My attendance at college improved a bit over the academic year. The oak panelled corridors with Georgian-windowed doors even became familiar. I read the set texts and passed the first year with a merit. My research was on an old chancery doctrine which had fallen into disuse. I demonstrated it was still workable in modern law and submitted the paper, having ignored the professor’s minor suggestions. It was graded 2% below a distinction, but I was annoyed after the event because the professor summarised my analysis and published it the following year. Within months, the legal concept was being used again in the English courts. My work was never acknowledged, but he knows what he did. And it was not right. On the unsteady quagmire of plagiarism, the professor navigated his way upwards. I will never forgive that.
In the second year, I did another research paper and an examined subject in finance law. Things were going relatively well except I received only one set of comments on my research, adjusted the dissertation and submitted it. As a backup, and for external verification my writing was a decent standard, I sent it to a commercial law journal for publication. It was accepted, so I had at least an argument it was worthy of passing the Master of Laws degree.
As I elected to do two research papers, I was told I would have to attend the lectures of one further module (without having to do the exam) in order to pass the Master of Laws. I went to lectures in an area of finance law but, at the end of the first term I heard a group of students talking in loud, assured voices. One student actually said: “UCL, jurisprudence. The place to be, yar.” I stared in amazement. What the fuck am I doing here? I thought and stopped going to those lectures.
I worked reasonably hard for my final exam and thought it went okay. On results day, I went to University College London and looked at the long list of names from the passes, through the merits and then the distinctions. My name was not there. I checked again and enquired at the office about my results. They looked at me as if I was a total loser and gave me a telephone number on a scrap of paper to call the next day. I left thinking I had failed the degree and wondered if it was because of my poor attendance. After a dejected evening, I called the number and was put on hold for ten minutes. I thought about re-sitting an exam or re-submitting a dissertation when a woman came on the line with a superior tone.
“It appears a mistake has been made and you have actually been awarded the Masters degree with merit.”
There was no apology, just a snobby woman talking as if she was surprised someone like me was capable of passing. But I was pleased I had earned the degree and even happier I would never have to go to University College London ever again.