Zara1812
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Hi everyone,
I'm an English and History undergraduate who received a first class degree. I'm currently looking at applying to Oxbridge to complete a masters in English.
I was wondering if anyone on here has completed any of either colleges English courses, and could tell me what they are like?
I'm particularly interested in applying for the Mst English (1900-Present), although I have read some rather negative things about it here from a few years back. If anyone had some more recent experience with the course I'd love to here from you.
Also if anybody knows anything about the differences between Oxfords and Cambridge, and what gives one the advantage over the other in terms of studying English there.
Thank you!
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QHF
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(Original post by Zara1812)
Hi everyone,
I'm an English and History undergraduate who received a first class degree. I'm currently looking at applying to Oxbridge to complete a masters in English.
I was wondering if anyone on here has completed any of either colleges English courses, and could tell me what they are like?
I'm particularly interested in applying for the Mst English (1900-Present), although I have read some rather negative things about it here from a few years back. If anyone had some more recent experience with the course I'd love to here from you.
Also if anybody knows anything about the differences between Oxfords and Cambridge, and what gives one the advantage over the other in terms of studying English there.
Thank you!
Congratulations on the first. Note that at the postgraduate level there is no rule against applying both to Oxford and to Cambridge (in fact, people do it all the time) so you could apply to both and then worry about choosing if you're lucky enough to get offers from both.

I took the 650–1550 masters course at Oxford a couple of years ago and I've since watched a couple more cohorts do it as well. Quite a lot comes down to the specific period strand you are on so I'm only going to be able to say a limited number of things… Whichever period you're in, the fact that the course at Oxford is nine months rather than twelve distinguishes it from quite a lot of other masters courses in English. It's quite compressed and you pack a lot of work in, but on the plus side you get an extra summer to recover/find work/prepare for further study.

Traditionally Oxford has been regarded as stronger on history and philology and bibliography, while Cambridge has been regarded as stronger on theory and formalist approaches. Both of those generalisations, like lots of generalisations, aren't very accurate or up-to-date, but it is true that Oxford's masters courses devote more time to bibliography and history-of-the-book stuff, if that floats your boat.

At the postgraduate level, especially if you're looking at going on to do further study after the masters, the university you do your masters at sometimes matters less than the specific people and resources you worked with. For that reason I would suggest thinking hard about what it is, specifically, that you're interested in studying and which members of staff at the institutions you're looking at might have interests aligned with yours, and which specific modules/specialisations/strengths on particular courses match your interests -- rather than trying to get a general ruling on which university is better. Some of the people who taught you when you were an undergraduate -- who will, after all, be writing your references -- might be able to give you some advice on this. Having very specific reasons to take the courses you're applying to will help you write more impressive statements of purpose in your applications as well.

For the same reason, I'd suggest at least considering universities which aren't Oxford or Cambridge. Cambridge and Oxford are wealthy institutions with large English departments full of reasonably successful academics, but they're not radically different to other good universities. You might find there are courses and potential masters dissertation supervisors at other places who would really suit you. I had a blast doing my MSt, but I've noticed that some people who do masters courses in English at Oxford find the experience quite dispiriting, often because they arrive expecting the place to be more than just a powerful university. Bear in mind, too, that most successful academics didn't become successful by looking after masters students, and some of them probably became successful partly by ignoring masters students so they could get on with their own research -- part of the trick of prospering at places like this is rapidly identifying people you can trust and then attaching yourself to them.
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Zara1812
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(Original post by QHF)
Congratulations on the first. Note that at the postgraduate level there is no rule against applying both to Oxford and to Cambridge (in fact, people do it all the time) so you could apply to both and then worry about choosing if you're lucky enough to get offers from both.

I took the 650–1550 masters course at Oxford a couple of years ago and I've since watched a couple more cohorts do it as well. Quite a lot comes down to the specific period strand you are on so I'm only going to be able to say a limited number of things… Whichever period you're in, the fact that the course at Oxford is nine months rather than twelve distinguishes it from quite a lot of other masters courses in English. It's quite compressed and you pack a lot of work in, but on the plus side you get an extra summer to recover/find work/prepare for further study.

