Students' views

MARS students come from a variety of backgrounds and go on to a variety of successful careers in numerous fields, including journalism, law, the civil service and politics. Many also go on to funded doctorates at UCL or elsewhere. Beyond UCL doctoral students, in recent years, MARS graduates have gone on to funded PhDs at: Cambridge, Durham, Glasgow, Lancaster, Oxford, St Andrews, the Warburg Institute, and York, as well as at Ann Arbor, Columbia, and Princeton.  Some recent students' views are given below.

"During the first year of my PhD I have been thankful on a daily basis for the skills I learnt in Manuscripts and Documents"

"While an undergraduate at Oxford I settled on the arcane decision to pursue postgraduate studies in medieval history. It was one of my teachers there who told me firmly I could therefore do nothing better than to follow the Medieval Studies MA at UCL."

"What is really special about the UCL course is the chance offered to students to use their skills immediately in a meaningful project."

"Another highlight was the Manuscripts & Documents course (where sustained, high-quality training was provided, using the British Library manuscripts collection for independent work)"

"The support of my tutors, my enthusiasm for the material I was studying, and for UCL as an institution, led me to apply to stay on for my PhD."

"I was able to interpret a previously unstudied and incompletely-catalogued manuscript."

"UCL's MA in Medieval Studies is a truly wonderful program that combines rigorous technical training with the chance to conduct original research."

  • I had already spent three years at UCL before applying to the MARS degree, and there developed in the final year of my History BA a keen taste for medieval studies. When it came to thinking about postgrad programmes, I was thus already well familiar with the high academic standard and stimulating interpersonal atmosphere of the UCL History Department, but what tipped the edge for me was the extensive focus on developing practical skills that the MARS MA promised: with one eye already on the possibility of future doctoral study, I was acutely aware of the quantum leap between the world of the undergraduate and that of the researcher, particularly in the technically demanding field of medieval history. The MA’s heroic Manuscripts and Documents course, combined with the MARS tutors’ duly forthright emphasis on the student’s need to put serious hours aside for linguistic development - in my case, Medieval Latin and modern foreign languages at the UCL Language Centre - provided the springboard necessary for this jump. Having brought my BA to a close still chiefly relying on readily-available translations, within the first term of the MARS course I was already spending (rather too many) hours a day in the hushed septa secretiora of the British Library Manuscripts Room, enjoying free reign on a selection of incredibly rare tenth-century texts, and there engaging in original and independent research. Indeed, criss-crossing each day through Bloomsbury’s ‘Golden Triangle’ of the Institute of Historical Research, the Warburg Institute and the British Library itself (not forgetting the occasional wander through the British Museum to gawp idly at the Sutton Hoo find again), it was difficult to imagine getting one’s training in this field anywhere else. The History Department’s healthy intercollegiate relationship with King’s only emphasized this further, allowing me to profit equally from the very considerable resources and expertise of UCL’s nearby “rivals”. My degree complete, I was later offered a substantial Wolfson scholarship to undertake a DPhil at Oxford: it can almost go without saying that I owe it entirely to the formidable training, extensive research opportunities and uncommonly attentive personal guidance that I enjoyed throughout my MA. Ben Savill (2011-12)


  • Having decided to continue medieval history at MA level, and considering applying for PhDs, I was advised by my undergraduate supervisor that the place to go was UCL. After talking to the MARS tutor, I was convinced that he was right. I am now sure of it. The MA benefits from London resources and proximity to a number of research seminars, but what singles out the course is the emphasis on skills necessary for research. During the first year of my PhD I have been thankful on a daily basis for the skills I learnt in Manuscripts and Documents, and Medieval Latin Literature – particularly the ability to read and work with manuscripts. Both courses involved getting to grips with manuscripts first hand at the British Library, enabling me to continue to use them for my dissertation and doctoral research. As well as the specific history modules held at UCL, I took advantage of the intercollegiate system by taking and auditing modules run by King’s. My fellow students were not only valuable intellectually, but became friends, partly thanks to the department’s provision of wine and mars bars! I am particularly grateful to the staff for being so supportive, both academically and pastorally. From making time to talk to me and persuading me to choose UCL in the first place, through to giving me invaluable help and advice when I was applying for PhD funding, they have been incredibly generous. I have no doubt that my success was in no small part thanks to their kindness. Since my leaving they have remained happy to provide help whenever I have asked - Felicity Hill (2011-2012)


