Laurie Taylor column

September 12, 2003

Dear Professor Lapping,

I wonder if you remember me? My name is Mike Humphreys and I graduated from Poppleton with a third-class degree in media and cultural studies in 1977.

And that is exactly why I have decided to write. You see, in last week's THES, I read an article that claimed that the third-class degree was "on the verge of extinction". The author cited figures released by Cambridge University, which show that about 22 per cent of all honours candidates back in the 1960s got thirds whereas today's figure is a mere 3 per cent. And the same sort of decline is apparently evident at universities around the country.

I passionately hope that Poppleton (and specifically your own department) does not follow this unfortunate trend. When I was in your department, I really had to work for my third. Right from the beginning of my course I conscientiously failed to attend a significant proportion of seminars and lectures. My written assignments were always handed in slightly after the deadline and were invariably composed so as to fall unerringly into the redeemable fail or third-class category. In the final examinations, I only answered two instead of three questions on three of the papers and managed to misspell "Derridar" (sic) and "Chomskey" (sic).

This was not an easy three years. On many occasions I had to refrain from giving bright answers in seminars and avoid making telling points in essays.

There were even times when I felt positively sorry for tutors who spent so much time urging me to make greater efforts. ("You know, you're really a very intelligent student.") But somehow or other I managed to maintain my marginal inadequacy and was rewarded with a fully fledged third, which I have ever since been able to brandish among my upper-second friends as a testimony to my total dissatisfaction with what passes for higher education in the contemporary capitalist system.

I think that I speak on behalf of many other proud "thirds" when I ask you to retain this exemplary badge of academic dishonour within your degree classification.


Mike Humphreys
(BA third class!)

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