Monthly Archives: October 2014

How to choose the right governor or governess.


A governor or governess is someone who tutors your children and does much more besides. He or she is in charge of the general development of your sons and daughters. You wish to repose implicit trust in such a person; to have the fullest confidence in this person’s academic background; to know that this person can teach effectively; to know that this person will keep your children safe and to be sure that this person will provide a good role model. Many families have been enormously satisfied with the sterling service rendered by outstanding governesses and governors.

A governor or governess can be an immense boon to a family. This person can be of immeasurable value in guiding the intellectual, social and cultural formation of your children. This person can assist your daughters and sons in becoming more cosmopolitan. He or she can become almost a member of the family and take care of the children in the absence of the parents. A governess or governor should be honest, intelligent, articulate, efficient and provide a superb example of good manners.

People usually select a governor or governess who is a native speaker of another major language such as English but occasionally French, German or Spanish. Usually people select British governesses and governors. A superb governor or governess will have good scholastic credentials. However, beware of choosing someone who is too much of an intellectual. It is unwise to have a genius tutoring a little child. A hyper-intelligent person will teach at too high a level and soon grow bored of teaching a young child. A very brainy person will find it difficult to sufficiently simplify things and will be unable to grasp why the child cannot understand certain things. It is more important to pick a governor or governess who is an excellent teacher rather than an excellent student. This person should also be able to teach etiquette to the children and not just facts.

Go to a reputable agency. This is one that has a good track record of placing governesses and governors in families in the CIS. This company will have built working relationships that last. They will offer after sales service – remaining in contact with both the family and the governor or governess.

A governess or governor should have another non-academic talents depending on what abilities you wish to enhance in your child. He or she might be a gifted musician or  an excellent athlete. It would be helpful if this person speaks at least a rudimentary level of Russian. Many Russian parents do not speak English. Even if your English is perfect many of your staff will not speak Russian and the governess or governor will need to interact with them. Bear n mind that in the United Kingdom only !% of people can speak Russian. Amongst those who have great educational attainments this figure is only a little higher. Furthermore, a Russian speaker will have been to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and have some appreciation of the culture. Other English speakers are sometimes fairly ignorant about the CIS.

There is a strong emphasis on governesses and governors being young. Many advertisements give an upper age of 30 or 35 especially in the case of a man. This is not sensible. Someone who has completed a degree will be at least aged 21. A governess or governor should have several years of teaching or childcare experience before being worthy of this august position. 30 should be more like the minimum age for a governess of governor. One can trust such a person to be able to handle any situation. We live in an ageing society. Many people will work until their are 70. So there is no reason you cannot have a governor or governess up to the age of 50. So long as this person is energetic, healthy and young in attitude then she or he could be very suitable.

Look at the person’s curriculum vitae. Follow up references. Ask about any gaps in their employment history. Ask to see original certificates. Do not believe everything in the CV. People seldom tell outright lies but they tend to tell half truths. What they leave out of their CV is as important as what they put in. Furthermore, probe their claims.  If a job candidate claims to speak fluent Italian then have someone who has Italian as a mother tongue verify this for you. Ask why this person wants the job. Listen carefully to what they have to say and study their body language closely. Does this person give the impression of telling the truth about why they want this position? Some people want this job solely because it is handsomely paid and not because they want to do the work.

Ask yourself what it is you want from the governor or governess? Is it primarily their academic teaching ability? Is it their ability to teach musical instruments? Is it their sporting prowess? Is it their ability to prepare your child for a specific school? Do they need to be more of a nanny and many? Should they be able to cook? Be clear with the candidates what qualities you are looking for. Ask yourself which candidates have the right skillset to provide the type of service that you require. Furthermore, be explicit about the type of persona you wish the governess or governor to project in the presence of the children. Some families want the governess or governor to be very much the adult. Other families are happy for the governess or governor to lower themselves to meet the children on their own level. What sort of family role do you want the governess or governor to imitate? Is it to be like an extra mother or father? Perhaps it is more like elder sister or big brother?

First impressions are revealing. If the person was late for an interview or had clearly not read the advertisement this tells you a lot. Perhaps this person is disorganized or does not care much about the job. Beware those who answer interview questions with a glib fluency. Some people can seem very convincing because they are smooth talkers but are not so good when it comes to the job.

A trial period is very important. Have them for even three days but better for a week. Remember this is this person on their best behavior. Occasionally families have no trial and take someone straightaway. This does not always go well.

It is usually rash to take the first applicant you speak to without looking at others. Examine a number of possibilities. Then you have something to compare each of them against. There is no perfect candidate. You may have a range of criteria that you want in a governess or governor. So divide this into essential criteria and then desirable criteria.

If you find the right candidate then grab her or him quickly. Foreign governors and governess often express exasperation that people in the Commonwealth of Independent States take a long time to make up their minds. If your desired candidate has no other job at the moment then he or she has no income. This person cannot afford to wait for long. He or she will take another job because they need money. Moreover, the best candidates are snapped up quickly so do not tarry!

Once you select your governor or governess bring him or her to your house as soon as possible. If you delay for too ong thios individual may think that you are not sincere about the job offer. He or she may start job hunting again. Do not allow doubt to creep itno their mind. Spell out the ground rules. Governeos and governess sometimes co,pain to me that they are not given necessary information. If they are not allowed to drink during the working week  Be consistent. Governess and govewnors often say that parents demand they do one thing and then the parents undermine them. If yoyu have a rule that the governess or governor must uphold with the children then do not contradict this person when hr or she enforces it on the children.