  • While an undergraduate at Oxford I settled on the arcane decision to pursue postgraduate studies in medieval history. It was one of my teachers there who told me firmly I could therefore do nothing better than to follow the Medieval Studies MA at UCL. I am as convinced now as I was then that this was the right advice. You will read many accolades justly celebrating the unrivalled quality of the training received in the mysterious, ‘technical’ arts of medieval research, to which I can only add: the intensive immersion in palaeography and diplomatic, languages and the editing of original texts, was not only rigorous and effective but, I believe, it contributed powerfully to my later success in securing full funding for doctoral study. The opportunity too to make a close study of a highly-restricted, near-millennium-old manuscript in the British Library was a pure thrill, and I would not have had a hope of access without the clout of the highly-respected MARS teachers. Beyond however obtaining superlative preparation for doctoral work – and the excitement of balancing work and life in one of the world’s great and overwhelming cities – you will work at UCL with an exceptionally generous and supportive team of teaching staff (as well as one which recognises the benefit of a glass of wine to serious scholarship!) The relationship between students and tutors is close, and I was struck by how much time and good, patient advice was given freely to me by all my tutors, not only during the MA course but also after I ceased to be a UCL student, as I panicked and grappled with my applications for PhD programmes. I owe an immense amount to the MARS staff in winning a generous Wolfson scholarship to return to Oxford for a DPhil, and it is with some bittersweetness that I leave the places and people that made my time in London so rich and enjoyable! – James Norrie (2010)


  • I came to the MARS MA directly after finishing my undergraduate degree in History and French at Oxford University. I chose the course because I wanted to do a PhD in medieval history, and I had heard it was a good preparation for research. The course certainly delivered in this respect: I learnt medieval palaeography and codicology from scratch, and was able to study advanced Latin and a longue-durée history of the Papacy, all of which have proved useful to me. What is really special about the UCL course is the chance offered to students to use their skills immediately in a meaningful project. I had the opportunity not only to learn to read medieval handwriting, but to write my submitted essay on a thirteenth-century manuscript in the British Library - a piece that I later submitted to the British Library's online journal. As part of the advanced Latin class, I participated in editing a saint's life using manuscript evidence. These projects were challenging and interesting, and provided a great spur to learning the skills properly. Because these courses during the year were so good, I could undertake a dissertation based on manuscript evidence in the summer, which proved a fun and rewarding undertaking. There was a great community: the staff were interested in the students and extremely generous with their time. The students represented a broad range of interests, but came together in classes like Latin and Manuscripts and Documents, and were very supportive of each other. I feel very fortunate to have been offered a funded place to continue with a PhD in UCL History department. Throughout the application procedure for PhD funding, I had wonderful encouragement and help from my tutors. - Emily Corran (2010)


  • I wanted to do an MA - with a timid view to a PhD - having graduated from Oxford several years ago, and I believe that if it were not for UCL's MARS course I wouldn't be doing research now and loving it. I had been working in journalism and teaching abroad and wasn't sure if a return to academia, based on a hunch, was going to be right for me. You can approach module selection in a variety of ways, but if interested in research you will be well positioned: in particular, the sheer amount of Latin (including medieval) that I was able to take has proved essential, and well-considered advice and encouragement from staff at every turn meant that, somewhat to my surprise, I was making applications after just a few months and went on to win a fully funded place at Lancaster. Another highlight was the Manuscripts & Documents course (where sustained, high-quality training was provided, using the British Library manuscripts collection for independent work), and I also used the university language centre to start German. UCL's ongoing medieval seminars, as well as those at the Institute of Historical Research close by, gave me a valuable introduction to what historians get up to. Finally, it was fun: the interesting mix of students (and staff) ensured a friendly and sociable atmosphere. I was sincerely impressed by the course, its rigour, and what it's possible to do in a year, and I have been recommending it since to anyone who will listen. - Adrian Cornell du Houx (2010)


