Degree grades: What is the difference between a Damien a Trevor and a Desmond?

 My last post addressed the programme name change while the week prior focused on ‘author.’ Today the student community is buzzing with talk of grades with a range of responses from relief and euphoria to dismay and puzzlement.  Let’s unite these topics and start as we mean to go on into the new term.  Many colleagues asked me to blog about Approaches to Text and concepts surrounding the author.  Approaches is also about how I express complex topics, how I think and communicate.  This brings me to the international and interdisciplinary nature of scholarship which leads to the marking system.

 Goldsmiths’ Department of English and Comparative Literature sets a professional standard for analysis, comprehension and expression common to great universities. This Yale and academicearth site (  has sample exam papers for their Milton course. They are very much like our exams.  Cambridge examines one time every two or three years; friends who graduated from Oxford advise writing a minimum of three finished papers every week. I can see our method of examination is pegged to a high, establish international academic standard for English studies.

 At the dawn of English studies a Cambridge don remarked that since taste and opinion can not be measured or evaluated a structure of academic criteria is required.  Goldsmiths’ structure requires mastering a professional vocabulary and mode of expression as I engage with some of the most passionate, complex and subtle expressions of human experience. Engaging with the texts is the easy part; expressing my understanding of these texts and professional concepts is central to academic standards and achievement and my goals. 

 My goal in this degree is developing structure and organization in my creative story telling.  What I want from this program is in line with its academic standards; the skills to present a structured, specific argument concisely and efficiently.  My marks have been consistently credit scores even coming to the program with a background in fine art and oenology.   Things generally come easily to me but art and expression is highly disciplined and focused.  I am shaping personal artistic and intellectual standards along with academic ones. To me that is an education.

  Talking of art and education, since we are students of the English language and colleagues expressed confusion about the marking system, you might appreciate this rhyme slang: a ‘Damien’ (Hirst) is a first, a Trevor (Nunn) is a 2:1 or upper second, a ‘Desmond’ (TuTu) is a 2:2 or lower second followed by a ‘Douglas’ (Hurd) and the unfortunately rhyming ‘Dan Quayle.’ 

 This year I scored a Trevor.  For me the difference between a Damien and a Trevor means restructuring my habits and methods.  After thinking over the last three years of study I see what fundamental changes in how I think, organize and work a Damien requires.  Ironically I first studied art in a conservatory with Keith Haring. I am now in the same institution that nurtured Damien Hirst.  Though I come into the advanced course work with Trevor Nunn, I intend to graduate with Damien Hirst.

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