Bear in mind that it is difficult being a governor or governess. They inhabit a social twilight. They dine with the family but are not part of the family. They are not fully accepted by the other servants. A governor or governess often comes from a socially elite family and is highly educated. The governor or governess has to be close to the family but still deferential. This is a difficult tightrope to walk. They need to be confident but not cocky. This sets them apart from the other household staff. It is key that they should get along with the other servants. The other servants will be able to tell you how this person behaves out of your sight. There can be petty tensions and squabbles between staff so not all accusations are true.

If you want to get off to a good start then have them met at the airport by an English speaking driver. In the case of a governess it would be very considerate to have her met by a woman. If you want to be very welcoming greet this person yourself. This will show that you value her or him. This will inspire more loyalty on their behalf.

Keep the governor or governess informed. If you are about to go on holiday they like to know a little while in advance. Respond to their inquiries promptly. Otherwise they will feel you are being impolite and you do not value them.

No one is perfect. If you get an excellent match then a governor or governess can continue with the family for several years. If a family has gone through five governesses in one year then perhaps the family is at fault. What is the common factor here? It is not the governesses.

Observations in Tealand


Although dogs are eaten this is very rare. Asking someone, ”do you eat dogs?” is like asking a Britisher is he wears a bowler.

Everyone wears Western clothes. Traditional clothing is fancy dress for posed photos.

Restaurants seldom serve water. They serve green tea instead. If water is offered it is hot.

There are few buildings older than 50 years.

People are mainly thin despite there being so many all you can eat restaurants.

Children all wear school uniform which is mostly a track suit.

People are apolitical. There is no mention of the Great Helmsman.

There are many signs in English despite few people being able to read them.

There is no hostility towards ghost people and nor are Occidentals much of a curiosity.

Dogs are honoured pets and they are fashionable.

Live turtles in a bag are sold in supermarkets.

Facebook, gmail, google and so on are blocked.

A dream of Tom


I was in Wvarlrye station with Toma nd James. It was ono obvsiouyl Edinbugh in my dream I have beenthinking of that city ebcaue I have beem fnatssing about doing comedy there this coming Agust.

I was with the boys who were my wards in Swtizerland/

They were due to go off somewhere to a raiwa station/ I was walking across a bridge with Tom only. I saw some ay man and I remarked that that man was gay. Then Tm took mbrage and ran off. Later I fodunbhim again. I susect the boy is queer.

I saw him jump onto a bus. I got onot the bus to stay with him. This left James ehnd in the station. I did not stand closer to Tom on the bus. I hoped ti was a bus going to a the airport. It ruend out it was not. Tim was trying tor un away from em. I have nee accused of not taking sufficient care of them and having lost them at one point/

Later I was back at Waverley STaiton and James wa sgone. Ths is an anxiety dreamsince I have beentold I was not siolciortu enough of their wlfare.

What makes a good British university and what makes a bad one?


There are over a hundred universities in the United Kingdom. They range from world-beating institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge; through to a dozen outstanding universities; down to a few dozen good universities with some mediocre universities below that.

Each year league tables are published by newspapers ranking British universities. Oxford and Cambridge are usually at the top. It may come as a shock that Oxford and Cambridge are not always at the pinnacle. This is partly because the funding of individual colleges within Oxford and within Cambridge is not taken into account. The universities are ranked on the basis of their funding; the quality of their research; the class of degrees they award; student satisfaction and the % of their graduates in employment or education within 6 months of graduating. Moreover, newspapers like a story. ”Cambridge and Oxford are the best.” That is not a story. That has been the case for centuries. If Cambridge slips to fifth place – that is a story. Newspapers like to manipulate the situation to produce sensational headlines. But despite some skullduggery the league table ranking remain a worthwhile means of assessing the overall quality of a university.

Bachelors’ degrees in the United Kingdom are awarded a class. A First class degree is the best class. A ”First” will be awarded to perhaps the best 15% of students. Then there is a Second Class Upper Division which is written as ”2:1′ This is pronounced ”two one”. This is awarded to around the next 40% of students. Then there is a Second Class Lower Division degree which is awarded to about 30% of students. This is written as ”2:2” and people call it a ”two two” colloquially. Below that there is a Third Class degree which is written as 3rd. People say ”I got a Third”. A 3rd is obtained by around 15% of students. Below that there is a very rare degree called a ”Pass degree”. Those who are given a Pass are so terrible that really they ought to have failed. They are fortunate that the university has taken pity on them and awarded them a degree at all. They cannot pursue any postgraduate education.

Everyone who gets  a degree from a 1st to a 3rd can say they have an honours degree. The degree will be written B.A. (Hons)  standing for Bachelor of Arts with Honours  or B.Sc (Hons)  or Bachelor of Science with Honours. So almost everyone gets an honours degree. This is nothing special. If someone only got a pass degree then that person is NOT entitled to put (Hons) after their degree.

This is very different from the United States where being ”an honours student” is a rare and enormous accomplishment.

In fact many people in the United Kingdom simply say they have  BA or B.Sc and do not bother to write (Hons) that is just assumed. So if you see someone has a B.A 9Hons) it is unwise to think that she or he scored only a Pass degree.

Universities award degrees themselves but there is a government agency that checks on them to try to see that they maintain certain minimum standards . But standards vary from one university to the next. Everyone knows it is far harder to obtain a degree from a top flight university than from a middling or even a lousy one. A 2:1 from Oxford or Cambridge is as good as a 1st from almost any other university. The best universities are necessarily the hardest to get into. They attract the most scholarly people. They insist that their student do more work. They have to sit more exams and more challenging exams. The students live in a more intellectual atmosphere with more distinguished academics.

