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Student and tutor module reviews

The art history dissertation

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  • Points: 60
  • Code: A847
  • Level: Postgraduate
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Student reviews

A demanding module which enables the student to both hone and demonstrate the accumulated skills and knowledge developed during the foundation and subject modules. Taken, in my case as the culmination of an MA in Humanities, one does not of course have the benefit of a further grounding in the theory of art history which is given by the related subject course,nor the 'springboard' in terms of subject choice for A847 afforded through its project element. However the research, synthesis and writing skills obtained elsewhere(I undertook A823 - Hollywood Cinema,1945-1995)are very relevant. The assistance of ones tutor is of course invaluable to success by ensuring, through feedback on the sections of the dissertation as they are submitted,the development of clear,focused,logical and sustained argument. Attendance at the structured group tutorials, where peer review of progress assists in driving forward the writing process, is extremely valuable. In all,the module represents high value for money and in my case gave me the intellectual challenge which I had been seeking for some little time.

Gordon Bartley Hughes

Course starting: February 2010

Review posted: December 2010

I completed the MA course whilst working full time but unfortunately I could not recommend the course to anyone who does not have a huge amount of spare time on their hands. The experience was exhausting and ultimately disappointing. The gulf between the rather mediocre sounding pass and the elite grade of distinction, although conventional, seems scant reward when you can get the same score for scraping through the course as you can for producing a good piece of work. Although I was probably lucky to pass, I can't help wishing that I had enjoyed my summer more and bothered less!

Yvonne Mary Cullen

Course starting: February 2008

Review posted: December 2008

Faculty response

We are sorry that Ms Cullen found her experience of A847 so unrewarding, but hope that she is nevertheless pleased to have completed her studies on the MA in Art History programme and to have gained an MA, which is itself a very creditable achievement. We accept that writing a dissertation is not an easy option and requires a lot of hard work, but that is true of any MA rather than a reflection on this particular programme. Most of our students, like the author of the review below, nevertheless find the challenge of researching and writing a dissertation to be very rewarding.

Sept 1st 2011 - Update
Subsequent to this feedback, and addressing the point Ms Cullen makes about there being no intermediate grade between pass and distinction, we are pleased to inform current and future students that an intermediate grade of ‘Merit’ has been introduced on this module.
A847 Module Team

This course is hard work - as one would expect for a masters level dissertation - so you need to allow lots of time, and be prepared not to read many novels! That said I really enjoyed researching my subject, and being able to focus on one subject for the whole year. It builds really well on the middle year (A841) project.
I had great support from my tutor, who was local and able to meet face to face several times, as well as good constructive feedback on the chapters as they were submitted. The conference system provided good 'keep going' support, including useful contributions from the tutor, but as we were all studying different subjects (although all 20th century) academic discussions were understandably less in depth than on previous courses.

The last few weeks are tight, but the way the year is structured I found most of the work was already completed and it was more a case of pulling it all together!

Overall, I completed my masters with a sense of really knowing the subject and the issues it involves.

Michelle Patricia Hanks

Course starting: February 2007

Review posted: May 2008

This was my ninth OU course. I was more than pleased to give glowing feedback to all the rest, and so it is with real regret that I cannot do so here. By the time you come to take A847 you will be locked into the OU Art History Masters programme, having previously passed A840 and A841. Unfortunately, this fact is exploited by the OU. The tutorial provision for A847 is woefully inadequate to students' needs. It appears that, unless you are fortunate enough to live in the South East of England, you will be allocated to a tutor living hundreds of miles away from you, whom you have never met, and will never get the chance to meet. Communication is meant to be via the 'First Class' system, phone and email/post. None of these is an adequate substitute for proper face to face contact. Discussions on 'First Class' were minimal and confined to a few 'Parish Notices'; whereas, the other remote systems of communication inevitably led to miscommunication. Amongst other difficulties, I encountered: returned work that had been annotated using a computer programme that my software could not read, and that I only became aware of after the end of the course; work that was returned many weeks after it had been submitted, in the case of my final draft a mere couple of days before the final submission date; totally misleading advice, for example, precise instructions to abide by so-called 'scholarly conventions' that were then specifically marked down by the examiners as 'poor use of scholarly conventions'. A written complaint did get some of my fees rescinded, but this is hardly the point. For those already too far along the road to turn aside this review will be of little use and less comfort, but for those not yet signed up to this Masters programme I would advise you to look seriously elsewhere.

Andrew Ian Bailey

Course starting: February 2007

Review posted: April 2008

Faculty response

We take all comments of this kind seriously and have looked into the situation the student describes. However this isn’t a common view amongst our students and our statistical data collected from students independently of the Faculty suggests that there is generally a high satisfaction rate with all courses on the MA programme.

Please note

Each of the views expressed above is an individual's very particular response, largely unedited, and should be viewed with that in mind. Since modules are subject to regular updating, some of the issues identified may have already been addressed. In some instances the faculty may have provided a response to a comment. If you have a query about a particular module, please contact your Regional Centre.

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