  • 'I came to UCL's Medieval and Renaissance Studies MA after completing my undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature at Oxford. MARS appealed to me for its range and flexibility; I was able to take options in Italian literature and European political thought, as well as the "Renaissance Texts" course, designed as preparation for some of the practicalities of doctoral research. The year was intellectually challenging, highly varied and enjoyable. The support of my tutors, my enthusiasm for the material I was studying, and for UCL as an institution, led me to apply to stay on for my PhD. I was lucky enough to succeed in my application, and to be awarded full funding by the Graduate School to undertake my doctoral research, jointly supervised by UCL's English and Italian departments, into John Milton's Latin and Italian poetry.' - Roberta Klimt (2010) 
  • When I came to UCL, having graduated from Cambridge, I was still trying to decide between academia and a career at the Bar. I applied for the MARS course not simply because it was necessary to have a Masters in order to pursue an academic career, or because it would add to my CV should I try for the Bar, but because I loved medieval history and I wanted to keep learning. Needless to say, advancing my research and analytical skills to Masters level would also be valuable were I to choose a legal career. My year at UCL was intellectually demanding and hugely enjoyable. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to conduct original research on manuscripts held in the British Library; it was a pleasure to be surrounded by people – tutors and students alike – who were passionate about their subject. The level of support I received from my tutors was fantastic, and continued even after I completed my MA. I have decided to pursue a career as a barrister; to that end, the confidence and independence I gained at UCL, together with the support and encouragement from my tutors, has carried me forward. - Emma Bowen (2010) [Ms. Bowen was too modest to say that she came to MARS with a First from Cambridge and left with a Distinction. Ed.]


  • 'The UCL Medieval and Renaissance Studies MA is often praised for the quality of training for doctoral research which is on offer. Before I began the course this reputation led me to underestimate the variety of motivations and interests with which people come to UCL, and the range of people with different backgrounds, approaches and ambitions thus brought together was no small part of my own enjoyment of the year. However, I was one of those looking for training with a view to future research, and with a particular need to acquire more ‘technical’ skills in languages, palaeography, diplomatic and codicology. All my needs were more than met, but there are two areas that I would like to emphasise. Firstly, by the end of our work in palaeography I felt that I had received much more than just an introduction, and that what had initially seemed to be a very dark art (both in the reading and dating of scripts) had come to feel quite clear and accessible. Secondly, writing a description and commentary on a manuscript in the British Library gave me the opportunity not only to put codicology into practice, but also to do some of the most interesting original research I have carried out so far, as I was able to interpret a previously unstudied and incompletely-catalogued manuscript. I have since begun an AHRC-funded PhD, and even beyond the role that the UCL MA played in helping me to achieve this goal I am very glad to have had the experience of it, with the undoubtedly and inevitably intensive work offset by the friendliness of my teachers and fellow students, and I am especially glad to have had the opportunity to learn from all of these same people.' - Ben Pope (2009)


