It’s strange being ‘back’ at the same university. It’s the first time I’ve returned to a degree at a school I’ve previously graduated from. It makes for interesting moments now and then. And this October has been the strangest yet for me and I’m not sure why. I would have thought that first October, being back at Leicester, would be the weirdest, but I was so busy just trying to wrap my head around being a PhD student that I all but forgot there were MAs in the department!
Last October I was one of the ‘teachers’. Not quite a staff member, but still there to be an instructor. This October, I’m neither a new PhD trying to wrap my head around things or a teacher. I’m just, a PhD student, and they are just MAs.
But last week I helped out a friend with the first Think Tank of the year. Now, last year I ran one myself and it was very formal. This time, it was informal to try to get the students interested and comfortable with each other. It was all of us together sharing, and I was acting as one of the MAs for the purpose of showing them what they needed to do, without trying to teach. It mean that, for a couple of hours, it was likely being an MA again.
I remember my time here as an MA fondly. Strangely, my time at Exeter as an MA is basically characterised by the friends I made and the campus. I don’t really remember much about the MA. For Leicester, most of what I remember is directly related to the course. And it’s still pretty clear (it hasn’t been that many years!) SO I felt like I could really understand them. They were all so young though!
The average age has definitely reduced. Part of this is because more and more of our students are coming from east of India, and right out of their BAs. The students from the west are more likely to be a bit older and on a second MA or having worked for a while and then come back to education, I think. At least from what I’ve seen over the last few years. It does create a very different dynamic. A large part of this is because we now have quite a few students in the department who have never worked in a museum. They are full of ideas, but seem to be more unsure about sharing them. Hopefully that will change over the year as their confidence grows. We can always use good ideas!
When I did the degree, many had worked or at least volunteered in museums. The economy was booming. We’d seen what worked and what didn’t and had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to get out of the course and where to go next. I think this year’s make-up is going to impact some things. I’m not just wondering aloud either, at this stage, but have already been confronted with this issue. There is much more of an idealistic view from the new students, rather than a realistic one, which is the very last thing they need in this current cultural economy. It is all I can hope for that at least the staff are as honest as possible this year, and that the MAs take the opportunity to speak with us PhDs.