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Sunday, June 26, 2022

One thing I’d change about Oxford… Lectures

Safa Dar would change the mismatch between tutorial and lecture topics

I’m told that, as a historian, I have no right to complain about lectures. Apparently having most of your lectures after 11am means you are living the good life. While I can confirm that 9ams sound like a horrific injustice, there is one thing about history lectures that is almost as frustrating: the lack of coordination between tutorial and lecture topics.

At first, it may seem having lecture topics unrelated to tutorial themes being covered in the same week is an efficient way of gaining a “broad overview”. But once the keen fresher goggles come off and lofty goals of “learning for the sake of learning” are forgotten amidst the onslaught of essays and accompanying crises, the thought of attending a lecture you’ll probably never write an essay on becomes less and less appealing. Soon enough your life becomes a series of daily struggles, constant internal battles and groggy calculations of the opportunity cost of wasting 3600 precious seconds that could be dedicated to an essay due in two hours.

And then there’s the guilt: whichever path you choose, you can’t escape this. Did you go the lecture? Hooray! Now you can bin the notes you halfheartedly scrawled a year later without ever having looked at them. Did you skip it? Congratulations, not only are you wasting your money, but your noble intentions of “working” probably ended in an (un)satisfying nap and you can now be doubly haunted by an essay crisis and a guilty conscience to boot. Lucky you.

But, really, what’s wrong with broadening your academic horizons, you ask? There wouldn’t be any harm in attending an unrelated lecture or two if it was actually useful. Even someone as lazy as myself occasionally jumps at the chance for actual contact hours. Instead, what you often get is an unhelpfully vague and general conglomeration of random information which makes very little sense to the uninformed audience.

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