  • 'UCL's MA in Medieval Studies is a truly wonderful program that combines rigorous technical training with the chance to conduct original research.  After receiving my undergraduate degree from Princeton University (USA), I knew I wanted to pursue a PhD in medieval history.  But I also felt that I needed more experience, better language skills and a knowledge of medieval manuscripts.  UCL's program came highly recommended over other similar programs in the UK, and I jumped at the chance to join the UCL community.  For a full year, I had the opportunity to work very closely with UCL's gifted and extremely generous faculty, explore the riches of the British Library and other London institutions, and take classes that have made me a much better--and more confident--scholar.  Having now started a fully-funded PhD at Columbia University (USA), I can say without hesitation that UCL's program both helped me to gain admission to such a stellar program and also set me up beautifully to succeed while there.  I simply cannot praise UCL's program enough' - Jeffrey Wayno (2009)
  • 'I came to UCL's MA Program in Medieval Studies intending to pursue doctoral work in medieval history but lacking some of the skills required for research.  The program's emphasis on languages and manuscript training was especially attractive to me.  From the very start, I was exposed to and encouraged to take advantage of the many resources of Bloomsbury and London, in particular the manuscript collections of the British Library and the seminars in medieval studies sponsored by the Institute for Historical Research.  These resources, however, would have been useless to me without the indispensable guidance of UCL's excellent faculty.  The engaging instruction and individual attention I received did much to shape my research interests.  I am grateful for the opportunities made available to me by UCL, and I am confident that the skills I acquired will enable me to excel as a PhD candidate (University of Chicago, USA).  --David Cantor-Echols, (2008)
  • 'UCL’s MA in Medieval Studies provided me with intensive training in the skills—paleography, codicology, Medieval Latin—necessary for doctoral research on the Middle Ages. Learning how to read and transcribe medieval manuscripts in class and then working with them first-hand at the British Library was an invaluable experience, one that opened up many new and challenging lines of inquiry. Within the program’s stimulating, interdisciplinary setting, I was able to combine manuscript studies fruitfully with my interests in Middle English literature. I received excellent guidance and generous support from faculty members, who often pointed me to the right place among the many wonderful resources in Bloomsbury (libraries, seminars, and so forth). All of these factors came together for an immensely rewarding course of study.
  • 'The program furthermore stood me in good stead when I applied for further study in the U.S. After completing the MA, I was admitted with full financial support (a multi-year fellowship) to Columbia University, where I have recently started a PhD in English Literature. The training that I received at UCL enabled me to become a better scholar. I am grateful for having taken part in the program.' - Ruen-chuan Ma (2008)
  • 'Having decided to pursue doctoral research on completing my BA at Oxford, I knew that my choice of MA would be an important one.  I would have to pick up a lot of new skills very quickly.  The MA in Medieval Studies at UCL proved to be the perfect fit.  Urged from the outset to take advantage of access to the extensive manuscript collection in the British Library, I was trained intensively in the “basics” of medieval research: palaeography, codicology and diplomatic.  Taking a textual criticism and edition course in tandem, I immediately had the opportunity to put these new technical skills into practice and begin refining them, whilst completing what was an immensely enjoyable project in its own right.  I find it difficult to believe that the sheer quality of the skills training on this course and the number of hours devoted to it on the one hand and the real enthusiasm, expertise and committment to teaching found amongst the course tutors at UCL on the other can be matched elsewhere - it is easy to see why this MA attracts competitive and high-achieving students from all over the world.  The high distinction I gained on this MA stands me in good stead as I continue to pursue an academic career; the amount of progress I was able to make in just one year reflects both the excellent training, mentoring and support I received at UCL and the quality of the resources available here in London.  I would not have been able either to take the MA or to continue on to a PhD without funding.  I am convinced that this MA's reputation for offering such a high standard of skills training had a lot of mileage in securing me AHRC scholarships for both qualifications.  I look forward to another three years of research at UCL!' - Antonia Fitzpatrick (2008)
  • 'The MA in Medieval Studies at UCL provides a unique, interdisciplinary opportunity to prepare for doctoral research in medieval history.  Offering the linguistic, paleographical, and methodological tools to deal with manuscript sources (invaluable for future research) is not the least of its merits, and the extremely knowledgeable, powerfully engaging, and immensely helpful faculty have a keen interest in fostering students' academic development.  The resources made available to students in London libraries, moreover, and the lively intellectual atmosphere fostered by a plethora of seminars and lectures in the city all contribute to an experience that was more than incredible.  Personally, I cannot imagine my life as a medieval scholar (currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Michigan, USA) without the skills and background that I aquired in my time at UCL.' - Jon Farr (2009)
