History at Durham University

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Many thanks to Mme Schouker who took these notes at a recent Open Day.

History Department

  • 1,948 applicants for 146 places; 500 offers made
  • 40 permanent teaching staff
  • range of expertise with a particular strength in history of China
  • research-led teaching: modular courses tailored to research interests of professors rather than broad survey courses. Out of 6 modules in first year of study, students can take 2 from other departments.
  • Three-year course of study: 1st year results are considered preparatory and do not count, 2nd year counts for 40%, third year for 60% of final grade. Course work and examinations both count 50%. In third year the students will write a compulsory dissertation on any historical subject.
  • Three degree options:
    • Single Honors: admitted by history dept.
    • Joint Honors (with classics department): admitted by both departments (4 yrs with final year abroad)
    • Combined Honors (modern Languages or other): admitted by Combined Honors in Social Sciences department
  • Option to spend second year studying abroad in exchange programs at Boston College, University of Hong Kong, Peking University, and National University of Singapore.
  • IB score requirements: at least 38 with 6,6,6, in HL subjects; A*AA
  • No interview
  • Personal Statement: optional Durham specific substitute personal statement, which should only be used if UCAS statement is limited to one subject and in the case of Joint or Combined Honors it would be wiser to use the Durham statement. However, if an applicant uses the Durham personal statement, the UCAS personal statement will not be read by admissions so make sure to include everything in the Durham statement. In personal statement:
    • Do not provide a list of historical books read, instead talk about the how the historian used evidence in the book and whether or not you found it convincing and why.
    • Show an enthusiasm for a wide range of history because the Durham history degree requires that students take modules in medieval, early modern, late modern, and non-Western European history.
    • Mention any independent projects or IB essays/extended essays but do not just state the title, instead explain how you came up with the topic and specifically how you turned a vague topic into an historical question.
    • Show a good balance of academic excellence with extra-curricular activities as Durham places a lot of value on sports/music and time management.
  • Applicant must demonstrate three core abilities: wide and critical reading, debating skills and the ability to write well.
  • Any admission questions can be referred to Kelly Groundwater, Admissions Secretary: admissions.history@durham.ac.uk

Warwick University – Personal Statements & Presentation – Jo Phillips

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  • You must follow the UCAS deadlines and dates
  • PS v important at Warwick
  • Be consistent between US and UK English
  • Avoid the word « passion » – show not tell
  • You must follow PEE – point, example explain
  • Read around your subject! – go for something non-typical to stand out.
  • Warwick have a mark scheme for the PS!
  • By taking part in the MUN…
  • longer sentences
  • Through the drafting and debating process, I learned how to….
  • these skills are important because….(link back to course)
  • My favourite topic is the connection between creative music and mathematical logic…
  • French Bac 14-16.  Econ 16 Maths, 16 overall.
  • ONe of the top UK universities. 2015 university of the year – tops five of our specialist subject tables this year.
  • Accounting, creative writing, Econ, Film Studies, Theatre Studies
  • Campus v City
  • Liberal Arts degree coming in 2016 BASc
  • 2nd in Russell Group last year. (Top 25 in research).
  • Global Sustainable Development degree on its away
  • BASC – Bachelor of Arts and Science
  • LLB – Bach of Law
  • MChem – Masters in Chemistry
  • MBio – Masters in Biology
  • BEng not MEng if you want it to be recognised in your country.
  • Undergraduate masters.
  • Can apply to more than one course at the same institution – check with university about this.
  • Accomodation is offered NOT on a rolling basis.
  • £162 per week – £80 per week.  Don’t go for 30 week lets. En-suite – 110-130 per week.
  • Alumni go to Rolls royce, Land Rover, Goldman Sachs…etc etc…
  • Andrew Haldane – Chief Econ at Bank of England
  • Jaguar-Land Rover investing in innovation centre.
  • Higher than average starting salary
  • Investment banking…big salaries.
  • 72 sports clubs

Summer Learning Opportunities – Online

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If you are serious about studying in a very selective US or UK university, you need to stand out from the crowd.

Demonstrating strong academic skills and passion is a must.

Please find below some possibilities for online learning this summer!

Contact dlally@florimont.ch if you need any advice or help.

See https://www.edx.org/ for ideas.

Oxford University – Notes from Counsellors’ Conference

20% success rate overall.

18k applications this year

17% international students – 3200 places, no quotas. (cf 11& Cambridge, 34% Edinburgh, LSE 49%, St Andrews 45%)

Some very high acceptance rates for certain subjects e.g. classics – 90% acceptance rate.

Oldest English speaking uni in world.

3rd in THES World rankings (Harvard and Caltech above), 1st in UK.

259 courses available.  No change possible.


Lots of independent work. Lots of student support, college based, peer-based.  « Family system »

Finance – International students €20k to 30k & college fee €9k and living costs estmiated at €16k.  ie €45k upwards overall.  Very limited scholarships.  EU students eligible to living cost and tuition fee support based on household income.

If UK citizen but out of country for 5 years, treated as international.

General employment skills etc.  In most subjects, Oxford grads in top 5-20% of earnings compared with grads from same subejct from other universities.

Work restrictions on international students.

Open Days July and September.

Interesting Fact and Figures

  • 18k apps, 9k shortlisted, 3.6k offers.  (20-30% of these international).
  • 40-50% shortlisted, 20% offers 2015
  • UK students get more success.  Why success rates lower for internationals? Because students cluster around most competitive subjects.
  • « Over 50% of all pass for 2014 entry from outside UK were for 5 most competitive courses »
  • PP3, ECON AND Mgt, Law, Medicine, Maths.  Success rate for outside UK people are single figure percentages apart from Maths.
  • PPE and Econ-Mgt – lots of students apply who are not realistic. – both are high-level Maths subjects. 2-3s of 1st year is Maths.
  • MEDICINE – only 24 places for internationals.
  • Biggest success rates – theology, modern languages, arch and anthr, music, classics and English, Oriental Studies, Classics and Modern Lang, Class Arch and Ancient History, Materials Science, Chemistry (25%-34%)
  • Most idfficult – Econ and Management, Maths and Stats, Computer Science, Medicine (7-15%)
  • Avoid strategic applications – if students don’t have 100% passion for subject, they won’t be admitted.
  • They check academic achievement, admissions tests, written work, UCAS personal statement, UCAS teacher reference, interviews.
  • Numbers can’t go up – they protect their tutorial system.  (1 or 2 students).


  • IB 38-40, 3 x 6s 1 x 7. (Engineering 2 x 7, 1 x 6)
  • SATs combined score of at least 2100.  SAT Subject tests 700 or better
  • Various types of admissions test to help differentiate top candidates – various types of questions
  • TSA – no more than 2 mins per question
  • 1 in 6 receives an offer..


  • c53% called for interview.  December.  2-3 interiews, each 20-45 minutes.
  • if Skype needed, request.
  • Designed to emulate tutorial system.
  • Can the person think independently and critically?
  • No trick questions
  • Preparation – recent work, wider reading, subject in wider world, many sources of information, know your pers statement.
  • Example biochemistry entry interview – all UCAS forms are graded on 1-7 scale, then interviews at 2 colleges (graded on basis of interviews), so then averaged out of 21 (2 interviews, application form).
  • Typical interview – check out nervousness, ask them to describe some area of science they are confident and knowledgeable  – then probe that.  E.g. membranes – student describes.  Proteins can pass through membranes.  Have recognition molecules attached to them.  What different kinds of membranes?  Similar structure, different composition.  So how does the cell ensure that membranes are of right type? Lengthy answer.  Etc etc, further probing…