MA in Classical Studies at the Open University

Open University

Our ACE partners at the Open University offer two scholarships per year for schoolteachers who wish to enrol on the MA in Classical Studies. Full details are available here.

In this blog, we are delighted to host reflections from two previous recipients of the full-fees award.

Stephen Dobson, Subject Leader for Classics, Redborne Upper School and Community College, Ampthill, Bedfordshire

For a few years now, since introducing Classical Civilisation A level to my school in 2015, I have been the non-specialist teacher picked out at Classics meetings and training sessions to say what my background was – a mechanical engineer trained as a physics teacher. I did formally sit the A level alongside my first cohort (an exercise in camaraderie I can recommend) but I have felt the lack of a formal underpinning to my teaching and worried I was letting my students down as a result. I also wanted to know more for myself, to develop my writing, and slake my thirst for learning.

The MA in Classical Studies at the Open University, and the opportunity to take it that the bursary offered, seemed the perfect solution.

Fortunately the grant board agreed and I started the course in September 2019 – at the same time as taking on being Head of Faculty for Science (about two dozen staff teaching 1500 students). The OU has traditionally been the route into higher education for full-time workers and this allowed me to put that to the test.

Time management has been the main question put to me by other teachers considering this, or indeed any other OU, MA. Time is not something we teachers usually find ourselves blessed with a superabundance of, and then there are our families, friends, existing commitments, hobbies… Is it really possible to study at Master’s level while teaching full time? Yes. At least so far!

The MA consists of two modules, Part 1 (A863) and Part 2 (A864), and I’ve just completed Part 1. In this module, which runs from October through to June (in normal circumstances!) there are three assignments (“TMAs”) during the year, and a more substantial piece at the end, during May. For my cohort, this final assignment (the “EMA”) was covid-cancelled, so I can’t honestly say how manageable it would have been. I did feel well prepared for it by my tutor, though, who was also able and willing to ease other scheduling clashes for the TMAs. Of the three, I got the first in early, knowing I might need to crave indulgence later in the year. Sure enough, the other two coincided with mock exam marking, and with schools shutting down for lockdown, so I was granted a couple of extra days to finish editing my submissions. Tutors have a certain amount of discretion over extensions for the TMAs and seem genuinely keen to enable students to produce their best work, so it’s possible for there to be flexibility over precise timings.

Practicalities (hopefully) addressed, what of the course itself? Is it worth the time and, if the bursary doesn’t come your way, the money? Yes, I do think so. I have absolutely loved it. It starts with how we know what we know, introducing ideas of varied types of literacy, archaeology, the incompleteness of the historical record, and builds skills in balancing different interpretations of that record. We looked at Classical reception both in antiquity and through the twentieth century – from Euripides to Seneca to modern feminist and anti-war versions of Trojan Women. Then onto the Library of Alexandria and Sappho.

I’ve learned a lot, my teaching is better as a result of being taught, I have a massive stack of new Classics reading (for pleasure) to indulge in over the summer, and I can’t wait for next year to start!

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And here’s the view from a student who’s coming to the end of the MA and is currently writing her dissertation…

Lidia Kuhivchak, Teacher of English and Classics, Lionheart Academy Trust, Leicester

I can’t believe it’s nearly the end of my Classical Studies journey with the OU – it feels like just yesterday that I was proof-reading my application. In some ways, the experience has been like returning to a previous student life (How do I use a search catalogue? How do I sort out my bibliography?) but with an appreciation for education that I don’t think I fully grasped at that time. It’s been a privilege to be back in touch with scholarship again, not least because this is an aspect of the (now not-so) new Classical Civilisation A-level that I’ve been able to share with my students. Year 2 has definitely been more of a challenge than Year 1, though for good reasons: I’m now teaching Latin in multiple primary schools in Leicester, and we have introduced GCSE Classical Civilisation for the first time too. With the MA on my side, I’ve been able to look up points of interest and/or confusion as we’ve planned our syllabus, and I’ve settled on a dissertation topic relevant to the A-level: Aristophanes and comic performance. Advice to future applicants is to carefully check all deadline dates well in advance and match them against your school calendar; for some reason, mine all clashed with parents’ evenings…

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Find out more about the OU Classical Studies MA here.