The trouble is that more and more First class degrees are awarded. Likewise more 2:1 s are awarded. Perhaps standards have slipped. Oxford often complains that Cambridge awards more Firsts than Oxford. Likewise Oxford and Cambridge award more Firsts than other universities. This is partly because they universities have plenty of marvelous students and they tend to work harder. The overall trend of grade inflation is partly due to students being more industrious owing to the more competitive job market. In 1963 4% of British people went to university. Nowadays 40% of young people attend university. Back in the 1960s even a Third class degree was enough to get a good job. Because there are so many graduates now many employers say they will only consider those with a 2:1 or better. To be a lawyer one must have obtained a 2:2 or better. In reality very few people with a 2:2 make it as a lawyer these days.

As universities award more 1st class degrees and more 2:1s they can climb the league tables. This is perverse because those who lower academic standards can climb the league tables.

Oxford and Cambridge are often alluded to in the same word ”Oxbridge” or else they are known as Varsity. This word is a corruption of university. Just lop off the prefix ‘uni’ and change the ‘e’ of ”versity” to an ‘a’ and you have Varsity. There is the Varsity Match which is played at Twickenham every December. Twickenham is the English National Rugby Stadium.

Below them is the Russell Group which includes Oxford and Cambridge. This group bears this name because it has a meeting for its chancellors at Russell Square in London  every year to discuss matters of common concern. The Russell Group this consist of about the top twenty universities in the United Kingdom.  These are excellent.

As for other universities look at their position within the league table.

Until 1992 there were only 40 universities in the United kingdom. Then the government gave university status to many polytechnics. In the United kingdom polytechnic were less well-regarded than universities. Broadly speaking universities taught intellectual subjects only whereas polytechnics largely taught practical subjects. This distinction has now disappeared. The former polytechnics are sometimes ca;led ”new universities.” Those universities that had university status prior to 1992 are known as ”old universities” and they are seen as more honourable. The top 40 universities in the United Kingdom are mostly ”od univeesites”. Some former polytechnics have made it to the top 40 such as Oxford Brookes University. Note that Oxford Brookes is NOT the same as Oxford University although it is in the same city.



Look at the league tables. Within the league tables ask yourself which criteria matter to you and which do not. Its ranking for quality of research is surely crucial. How much funding it has is presumably less important. Does employability matter to you? If you are studying a subject that guarantees a job such as Dentistry then do not worry about how many graduates are employed within 6 months of graduating. A dentist will always get a job. An Anthropology graduate will have more trouble securing long term employment. Look at the drop out rate. The cleverest and most highly motivated students go to Oxbridge where the drop out rate is about 2%. The slowest and idlest students go to universities that do not set them much work and the work is not difficult at all. Yet at bad universities the drop out rate is up to 25%.

Ask what knowledgeable people think of the university that you are discussing. The people whose opinion you should trust are teachers at British school. Ask them to candid and not to be flattering about every university. Do you want the truth or not? Roughly speaking the older a university it is the better it is. The oldest ones have had donations from successful former students and have had time to build up tremendous reputations. If a university does Medicine then it must be good. Most universities do not offer Medicine. Does this university take people with bad English? If so do not rate it highly. Does this university offer a Foundation Year. The Foundation Year does not count as part of the three or four years needed for a Bachelor’s degree. A Foundation Year is a way of getting more money out of foreign students with limited English. The best universities do not have Foundation years. Some middle ranking universities do have Foundation Years as do the below average ones.

Visit it yourself and form an opinion. Do not trust their glossy brochures. Even the crumbiest university will say it has an ”international reputation.” That may be an international reputation for being bad. Any institution can sing its own praises.

Remember to look at the reputation of the university department rather than the university as a whole. A university may have a superb Sociology department but be woeful at Chemistry for example.








The British university application process for undergraduates.


Selecting a British university is a confusing challenge even for British people. There are over a hundred British universities. All sorts of subjects are offered including some that you might not have heard of. There is an enormous diversity within the British university system. There are a handful of illustrious universities, plenty of good ones and a few institutions called ‘universities’ despite not being worthy of the name ‘university’.

How should you go about picking which universities to apply to? Be aware of the fact that you can only apply via UCAS (Universities and Colleges Application Service) for undergraduate degrees. For post-graduate degrees you can apply via UCAS in some cases but in other cases you must apply directly to the university. This article shall focus on undergraduate applications.

You are allowed to apply to only five universities in one application cycle and only four if you are applying for Medicine. If you apply in 2015 to begin that year you can thus apply to five universities. Hopefully you will get a place you really like and begin that October 2015. But if you are not offered a university place that you are happy with then you are entitled to withdraw from UCAS for that year and start over the next year applying to five universities in 2016. These could be the same ones you applied to on 2015 or different ones.

You need to ask yourself what your priorities are? Is it to attend a renowned university? It is to study a subject that you are scintillated by? Is it to study a subject that leads to a well remunerated job?

The most glorious universities are Oxford and Cambridge without a doubt. These universities were founded in the 12th and 14th centuries respectively. Their reputations re-echo around the world. Unsurprisingly they are the hardest to get into. There are other universities which are also outstanding such as the London School of Economics, Imperial College London and University College London. To win a place at any of these universities to read any subject it a tall order. If you wish to get into one of the top universities then you may need to choose a subject that is not too heavily subscribed. For example, Classics (Latin and Ancient Greek) usually only had two applicants per place at Oxford and Cambridge. Law has about 20 applicants per place. This is because very few people do Latin and Ancient Greek and school and these subjects do not lead directly to a job. A law degree from a well regarded university virtually guarantees a handsomely paid job so many people wish to read this subject. Likewise Economics has many applicants for it and is therefore much harder to get in to study.

If you wish to do the subject that fascinates you then apply for that and see which university is best at it. For example, if you wish to read Medicine then it is incredibly difficult to get into any university. If you get into Cardiff university, which has a mediocre reputation, then this does not matter much. Graduating in Medicine from any university is a major achievement. A doctor from Oxford or a doctor from Cardiff is still a doctor and will have the same career.

