The new Oxonian Review website (I won’t link to the old one) should be going live early next week and I’m really excited. Starting, I think to ‘get’ editing – there are parallels with directing, and especially with the questions I asked myself when I started doing that (why direct when you can act? Well…).
Oxford is filling up again; I’m currently in the Upper Res, with (at the last count) six of my eleven seminar buddies. Two others are off sunning themselves in Paris and Rome (like Lisa said, ‘it’s a hard life’), the remaining three are MIA. Those of us that are here are divided between DPhil applicants and non (I am in the latter camp, at least for now). Two more, Ben and Sam (I was going to give their initials, but ‘B and S’ has, er, connotations) have, er, chickened out at the last minute – Ben was an undergrad here too and wants to Get Out And Get Some Perspective. Sam, I’m not sure about. She, of course, has already Got Out And Got Some Perspective, having come here from Washington DC/NoVA. Michael did English & French here as an undergrad but is willing to stick around (though I think he’s also applying to UCL.. it scares me a bit that I’ve not even thought about applying anywhere else – another good reason, I think, to wait at least a year).
Of course, the big worry is funding. Apparently (it’s only ever ‘apparently’), about 45% of successful Oxford DPhil applicants get funding, but – as Ben pointed out – surely this year is the year that funding will be massively cut. The de-centralising of the AHRC was meant to put Oxford in control of funding and simplify the applications process for all concerned; but since everybody’s still having to write two research proposals (one for the place, one for the money), I can’t see that it has.
As far as I know, only 2 of the 12 of us have any external funding for this year – one of those is international. Another has Faculty funding, which is a bit of a Catch 22 situation. Like most postgraduate courses, you need to prove you can pay before taking up the place. Both Ben and I applied saying yes we can pay (no, we couldn’t, subsequently we’ve been able to), thinking that made us more likely to be accepted; we were, then didn’t get funding. Meanwhile, the Faculty (quite rightly) has stepped in to help certain candidates who’d also been accepted, and didn’t get funding, but had said they would not, under any circumstances, be able to fund their own courses. The problem is, though, that none of us – privately, AHRC or Faculty funded (and we were all already in Oxford) even knew that this Faculty funding existed before it was offered to some of us but not others. If I’d known there was a chance of Faculty funding, I’d have filled in my original form differently – but, like Ben, I was desperate to secure my place. Hopefully (and as promised) the Faculty will streamline the situation next year. The blurb on the EFL’s funding page does now, at least, include reference to the existence of these Faculty grants (apparently they’re called studentships, which sounds wonderfully D. L. Sayers). I would definitely advise this year’s crop of English MSt applicants (and apparently there’ll be lots – this year’s Finalists are, IN A SHOCK TWIST OF FATE, unusually reluctant to enter the smoking crater known as the job market…) to ask about Faculty Funding even before they send in their forms.
Oh, the things that exercise you as a postgrad. I could also tell you about the free faculty lunches and excitement of our ‘B course’ (as well as the fact that one of our degree convenors is apparently more myth than man..), but really, you deserve better. In more exciting news, I’m currently editing pieces on the death of Harold Pinter, a libretto by Jay Bernard and the Annie Leibowitz retrospective currently showing at the NPG. The last is written by Alex, a friend who last year guest-artisted frequently on the Penny Red blog (this was my favourite cartoon). He’s a great artist but I’m happy to see him getting back into journalism.
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.