  • 'The Medieval Studies MA not only provides invaluable training in the practical skills of the medieval historian that have enabled me to carry out further study in the field [at St Andrews University], but it is also a remarkable course in its own right for those interested in the subject and the "detective work" behind published history books'. - Catriona Howie (2007)
  • 'The MA course in Medieval Studies at UCL was the perfect blend of rigorous teaching and relaxed atmosphere. The intensive Latin and Manuscripts and Documents courses were essential preparation and excellent training for future research. In the latter case, it was especially gratifying to be able to bring into immediate use the practical knowledge gained via your own manuscript description. At the same time, the other courses provided helped me shape and develop my own views, with independent thinking and openness thoroughly encouraged from highly supportive and helpful lecturers. The enjoyment I gained from the entire year made my decision to embark on a Ph.D [which is AHRC funded] an easy one.' Stefan Visnjevac (2007)
  • 'An equal emphasis upon expanding understanding of the past and developing the practical skills necessary for research makes the MA in Medieval Studies at UCL one of the best courses available for anybody hoping to go on to do a PhD in medieval history. The flexibility of the course enabled me to acquire a good level of competency in Latin and Old English, as well as teaching me the disciplines of palaeography, codicology and diplomatic. All of these have been essential to my current doctoral research at Cambridge, which focuses upon vernacular historical writing in late ninth-century England. The opportunity to acquire these skills at UCL played a crucial role in securing funding for both my MA and PhD from the AHRC. The range of expertise on offer at UCL enables you to specialise in almost any period of the Middle Ages, while the chance to work with centuries-old manuscripts in the British Library is a real privilege that few other universities can equal.' - Alex Coke-Woods (2007)
  • 'Two years after earning my BA in History (Washington University in St Louis, USA), I entered the MA Medieval Studies programme at UCL to test my professional dedication, to grow further as a historian, and to experience life in London, truly a unique cosmopolitan city. From the first week, I was sold that I had made the right choice. Working within medieval studies, as opposed to 'medieval history', is I think the ideal way to undertake original research without being confined to a single field of inquiry. In that sense, the programme's interdisciplinary approach was as rewarding in itself as it was in providing me with a strong foundation to continue my studies. The programme's particular emphasis on palaeography and archival research, working with the original manuscripts that are too often limited to microfilm or even unavailable in the States, has certainly given me a head start as I begin my PhD in Medieval History at Princeton University (USA). Equally important was how the faculty at UCL, through their enthusiasm and careful mentoring, left me more confident to pursue an academic career. In addition to my coursework, which ranged from questions on medieval magic to theoretical approaches towards the past, I found myself immersed in a congenial and engaging community of international scholars. These friends and colleagues truly left a lasting impression on me, personally as well as professionally, and looking back I believe it was they and the tremendous resources and opportunities offered that made studying in London exceed all of my expectations.'  - Chris Kurpiewski (2005)
  • 'The MA in Medieval Studies at UCL is an obvious choice for anyone whishing to pursue academic research on the medieval period. The course gave me the opportunity to work first hand with a variety of medieval sources while exploring different areas of study. Thanks to the course ‘Manuscripts and Documents’, I gained invaluable experience working with primary sources, learning how to read, transcribe, and date them. The strong emphasis on medieval texts is also an essential part of other options in the programme such as ‘Magic in the Middle Ages’ or ‘Medieval Latin Literature’, a course combining textual edition with translation of a variety of works, ranging from the Historia Regnum Britanniae to student drinking songs. As for the tutors, they were remarkable for their expertise as well as for their supportive attitude and readiness to provide advice. Having now begun a PhD, the skills I developed during the MA have proved indispensable for my research. The preparation I received at UCL was a strong asset not only for my academic training but also when applying for financial support to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which is now funding my studies.' - Barbara Gaspar (2005)
  • 'When I graduated from Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri, USA) with my BA in History I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in medieval history but I also felt that I needed to acquire more skills and experience before entering a Ph.D. program. In the MA in Medieval Studies at UCL I was able to explore new areas of medieval history with helpful, and highly intelligent, professors. I was also able to work extensively on palaeography and diplomatics (roughly speaking, working with manuscripts). The incredible number of documents available in London at the various libraries combined with the guidance of the palaeography and diplomatic professors David d'Avray and Pamela Robinson allowed me to obtain experience which is very difficult to obtain in the USA, even in Europe. I have now begun my PhD in Medieval History at Princeton University (USA) and have realized