“I would title the blog ‘A Day in the Life,’ but then I’d have to footnote that”

26 Mar

Ethan Morris, a graduate student in the public history program, is the first MTSU student to participate in the study abroad program at Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England! This week’s blog post is about Ethan’s coursework and navigating the new school system.


“I would title the blog ‘A Day in the Life,’ but then I’d have to footnote that”

When in England, do as the English, or at least spend some time studying English history. One of my classes this semester is entitled, “The British Empire and Its Imperial Rivals.” The course is taught by Dr. Joe Hardwick, who completed his master’s degree at Michigan State and specializes in politics, reform, and religion in the British Empire. My fellow students also have diverse interests, and a few research American Western films, the Black Panther Party, and Lyndon Johnson’s foreign policy. The class meets Monday afternoons, and we spend a couple of hours discussing several primary and secondary sources. Dr. Hardwick organizes the class topically, and we discuss the Empire and race, genocide, gender, religion, the environment, and the list goes on. As an intellectual exercise, we even participated in a debate over whether British imperialism was justifiable. The class is now transitioning into making comparisons between the British Empire and the French, Ottoman, and American empires. Outside of discussion, we are assigned to write two 1,000-word primary source analyses and one 4,000-word research paper comparing the British Empire with one of its rivals. I will likely write my final paper comparing Protestant America’s reactions to Filipino Catholicism in the Spanish-American War to British Anglicans’ reactions to Dutch Calvinist Boers in the Anglo-Boer Wars in South Africa. The idea needs further refinement, but the readings so far have been intriguing.

Most of my difficulties arise out of my attempts to navigate the British grading system. When I turn in an assignment in the States, I’ll either upload the document to D2L or send it via email. At Northumbria, I am required to submit the assignment online through a Turnitin link on Blackboard. For those of you unfamiliar with Turnitin, it’s a popular plagiarism prevention software. After I submit the assignment online, I must hand in a hardcopy to the Student Administration and Support Centre (SASC). SASC serves as a collection and distribution center for all the hardcopies students turn in. The folks at SASC accept students’ assignments and send out the papers to reviewers. Coming from America, it was a bit of shock to discover that many of my assignments were peer-reviewed. Sometimes, your actual professor is joined by a teaching assistant for a review team of two. At other times, your professor reviews your work alongside four of five professors from across England. An assignment is serious business. The review process certainly encourages students to read, and reread, the rubric. Moreover, the review process is likely why British professors assign fewer papers. It usually takes about three weeks for the reviewers to finish grading and return the papers back to SASC. At that pace, weekly assignments would be a bureaucrat’s nightmare. Once the paper is graded, and SASC emails you that you can come and pick your paper up, you still must deal with a different marking system. I received a 61% on my last paper. In America, a 61% is a D and something to worry about. In England, a 61% is considered commendable and similar to an American B. Once you get used to the British grading system, it’s not all that bad. But, I’m still getting used to the system, and I only have a little over two months left.

Squire%27s%20Annex.JPG The above building is Squire’s Annex, where Dr. Hardwick’s class meets.

East%20Campus.JPGThe new law and business school on East Campus. Many of Northumbria’s public lectures are hosted in this complex.

LibraryThe Northumbria Library

-Ethan Morris, Public History Graduate Student



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