Laptop on… ping of a new email – it’s from the OU. “Undergraduate Awards? I’ve never heard of it!” I can’t be bothered to read on. I’ve recently completed my degree (having started it 13 years ago – I know, where’s my long service watch?!) and this just sounds like it could be more hard work. I tell myself that I’ll read it properly later and then go on to forget about it for a week or so.
Well I’m glad I did read it later. For anyone unfamiliar with the Undergraduate Awards, it is (in their own words) “The world’s only pan-discipline academic awards programme… which recognises top undergraduate work, shares this work with a global audience and connects students across cultures and disciplines.” Realising I could submit a paper already written as part of my studies, all I had to do was choose up to three TMAs, tweak the title, omit any identifiable content, fling in an abstract and voila! I’d never even written an abstract before but Google soon came to my aid – the most difficult thing was deciding what to submit.
Thinking I’d hear nothing else, what happens? Ping of a new email – it’s from the OU. After being anonymously assessed by 337 academics and industry leaders from 144 institutions in 37 countries, my submission has been Highly Commended and as such, ranked in the top 10% of all submissions to the Classical Studies & Archaeology category. Wow! I’m in the company of entrants from the likes of St Andrews, Durham, and UCL. What I find even more surprising is that I specialised in Music and only steered towards Classical Studies toward the end of my OU studies. The benefits of submission are pretty good too. In addition to a nice shiny certificate (who doesn’t like those?!), there’s opportunity to connect with past Winners and Highly Commended Entrants through the UA Alumni Portal, to attend the annual UA Global Summit in Dublin, and works will be published on The Undergraduate Library or showcased in The Undergraduate Journal.
All this is great, but I believe that being recognised by the Undergraduate Awards offers something more. We all know how much hard work and sacrifice goes into distance learning (not to mention caffeine and alcohol!), particularly as we weave it around ‘real life’, and I’m sure I won’t be alone in having encountered the old OU vs ‘proper uni’ denigration by those less informed. That’s why for me, this programme serves to show the naysayers just how high the quality of education offered by the OU is – I mean, where else could you go from never having studied a Classics module before to being identified as among the best undergraduate coursework globally?
2017 is the first year the UA has had a distance learning affiliated institution and I’m proud to be flying the flag for both the OU and Classical Studies. So, what have you got to lose? Dust off those TMAs and show the world you’re up there with the best.
The 2018 programme is now open. For more information, go to www.undergraduateawards.com
Richard Moon, BA(Hons) Hum(Open)