The degrees that lead to well paid jobs are IT, Law, Business Studies, Economics, Maths, Physics and Chemistry. Those with degrees in these subjects will be sure to get jobs in the IT, Legal or financial sectors. Note that a law degree in England does not make you a lawyer. After a law degree there are at least two more years of studies before being a full member of the legal profession. Not all law graduates can become lawyers. You need to pass the degree with a high grade in order to be allowed to qualify as a lawyer.

Those with degrees in traditional Humanities subjects such as History, Geography, Politics, English and so on find it harder to get such jobs. It is certainly possible with a degree in a traditional Humanities subject to get a job as a banker or stockbroker but it is not quite as for someone with a relevant degree.



Most students do A levels – the ‘A’ stands for Advanced. They choose about 4 subjects to do. These are generally related subjects such as French, Spanish, History and Geography or else Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. But they could be any combination of subjects such as German, Politics, Art and IT. Very smart students will do five or six subjects. Notice that British education is broad but deep. British people are often extremely well-informed about a small number of subjects but very ignorant about other subjects. The British emphasis on specialization is due to the saying ”Jack of all trades – master of none.”

A levels are graded A* down to E. A* is the best and E is the worst pass. Although E is technically a pass it is a terrible result. Below an E grade is a U grade. Grade U is a fail. It is very hard to get a U. Someone who scores a U grade is to terrible at that subject that they can be said to have achieved almost nothing.

A few schools do the International Baccalaureate instead. The IB requires pupils do to a broad gamut of subjects. Each pupil will have to do Maths, English, a Foreign Language, a Humanities Subject, a Creative Subject (i.e. Art, Music or Drama) and then an optional subject. He or she will also  be assessed on sport and contribution to the community.

Both the IB and A levels are totally acceptable pathways to a British university. IB students have studied a wider mix of subjects but are not so well-informed or so skilled in those subjects as A levels students.

The IB is scored out of 45. So 45 is the maximum score. There are two more points – one each for sport and social service. Military training can count as social service. There is also an extended essay and a test on Theory of Knowledge. Scoring 45/45 is extremely rare.

The A levels that someone has done dictate the options they have at university level. For instance, in order to read Medicine you need to have done A levels in Maths, Chemistry, Physics and ideally Biology. If you wish to do a Humanities subject at university then you should have done Humanities subject at A level. If you wish to do a German degree then you need to have done German A level.

If you go to school in Russia and have a Russian school leaving certificate it is perfectly possible to gain a place at a British university. Indeed people have been doing this for over 20 years. It is unusual though and the universities may need some explaining as to what the Russian school system involves. Russian education places a far greater stress on Mathematics than British education does. Russian pupils may find themselves far ahead of their British peers in Maths and allied subjects.



To get into Oxford or Cambridge you need to get A* grades in all subjects to even consider applying. Even if you get A* grades in all subjects that by no means ensures you will get a place or even an interview. Applicants to these magnificent universities need top grades in every state exam and they need to do additional exams.

Other well ranked universities such as Durham, Edinburgh, King’s College London and Bristol will also require grades almost as good as for Oxford and Cambridge.

The hardest subject to get in for is Veterinary Medicine. Medicine is also very difficult to get in to study likewise Dentistry. To read these subjects at any university you need A*s in everything. Likewise you will need to sit exams in addition to A levels to win a place to study these subjects. In the case of Medicine this is the Biomedical Aptitude Test or the United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test.

To do not imagine that British universities are only for super intellectuals. There are undergraduates at United Kingdom universities who are clever rather than brilliant. Indeed some students are merely satisfactory or even mediocre.

It is important to take expert advice. Listen unemotionally. Do not overrate yourself but also do not underrate yourself. Take on board objective advice. Sometimes a school has to tell someone, ”Sorry but you will never get a place at Cambridge” or else, ”I am afraid there is no chance you will ever be a vet.” The school is not trying to be insulting or to ruin someone’s life. They wish to prevent this girl or boy wasting an application space when this would be hopeless and prevent this person getting a place at a university where she or he would succeed.

Whatever your grades you will be able to find a university place. The new ”soft subjects” are not highly respected. These are Media Studies, Cultural Studies, Rugby Studies and American Studies. If you have very modest A level results like EEEE then you may still be able to find a place at a university with a poor reputation.



You may only apply via the Universities and Colleges Application Service (UCAS). UCAS provides a four page online form for all applications. This form is valid for all universities in the United Kingdom. Oxford and Cambridge require an additional form as well as UCAS. The application fee for UCAS is about GBP 20.

The UCAS form requires some biodata – i.e. name, date of birth, place of birth etc…. It will also ask about any official exam results to date. These are not internal school tests but have to be government exams. There will be a space for a personal statement. This can be up to 4000 characters including spaces. In this space the candidate explains why he and she wants to attend university and to study whichever subject.

There is also a space for the school to write a report on the candidate. This is to be kept confidential from the candidate so the school can write frankly.

This is all online. It is no longer possible to do this on paper.



You can apply for five courses unless you are applying for Medicine in which case you can only apply for hour. You do not have to apply for the same subject to four or five different universities. You might apply to five different universities but not for the same subject at all five of them. For example someone’s list of applications might look like this.

Geography – University of Glasgow

Geography – King’s College London

Geography – Exeter University

Sociology – University of the West of England at Bristol

Tourism – Newcastle University.


Indeed you can apply to the same university for two different subjects. Your list of applications might look like this.

Biology – University of Durham

Chemistry – University of Durham

Biochemistry – Queen’s University of Belfast

Chemistry – University of Warwick

Biology – University of Central Lancaster.


You do not have to use all five choices. You could apply to only four universities or just three or just two or only one. There is no advantage in applying to fewer than the maximum. You might as well give yourself every chance and apply to as many as possible.

