Friday, October 18, 2013

The Dissertation: Result!

One of the few drawbacks of studying in the United Kingdom has been the pace with which grades are finalized. Owing to both British and European Union quality control standards, all coursework must be marked by the instructor, then reviewed by a secondary marker, and then sent off to an external examiner for final review before the grades can be finalized. At any point, the marks can be disputed, at which point a review takes place. It's understandable, but a bit tedious. I think we got results for our January exams at the end of February, and for our May exams in late June or early July. Everyone's dissertations were turned in no later than the second of September, and...

And we waited. And we've talked amongst ourselves, and asked one another if we'd heard anything, and such. I met with the Director a few weeks ago, and he gave me a tentative hint that he'd given me a "mark of distinction", and that he hoped that the external examiner down at King's College London would uphold the mark he'd given me. I was intrigued, but patient.

I E-mailed a link to the Director last week, and finally heard back from him on Tuesday morning. That response read as follows:
Dear Tom
Thanks for article. You guessed right – music to my ears! And, yes, it will appear in cuttings.
Delighted to hear that Orkney is recognising talent.
External examiner has responded – and supports grade of 19. So all well!

Best wishes
The Director
For those who are unfamiliar with the Scottish grading system, it's all graded on a scale of one to twenty. The best example of the grading scale I can come up with is here, though this one doesn't match Aberdeen precisely. Basically, if you receive a grade of 18, 19, or 20, that's called a "first", or "first class honors". A 15, 16, or 17 is "upper second class honors", or a "two-one". A 12, 13, or 14 is "lower second class honors" or a "two-two". The Director soundly corrected me when I used the word "first", because apparently the 1, 2:1, and 2:2 scale is for undergraduates, while postgraduates receive "distinction", "commendation", and I think there's a phrase for the postgraduate equivalent of a 2:2.

So, where does a 19 put me? It puts me solidly in "distinction" territory. I've spoken with the one coursemate who had the potential to score higher than me in the overall markings, and he's done so - by a single point in the overall tally. There are two others with whom I may have tied, but I'm not sure that I'll learn of their grades - typically, grades are discussed in the same manner as salaries, which is to say in torchlit rooms while wearing hooded robes and Guy Fawkes masks. Regardless, with some of the demanding coursework, a year's worth of study, and twelve peers to compete with, I'd say I've done pretty well.

As I've read through my dissertation, I've inevitably found a few mistakes. CN GBU-16 found one in her essay that's been driving her absolutely crazy, but I helped to calm her down a bit, and as I expected, she scored quite well (but if you want to know what she got, you'll have to convince her to start her own blog, and then write a post about her dissertation mark). I intend to correct some of these mistakes before submitting my paper to Small Wars Journal - this time as the sole author, though I really enjoyed working with CN Odin on our previous submission. I may also try to format some of my other essays from Strategic Intelligence and Strategic Nuclear Doctrine, as they might be of use to others. However, that's for another day.


  1. Congratulations! I don't fully understand most of that except the Guy Fawkes mask and the extremely high marks parts..wonderful!

    1. Thanks, Susan! I'm quite pleased. Also, I listened to the Abigail Adams episode on a train from Inverness to Aberdeen the other day - love me some Founding Chicks!

  2. Congratulations Tom! 19 out of 20 is outstanding, and I am sure you will continue to strive for excellence in the future!


  3. Hi Tom,

    Have you finally published something based on your research? I'm looking for c20th uses of military lines in COIN contexts, especially those linked with population displacement.

    By the way, are you familiar with Salvatore Garfi's thesis on Western Sahara? (


    Alberto P. Marti