OUSA handbook 1981Something a bit light-hearted this week – a quiz! I have before me some 1980s OUSA handbooks, which offered advice to aspiring students about possible first-year courses. Can you figure out which subject each description refers to? Answers are in the comments below this post.

  1. Every paper has its high and low points, so don’t expect to be enthralled all year.
  2. An endurance test often criticised for its sausage-machine pace and methods.
  3. The reading lists seem quite mind boggling but it is not necessary to read the lot.
  4. I hope you will, as I did, find the —– Department and its members a very interesting and friendly bunch – despite the frequent deep pain in one’s gut feeling when entering X lectures.
  5. This half unit is the dream course for those who hate lectures. The entire course is covered by a book put together by the department …
  6. Lectures range from adequate to boring  but are generally non-essential …
  7. Tutorials are not that important, thus can be missed, unless you’re exceptionally bright or thick.
  8.  —– is one of the easiest subjects to get an A in, so take heed Med. Int. students.
  9. Welcome to the most boring unit on campus. Boring as it may be, it is not difficult to achieve a reasonable pass …
  10. Whereas most depart X lectures bubbling excitedly over various points, those leaving the Y lectures tend to do so very quietly, with the glazed look of one trying desperately to understand but not quite succeeding. For indeed one’s first encounter with Prof Z’s Y course is a very harrowing experience and one from which quite a few fail to recover.
  11. A superb interest unit and should be made compulsory to every man, woman and child in New Zealand.
  12. The lecture theatre is one of those where it is advisable to sit near the front (despite the bad publicity this will produce). Besides being able to hear the lecturer fairly well, this has the added advantage that the wittier graffiti artists have expressed themselves in that area. A mildly successful cure for terminal boredom.
  13. Overall the course is quite involved, often interesting and occasionally (oh alright then – usually) tiresome. In other words, much like any other course you’d rather not do.
  14. If you have not got the stamina to spend most of this term reading, or are naturally lazy, stay well clear of this subject.
  15. Students are only given a general overview in lectures. This unfortunately means that it is necessary to do a bit of reading and out-of-lecture work throughout the year. But don’t overdo this – it’s not worth it as you only have to answer four questions in finals.
  16. Prof X’s relationship to the class is like that of a friendly oracle towards its blind and groping followers …. Prof Y reassures the class their lack of comprehension is only a temporary phase.
  17. Most students grope through this chaotic course in total confusion.
  18. This half unit is a very popular and controversial one …. The whole package of textbook, study guide, lecture overheads, even exam questions is American, which will give you some idea of the content.
  19. [Lecturers] are informative and somewhat entertaining in action. My only criticism of the Department is that in certain quarters entrenched sexism often raises its ugly (yet often seen on Campus) head.
  20. Feminists will be pleased to know that there is sometimes an exam question on women’s role in society (which appears still open to debate).
  21. This part of the paper can be enjoyable – watching half the lecture walk out during it.
  22. People really enjoy the course and found lecturers friendly and helpful. Some discover a genuine interest in —–
  23. There is one term exam, at which attendance is compulsory. This is a condensed version in similar format to the final exam, suitably timed so as to give many people a necessary shock.
  24. Beware of irrelevant detail in the X half of this paper and needless repetition in the Y.
  25. There are two excellent books well recommended for understanding the sometimes tortuous lectures.
  26. Be prepared to approach staff members, most of whom are relatively human.
  27. —– is a subject which provides interest and variation. Most people will find the labs uninspiring but helpful and sometimes fun.

As is clear, the descriptions were often pretty cynical (of course I’ve chosen some of the most amusing for this quiz).  The authors’ boredom threshold seems to have been pretty low! But they also offered some genuinely useful advice – how essential it was to attend all the lectures and tutorials, whether you really needed to buy the textbooks, and how much independent study was required.

Detailed descriptions of courses weren’t published every year, but most years the handbook provided a handy chart of pass rates in the various subjects. As the 1987 handbook explained: “We’ve all heard them; those wonderful rumours that no-one passes old Mrs Wubbles’ Remedial Thinking 104 Half Unit. Or that no-one ever fails the Yugoslavian Basket Weaving Intermediate Unit, no matter how little work they do. Well, the time has come to dispel these and other myths.” The pass rates they published (the most recent available, from 1985), showed that anybody afraid of failure was best to avoid first-year classical studies, political studies, legal system or accounting. Meanwhile, first-year units in foods, English, French, physical education, music and linguistics all had pass rates over 90%.

Bring back any memories of your first year?