In the case of Medicine you can only apply to four. In that case it is advised to apply to three for Medicine and one for another allied subject such as Biology. There are so many very bright candidates applying for Medicine that many are rejected. Therefore have Biology of Chemistry or some such subject as a fallback. A very able boy I assisted a few years ago wanted to read Medicine. I advised him to apply for one non-Medical subject as a backup. He declined to go along with my advice. He was rejected by all four medical schools. This was a pity and it was ironic to see his peers who were far less able going off to other universities to read less demanding subjects. He had to get a job for a year and reapply. He got in second time around.

Having completed a degree in another Science you could then go on to read Medicine or Dentistry. Medicine and Dentistry both take five years. But if you already have a degree in a related subjects such as Biology, Chemistry or Biochemistry this is reduced to four years.




There are about 110 universities and colleges in the UK. Most British cities have two universities. There is Oxford University which is very famous and Oxford Brookes University which is not so famous. They are not the same university! They are in the same city. Likewise Glasgow University enjoys a fine reputation whilst Glasgow Caledonian University does not.

The university with a longer name will be newer and less honoured. Until 1992 a lot of polytechnics were granted university status. The new universities are the ones that were made universities after 1992 having previously been polytechnics. Be aware that a ‘polytechnic’ in the UK implies that an institution is not intellectually elite. So Leeds University is the good one and Leeds Metropolitan University is a below par one. A university with a point of the compass in the name is usually less well thought of than one without a point of the compass in the name. For instance the University of the West of England at Bristol is NOT as good as the University of Bristol.

Not all universities offer all subjects. There is a clue in the name. The London School of Economics is a famous university. It only offers subjects in conjunction with economics. For example you can do Economics and History, Economics and Law, Economics and German, Economics and Business. It does not offer Medicine, Music, Drama, Dentistry and Architecture for example.

The Royal College of Music only does Music. Again, do not confuse it with the Royal Academy of Music which also only does Music and is also in London.

Ask yourself do I want to be in a big city or  small one? Do I wish to be in an old university or a new one? Do I want to be in a university with many foreigners or not? Make your decisions on these bases. British students seldom attend their local university so there is no worry that people will be too insular once they arrive at a university.

A lot depends on the subject. A certain university may have a superb reputation for Pharmacy but be dreadful at Physics. So judge the subject as much as the university.

Go and visit the city. Get a feel for the place. Can I see myself spending a few years here? A friend of mine enrolled at Manchester University never having visited in his life. He hated the city and dropped out.



Almost all British universities are state funded. There are a handful of private universities such as Buckingham University and BPP. They are both quite small. Buckingham University attracts very few British students. It is in a lovely town but it is a bit boring for an 18 year old.  BPP mainly offers postgraduate courses in Law and Accounting.



There are hundreds of subjects to choose from. Some of them you will never have heard of.

What is something like Chinese Studies and how is it different from Chinese? Chinese will be about the language and little else. Chinese Studies will include some language learning but that is only about a quarter of the course. In Chinese Studies you will learn about the History, Geography, Economy and Politics of China.

Is it possible for a Russian to study Russian in the United Kingdom? Yes it is. A friend of mine who was a native speaker of Russian read Russian at Oxford University. This course is mainly about Russian Literature. Although her lecturers had British accents their Russian was still fluent. They knew more about novels, plays and poetry in Russian than she did. Likewise I knew two Germans who did German degrees in the UK.

There are some subjects such as Kinaesthesiology. That is dancing. But it has been given a very intellectual name. Note that some non-academic subjects are still awarded degrees in the United Kingdom.

There is not such an emphasis on Engineering in the UK. British engineers often complain they are not accorded enough respect.



Foreigners are often fixated with London. The United Kingdom’s capital is a large and splendid city. But do not neglect the rest of the United Kingdom. There are some tremendous universities in London such as the London School of Economics (LSE), University College London (UCL) and Imperial College London. Certain other universities in London are mid ranking such as City University and  Roehampton University. Other universities in London are not well thought of such as the University of North London or Middlesex University. If you are an able student it is not a good idea to apply to these last two named ones. They will take you! They like to have a few brainy students because most of their students are below par.

There are plenty of excellent universities outside London and not just Oxford and Cambridge. Warwick University, Manchester University, Nottingham University and Bristol University are all well very thought of. There are a lot more applicants for universities in London than outside London. With AAAA in A levels you may well be rejected by a good university in London but accepted by a university in northern England.

Just because it is in London does not make it good! Just because it is outside London does not make it bad.

Moreover, London is crowded and expensive. There is not much sense of community amongst students there.



If you want to begin university in October 2015 you need to apply by 15 January 2015. However, if you wish to apply to Oxford or Cambridge or you wish to apply to any university for Medicine then you need to apply by 15 December 2014 in order to begin studying October 2015.

For Oxford and Cambridge there are extra exams that applicants need to sit – not just A levels.

In the case of Oxford and Cambridge some candidates are rejected immediately. About have the candidates are summoned for an interview. It can even be a series of several interviews.

Most other universities do not interview. For Medicine very candidate who is seriously considered will be interviewed.


Between applications being submitted and June universities will write back to candidates. It is all online. They may reject a candidate outright. They often give candidates a conditional offer. That is to say that if she gets BBBB in her A levels they will take her. A candidate can accept one offer as a preferred offer and accept a second offer as an insurance offer. The insurance offer is from a university or course that is not so good. The student can do to that university that is the insurance offer in case his results are not as good as expected.

Pupils sit their major exams in May and June. The results are out in early August. This gives students the places they want in most cases.

In some cases a student will not do well enough to meet the offer made by the university. Supposing it was BBBB and the student scored BBBC. The university can choose to take the student anyway but sometimes the university sticks rigidly to the offer and refuses the student a place since he or she failed to satisfy requirements.

