This post is to explain some ideas implied in my last entry of the UK Path series as well as respond to some latest feedback on the post.
My thanks to readers, particularly who left their comments on my article. Your feedback, though largely adorably negative, is exactly what I love to see.
Yet most of you failed to address the given situation: I was writing about postgraduate study.
It would never be on the point if one bases his counter-argument on an irrelevant context. There are people telling that their stories were different from mine: there were international students who travelled like hell, worked part-time like hell, at the same time studied like hell and received top marks. I will be damned if their experiences were not different. They were not postgraduates and aiming for anything but a first degree. In addition, I doubt if they ever did take into account the marginality of genuine substance added by BPP, London Met and the like, compared to those offered by subject-specific top UK-based schools.
Perhaps it did not matter much when their objective was to become qualified practitioners. But when it comes to postgraduate study, academic quality is substance. This was the core idea of my article and purpose of academic learning, which most commenters were arguably unable to notice.
Academic education is, first and foremost, for the development of “personal substance”, and I would utterly oppose any opinions of considering marks or scores as the purpose of this process. My Vietnamese Chevening fellows and I do not come to the UK, thousands of kilometres away from our families, only to get pieces of paper card inscribed with “Master” and “Distinction”. If it were the case by any chance, we could have enrolled in low-tier schools and our academic lives would have been easy. There are a plenty of such so-called universities offering postgraduate courses of low to mediocre academic quality in this nation: London Metropolitan, or BPP to name a few (QS rankings, THE, and the UK league table cannot lie altogether). We are here because we want to be substantially more professionally competent, academically stronger, and experientially mature. We wish to develop our personal substance.
This is why my friends would rather receive Pass degrees from academic powerhouses such as Imperial College London, LSE, or the University of Warwick than show off a Distinction one from Liverpool John Moores. “Knowledge is like an ocean, and teachers know how to choose the area with the most sharks” – said my Vietnamese friend at ICL. But she would prefer the risk of being ripped apart by these sea hunters instead of living in ignorance.
It is also irrelevant when one attributes my stressful timetable to any unawareness of Western learning method. In fact, I love to read, know how to research, and can write evidence-based long essays of both academic and journalistic styles. Still I am busy because I choose to learn more. Besides, one may notice that all courses listed in my post were in social sciences, hence the importance of English writing skills. Writing in natural sciences prioritises clarity and allows repetition. That for social sciences also loves transparency, yet disgusts repetition and welcomes stylish originality. In other words, you never know how to write properly until you do it journalistically.
To conclude, personal substance is what I strive for. Thus, difficulties are unavoidable. Feel free to differ as you wish, but please let your arguments be valid.