how well UCL's program has prepared me to study medieval history at this level. My experience with manuscripts is well beyond that of the entering students both at Princeton and at the other universities I considered for my Ph.D. The languages which I was able to study at UCL, including Old French, are often not easily studied (especially with a professor) in the USA and that, too, has greatly aided me in my current studies. I acquired skills and experiences which have greatly helped me in my PhD, but the greatest aspect of UCL's MA in Medieval Studies program is the quality of the professors involved. The professors, who are officially positioned at various universities in London, are not only highly intelligent, but they are also incredibly helpful. They freely give of their time in order to best suit my academic needs, and they are good teachers which is something I have discovered over the past several years is a rare asset. I highly recommend the MA in Medieval Studies Program at UCL for anyone interested in studying medieval history, either for the MA itself or as a first post-graduate step in pursuing a career in medieval history' - Shellie Garceau (2003)
  • 'I completed my undergraduate degree in History at UCL and had planned to go straight to law school in order to do a one year conversion course, the Legal Practice Course, then finally begin life as a solicitor in a City law firm. However, I didn't feel quite ready to embark down the legal path and was determined that I wanted to spend another year studying at UCL, preferably specialising in the Medieval period. In fact, my undergraduate degree consisted mainly of Ancient History courses, nevertheless the MA in Medieval Studies appealed because it offered an opportunity to create a programme of postgraduate research from a broad range of courses in different departments, the chance to consolidate and develop my knowledge of Latin, plus the prospect of examining original medieval manuscripts. I was lucky enough to be awarded a Graduate School scholarship which paid for the Masters tuition fees. The MA is generally assessed through a combination of coursework and exam, which suited my abilities. It is officially a taught course, but there is a good mixture of expert guidance from professors, and also the chance to work independently on original work. For example, in the Intermediate Latin course, each student was given his/her own portion of the text of the Life of John the Almsgiver to transcribe and translate from various manuscript books - this was a daunting but rewarding project, and our tutor was happy to advise students if we came across any difficulties. A highlight of the program was learning how to read, describe and date manuscript books and documents, as each student familiarised themselves with the huge collections available to examine in London. Students who intend to pursue a career in the Medieval period will certainly profit from the program: it provides broad-based introductory training in research techniques. But I would also encourage those who are simply interested in the subject to apply. The skills I developed on the MA have come in surprisingly useful on the law conversion course - for example, the ability to analyse and absorb a large amount of information to deadlines, and to develop original thinking. More importantly, it is a fascinating area to study for its own sake.' - Selmin Hakki (2003)
  • 'My first degree was in Law and History. I wanted to do further historical research but didn't quite have the traditional historian's background. I chose to do UCL's MA in Medieval Studies because this allowed me a wide choice of courses, the chance to learn Latin and palaeography, and the chance to do independent research for my dissertation. I was not disappointed. The quality of the course stood me in good stead and I won scholarships to pursue further research from the AHRC, first for my MA, then for my PhD. The practical training was invaluable during my PhD - the palaeography in particular equipped me to make extensive use of manuscript sources (having access to the wealth of manuscripts at the British Library was a particular privilege as an MA student). The independence, depth of knowledge and skills I gained from this MA course have advanced my research and career, helping to put me in the position, at the end of my PhD, of having a real choice between Cambridge Junior Research Fellowship and a placement with the Civil Service Fast Stream. Also, the MA in Medieval Studies was fun!’ - Sam Worby (2002)
  • 'After completing a degree in English Literature at Oxford, I began the MA in Medieval Studies as I felt that I needed to complement the literary focus of my undergraduate work with a historical understanding of the period and the research skills to investigate it further. The flexibility of the course meant that I was able to pursue areas of particular interest to me whilst also benefiting from the wider perspectives of the exam-based work. Learning about how to work with manuscripts and how they can inform our readings of medieval texts and society was vital for beginning a PhD in the area, as was the course in Latin. The tutors were excellent at sharing their expertise in their own areas of research and guiding each of us in our subjects of interest. I particularly found this in the Manuscripts and Documents course with David d'Avray and Pamela Robinson and the fascinating course on Magic in the Middle Ages with Sophie Page. Working with the wealth of material in the British Library made the manuscript work the real highlight of the course. I have now begun a PhD at the UCL English Department, studying Middle English song. I highly recommend the MA to any literature student who wishes to pursue an interdisciplinary approach to the period.' - Kathleen Rosie Goodwin (2001)

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