, based upon the Jeanette Martin Fund, is awarded annually for the best dissertation by an MA (Res) student.
Our postgraduates are trained in clear thinking, research skills, diligence, independence, adaptability and the ability to understand people and situations in the world at large. Additionally they have the ability to locate, collate and process a wide variety of information, assess its value and use it to arrive at sound conclusions. This makes them attractive to a wide range of employers, especially in the ‘knowledge economy’. In the past, graduates have used the MA to move into, or further existing, careers in cognate areas, such as museum work, information science and teaching, but they increasingly use the MA as a springboard into a range of occupations, including banking, accountancy, law, commerce, computing, management and the civil service. A significant number go on to Doctoral study in History, either at Reading or elsewhere.
Opportunities for study abroad or for placements
The intensive nature of the full-time course means that it is not tailored to any period of study abroad. Those taking the course part-time or on a modular basis over 3-5 years may have the opportunity to study abroad as part of the Socrates scheme. This is arranged on an ad hominem basis.
Educational aims of the programme
The programme aims to provide a structured yet flexible framework which allows students to develop and follow their own interests within a rigorous academic setting, and to ensure that they develop skills which will be appropriate to a range of occupations including the academic discipline. The subject-specific skills and the confidence which they acquire while undertaking the programme allow them to produce an original, independently-researched dissertation of 20,000 words, which makes a contribution to our existing knowledge and understanding. The MA (Res) additionally provides recognised research training for those who wish to proceed to doctoral work at Reading or elsewhere.