A student can then go into clearing. This means he or she can seek a university place that has been made vacant by other students failing to meet the offers that were made to them. There are frantic phone calls and sometimes place can be found at this stage.

University terms mostly begin right at the end of September or start of October.




Students from outside the European Union have to pay International Fees. For most degrees these are at least GBP 13 000. These fees can be much higher for certain degrees especially Scientific subjects and Engineering. Medicine costs about GBP 30 000 per year. There is not much variation in the fees between the most reputable universities and the least impressive ones. Cambridge is only a little more expensive than the worst university in the country.

Those who have lived in the European Union for at least three years immediately before starting university pay Home fees which are lower. Note this is living anywhere in the European Union and not just the UK. Attending boarding school in the United Kingdom does NOT count towards this three years of living in the European Union.

There are very few scholarships for International Students. These are often worth only a small percentage of the fees.

Fees cover the cost of being taught, access to libraries and so on. Fees do not include living costs or books.



A Bachelor’s degree usually takes three years. In the case of Modern Languages it is four years. For instance, if someone is studying Spanish he will study for years 1 and 2 in the United Kingdom. Year 3 he will spend in Spain perfecting his Spanish. Year 4 he shall return to the UK for the last year of study.

Some courses are sandwich courses. This is often the case with Business. In that case year 1 and 2 will be years studying at university. Year 3 will be spent working in a business. Year 4 will be back at university to complete the studies. The year 3  is the ‘meat’ in the sandwich. The advantage of this is that the person finished with the theory and the practical experience of studying.

In Scotland Bachelor’s degrees are usually four years.

Medicine and Dentistry both take five years.

Architecture takes seven years.

Veterinary Medicine takes six years.




It is possible to change university within a few weeks of beginning. This is rare and requests are usually refused. Do not count on being able to do this especially if you wish to move to a more distinguished seat of learning.

Changing subject is more common. If it is within the same field of study this is often allowed. For example to change from Medicine to Dentistry is not always difficult. To change from Spanish to Portuguese. If you want to change from a subject with lower entry requirements to one with higher entry requirements that is usually impossible.




Enjoy it! It will be the happiest time of your life. You will have all the freedom of being an adult and none of the responsibility. You can make great friends and try all sorts of fun activities.

Do not drop out. This very seldom turns out well. It is possible to start university all over again but universities are wary of taking people who have dropped out. Even if you decide you do not like the university or the subject you should finish it off. You can always do another degree.


More ideas for teaching the Chinese


More teaching ideas.


Grammar lessons can be dry. Presenting a class with a grammar table may cause many to wilt. Grammar tables should be available to refer to when the pupils feel they need to consult them. But teaching grammar by going through a table mechanically and having the class chant the words is Victorian and incredibly dull.

Teach grammar without the pupils realizing they are learning grammar. You model it by using a phrase such as …’’were they doing… they were taking photos.’’ You then ask pupils questions based on this piece of grammar that you wish them to pick up. For instance, ‘’What was she doing yesterday?’’ The answer may be, ‘’she was jumping on the trampoline’’ . You go through several examples writing them up and having the pupils write them as well. Then you can reveal they have learnt past continuous.

This stratagem can be profitably applied to myriad grammatical structures.


Getting the pupils to speak up can be difficult. If you really want them to concentrate on speaking rather than on writing you might even ban them from opening books or writing anything down.


I drew a picture of a person on the board. I am not dexterous so the image was misshapen. My pupils Cristina interjected, ‘’oh what a horrible man’’. I then labeled the person on the board ‘Cristina’. This Cristina was confident and she was happy with this drollery at her expense.

I labeled parts of the body for them to copy down.


The children’s rhyme head, shoulders, knees and toes is a terrific way to impart body vocabulary. The pupils do the actions with you as you sing the song.


You can ask the pupils who the greatest Chinese person of all time was. They can spend some time discussing this. Make sure they do not all come up with the same answer. They will then have a written exercise to say who they have picked and elucidating why this individual is so magnificent. This is a better exercise for a higher ability and older class.



On youtube there is a tremendous song – ‘’We are going to the zoo, zoo, zoo / How about you, you you? / You can come too, too, too/ We are going to the zoo, zoo, zoo. ‘’

It has images and lyrics about several animals. You can invent dance actions for the animals. This is an outstanding song and dance routine for young learners.


This website advertises jobs. It is an egregiously good means of recruiting teachers. It also has many free resources on it. There is an ideas cookbook there where people share their teaching methods.


Have the pupils write a profile of their family. They can also draw a picture to accompany this.


Have the pupils imagine they are king or queen for the day. They have absolute power. What would they do with it? It might be to give ice cream to all children. It could be they go on a satellite for one day. They might give everyone the day off. They can give several royal commands. Have them discuss this and then do a written exercise on it.


Chinese pupils are not accustomed to giving presentations. This is therefore an exceedingly important exercise to set them since they shall be required to undertake such tasks in the Occident. Explain the nature of the task. Then set them a suitable topic to give a presentation on. You should allow them to use brief notes the first few times. Only require them to speak for a very short period at first – perhaps one minute. In future you can extend this to two minutes then five minutes.

They might prepare in class or for homework. Sometimes you might have a group do it. Three of them standing in front of the class at once giving their presentation which they have divided up. Jimmy speaks for a minute then Jessica speaks for a minute and then Domitiana speaks for a minute. Because there are three of them standing there they feel less self-conscious. They have divided their topic into subtopics about which each of them holds forth.

Eventually you can require them to speak without any notes. Emphasise that they are marked solely on what they say. Written notes will not even be looked at by you in relation to this exercise. You might allow the class to ask them some questions.