Traditionally Oxford has been regarded as stronger on history and philology and bibliography, while Cambridge has been regarded as stronger on theory and formalist approaches. Both of those generalisations, like lots of generalisations, aren't very accurate or up-to-date, but it is true that Oxford's masters courses devote more time to bibliography and history-of-the-book stuff, if that floats your boat.

At the postgraduate level, especially if you're looking at going on to do further study after the masters, the university you do your masters at sometimes matters less than the specific people and resources you worked with. For that reason I would suggest thinking hard about what it is, specifically, that you're interested in studying and which members of staff at the institutions you're looking at might have interests aligned with yours, and which specific modules/specialisations/strengths on particular courses match your interests -- rather than trying to get a general ruling on which university is better. Some of the people who taught you when you were an undergraduate -- who will, after all, be writing your references -- might be able to give you some advice on this. Having very specific reasons to take the courses you're applying to will help you write more impressive statements of purpose in your applications as well.

For the same reason, I'd suggest at least considering universities which aren't Oxford or Cambridge. Cambridge and Oxford are wealthy institutions with large English departments full of reasonably successful academics, but they're not radically different to other good universities. You might find there are courses and potential masters dissertation supervisors at other places who would really suit you. I had a blast doing my MSt, but I've noticed that some people who do masters courses in English at Oxford find the experience quite dispiriting, often because they arrive expecting the place to be more than just a powerful university. Bear in mind, too, that most successful academics didn't become successful by looking after masters students, and some of them probably became successful partly by ignoring masters students so they could get on with their own research -- part of the trick of prospering at places like this is rapidly identifying people you can trust and then attaching yourself to them.
Thank you so much for your reply, it is really helpful.
I have been looking at a few other colleges, and I think I'm going to take your advice and look into the specific areas and supervisors available, and how they would fit with my future plans.
I have no probelm not going to Oxbridge, in fact my main fear is going there merely because I believe it will be amazing and being disappointed by the course. The thing that does appeal to me is the facilities and the academics which it boasts.
As I'm mostly interested in twentieth century and contemporary literature I was thinking the Mst English 1900- Present, but it does focus heavily on modernist literature, so I suppose I will have to take that into consideration.
Anyway you have given me excellent food for thought, thank you!
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madamemerle
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(Original post by Zara1812)
Thank you so much for your reply, it is really helpful.
I have been looking at a few other colleges, and I think I'm going to take your advice and look into the specific areas and supervisors available, and how they would fit with my future plans.
I have no probelm not going to Oxbridge, in fact my main fear is going there merely because I believe it will be amazing and being disappointed by the course. The thing that does appeal to me is the facilities and the academics which it boasts.
As I'm mostly interested in twentieth century and contemporary literature I was thinking the Mst English 1900- Present, but it does focus heavily on modernist literature, so I suppose I will have to take that into consideration.
Anyway you have given me excellent food for thought, thank you!
Hi

I didn't do my MA at Oxford, but I did do my BA there...and one of the reasons I didn't apply there for my MA is because I knew I was interested in non canonical twentieth century literature, and in contemporary literature. Oxford has a few great people working in the periods after Modernism but that is very much not where its priorities lie, as a whole the English Faculty tends to be slow to respond to new trends in criticism and to adopt more contemporary texts in teaching. The BA has been very slow to include things non-British and written after 1945...though there have been some recent changes in that regard. Cambridge does have more more faculty in the twentieth century and contemporary, and a tendency to be more theory happy, and would definitely be my pick of the two as someone with contemporary research nterests, if you're thinking of making a decision between them. Otherwise, some departments to look into might be: Birkbeck, Queen Mary, Sussex, St Andrews, King's, Exeter... it depends, though, on your geographical and methodological interests, too: do you want to study American Lit (in which case King's and Sussex are strong but add Essex and Nottingham, as well as, possibly, American Studies departments like UEA's), are you interested in postcolonial lit and or theory (Queen Mary, Goldsmiths etc)?

I'm happy to chat more if you want, either here or in messaging. I ended up doing my MA at Essex on a weird interdisciplinary course, but most of my work was in the twentieth century while there. My PhD is on post-war fiction, though my interests span about the 1930 ish -2014 period (my sense of these departments may be a little out of date, as it's been four years since I applied). Oxford can be a fantastic place to do English, so do still investigate it and see if it can offer what you're looking for, if it can't then, like QHF said, there are an awful lot of great English departments out there that probably can
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