This is a good one for littler pupils. They bring a favourite item to school. This might be a toy like a doll, car or phone. They tell the class why they like this object so much and they demonstrate what it does.


They select one land they have never been to. They say why they wish to visit this country and they give as much detail as they can on it. This could be accompanied by illustrations, a map and a flag. They can even write an itinerary of their imagined holiday there. This will require them to use future tenses.


You can write a brief for them about a business meeting where they have to negotiate a deal. You can have one person in each company or perhaps two people in teach company.

For example, two people work for an airline manufacturing company. One of the CEO and the other is Managing Director. Then there is the airline that wants to buy planes from the other company. The airline Non-Executive Director is there and so it their Head of Procurement. Each of them is given a written brief. The Non-Executive Director is concerned with the price and only wants to spend $ 1 billion. The Head of Procurement is concerned with the specification of the planes and does not care about money. The airline manufacturing company wants to receive $1.5 billion. The planes they are offering are not exactly the specification that the airline wants but could be modified for more money.

This is an English exercise and not a business one. It does not matter so much what deal they reach or even if they never make an agreement. The goal is for them to practice their English.

Make sure they have an apposite vocabulary before embarking on this exercise.



With a younger class you can do this exercise. A volunteer stands on a chair so you can all see their clothes and shoes. The other are then invited to raise their hands and they are picked to describe what their classmate is wearing. They must describe it in as much detail as possible i.e. white frilly socks with lime green polka dots. Not every child has sufficient lexis to do this but they will give as much information as they can.

They can write it down and draw a picture.


Point out to them Chinese words that have been adopted by English such as feng shui and chow mein. Ask them any English words that have been taken into Mandarin. Have them do a literal translation  of these words in both directions.


In a multilingual class draw a table. For example on one row I write ‘monkey’ and I gave the Romanian translation for it ‘maimuta’ but not the Farsi translation or the Greek translation. Then on the next one I left the English blank but I wrote the word ‘’cal’’ in Romanian and the Chinese word ‘’ma’’. Then I had the Farsi word ‘’Azad’’ and the English word ‘’freedom’’ as well as the Greek word ‘’Eleftheria’’ but I did not have that word in Turkish or Chinese. The pupils had to go around and find out what the words meant in different languages and fill in the table. Then the table was drawn on the board and we all completed it together.


Where would you dine? Would it be your house or a restaurant? If so – which one? You must design a menu for a three course meal. Even say what the background music is. Who do you invite and where do you seat them? Write in as much detail as you can.


What do we call meat from cattle? Mutton comes from which animal? Write this as a table and leave some blanks to see if they know the answers. Then do it together with them.


What are the rites of passage in the West? They are baptism, first communion, confirmation, a prom, graduation, marriage etc… Some of these rites of passage are not undergone by everyone. Some are only for religious people.

What are the rituals associated with each one? What do people wear on these occasions? What are the rules associated with each one? What are the presents involved? Do you give money or a couple getting married or not? Explain these ceremonies to the class and have them tell you about the equivalents in China.


Have them sing their national anthem. See if they can translate it. Eventually give them an official translation and they can see how well they did.


It is good to get them to do some stretching on your instructions. This livens them up when sluggish. They enjoy it. They learn vocabulary by the words you use. Write the instructions as well as saying them. This reinforces the learning. Have pupils lead the exercise once they know they drill. They can do Swedish drill which is also known as jumping jacks.


What is this program? Why do you like it so much? Who are its stars? Can you act it out in the classroom?


They have to write a play in small groups and perform it. You might help them by suggesting themes. It could be a prize giving ceremony. It could be a scene from history like the murder of Julius Caesar. It might be about good parents etc…. This play can take only five minutes to perform.

This encourages creativity and makes them grow in confidence. It can also be enormous fun.


Bring real money into the class. Tell them about it and write up the key words from the bank notes or coins on the board i.e. ‘Bank of England’ or ‘legal tender’. Ask them if they know what this means. You may need to help them. Have them look at the water marks. Make sure you get the money back.

You can do role plays where they have to buy things and receive change back. Habituate them to recognizing the coins and banknotes by their colour and shape.



Celebrate your pupils birthdays. Give them presents. Sin Happy Birthday and have tasty food. Check that no one is allergic to anything and that parents do not object to cake. Ask them about birthday customs in their country. Tell them about birthdays in the English speaking world.



It needs to be a good learning environment. It should be bright and clean with plenty of eye ctaching wall displays. If someone’s attention wanders she or he should be able to see things on the wall that are educational. These could be posters, maps, flags and superb pieces of work. It needs to be welcoming and child friendly.


Beware of sensory overload. Too much colour and too many displays can be off putting.



Pupils like catch phrases and running jokes. Anything zany and light hearted jollifies them . This makes them more eager to work. Make sure your humour is not too controversial and does not distract overmuch from education.




You do not want people to score zero. Likewise it would be foolish to have a test that is so ridiculously easy that everyone gets full marks. If everyone is all clustered around half marks then again this is not a very useful test. Test is self-defining. It is a means of checking how much information has been learned and to what extent skills have been mastered. There ought to be a few Noddy and Big Ears questions right at the outset. These very simple questions will be mere factual recall questions and even the dimmest pupil will get them right. The questions should then become harder by small increments each time. There should be some reasoning questions and explanation questions towards the end. The trickiest questions will be right at the end. Those who take a long time will not reach these questions. This does not matter since the slowest pupils would be unlikely to get them right anyway. You might need to allow extra time to those with dyslexia or a similar learning difficulty.

A test should tell people apart. There should be a bell curve of results.


Ask yourself what the purpose of the test is? Is this chiefly about information or more about skills?

You can go over the test later and have them say the correct answers. This really drives home the learning.

You could even rerun the test a week later and see the results improve drastically.

Those who score under half marks should be made to write out the correct answers. You should aim for the majority of pupils to score over half marks.

If someone gets 100% perhaps the work is not taxing enough.



With young pupils you can have them volunteer to sing to the whole class. You can count them in with ‘’a one, a one, a one two three four…’’

Make sure people applaud at the end of the rendition.



A student chooses an English word. Have them write it on paper for you to see so that you can check the spelling is correct. If it is an eight letter word, for instance, then the student draws eight underscores on the board thus: ________. The pupils now know it is an eight letter word and they guess letters. Supposing the word was ‘permanent’ then the pupils guessed ‘e’ then the student who has chosen the word will write _e____e__’ . If the class guesses the letter ‘f’ then the one who picked the word will write an ‘f’ in the corner of the board to show that letter is wrong and can be excluded from future guesses. She then draws a line for the gorund. A second wrong guess would lead to drawing th upright post of a gallows. A third wrong guess would lead to drawing the cross bar of the gallows. A fourth incorrect guess would lead to the diagonal being drawn and so on – then a hanged stick man would appear. After about 11 wrong guesses the man is hanged and the game is over. But if the class guess all the letter then they win.

This might be too upsetting for young classes. The trick is for them to guess vowels first and then the consonants commencing with the most frequently used ones.

Best word to select is ‘’rhythm’’. Oftentimes a class cannot crack this word.



Discuss what would be fair classroom rules. Have them write them up on posters in big letters and make them colorful. You will have given them the text first so the spelling is right. These will then be put on thw walls. The pupils have helped to make the rules and they understand why the rules are needful and just. They are more likely to obey them. They can be things such as ‘’I am polite to you and you are polite to me.’’; ‘’Please do not shout out.’’, ‘’Listen to others respectfully.’’, ‘’Arrive on time and bring the things you need.’’, ‘’I always behave as though my parents see and hear everything I do.’’



When there is about a minute left of the lesson this can use up time if you have nothing left to do. If there is no clock this works. They are not allowed to look at their watches. They must sit in silence and stand when they think a minute has expired. The winner is the person closest to the real time.

A dream of Ireland and Israel


I was in Northern Ireland on an overcast day. I was heading up a steep bank in a forest. The earthen bank was bare but tall trees shaded us. I was with two other men – older than myself in both cases. One waS aNDre Hunter the COnservative MP whom I have never met. We were somewhere like South Armagh and we would see what was going on. I was pprehensive. It looked like the woods in Aberlour. I had contact from William George and I must assocated that place with him. He wrote to me on FB last nigt,

Then I was in Israle on top of a hill. There were some small shabby concrete breeze block buildingas with writing in Hebrew on the iutisde. I spoekt o a British Iysralei woman. She had a received princuatoona ccent. She was middle ged but not good looking. I aske I it fok an hour tod rive her from the city beow and she said no three hourds because thr oad wound around. It was fairly sunny. Therew cdars trees around. I cannot remember more to the drea,. There was some dicssion of tue fonclit.

Initial impressions of Far Cathay.


Here I am in a city in Zheijang province. It is a small town of  9 000 000 souls. I am living with the Yankee and the Korean.

I jetted off from Heathrow. It was curious to reflect that it was but nine and twenty days since I had been stiridng through that airport with foru teenagers and an Wleshoman bound for Switzerland. Now I was bund for the centre of the wordl – a country unto which I ahd never been. I was puckish and I saw time was running our. Despite having been throyghw ehre secueity was less crowded and dodging itno the rproty quwue I ahd not much time. I managed ti get yauna out on my card and wolf downa  sarnie. I made it to my plabe

n ecoenmy I sat beside a Chiman who spoke Dnaish as well as Mandairn. He had only a handful of Engosihw ords. To my right was a British woman who had short hari a a hueg sleeve – that s to say a tattoo on her roght arm. I took her for some sort of radica. I fot no impression that she wished to enage me in covnerastion ad I am a cur wh wags his tial,

I listednt o pemty fo thing son that Britusb Irways flight-v interviews with Pua theorusoux, Ruper everteet and others.

I slept only towards the ned. The air hosteses are seldom nubile these days more is the oty. Let us bring back age discirmtaitonf ort hem. They sll themselves byt thei sxualtiy whent ehyc an! FarEatern airlines dscirmaionbt eon looks and do better for it. It dsi a no brainer!

‘aNYWAY We circled in over Hnsgahi. It was odd to gaze iupon this storied land that I had heard about sinc emy earliest childhood. My first knowledge of Chian was when I was about 4 years of age. SOmhow I picked up that one was not permitted to ahev more than one bairn in CHian.I r emeber telling my father that is one ahd a second child in China one sufferd some sort f punsihement I do not recall what I said; The I saids that if one had a third child in Chaina one had one;s lesg cho off. He feigned horro but too it ans an ifnaltue invention. It is odd that I had caught wind of thi splcy wvene then and it was not long after this laudable though brutal pilcy had commenced.

I saw tower b;coks and green fields. Then we lANDED. iT WAS THE SMOOTHETS LANaidfn I hAD EVER expirenced. I did not even teralised we had tuched own for a while. Itvwa s misty morning not ljgn  afer sunup. I considerd nicking abnalet but thoygh ti rash. The penatlies for theft in sucy a coubtry tend to be ont e stiff sisde. One would not eb doing a Oh D in Huan Rugths in a laogaig!

The temrianl budng was fialr ymodern but ot as plush as Hong Kong. Itw as certianyl roomy. Thent o grapple witht he landing card. Was I  on ab suness or sivisots’ vida/ I know not. I gueses visitos. I rerpayed the borde rpolcie official did not question e. I noticed the othees wer akse dnothing; I approached the desk. I fieght boderom andindffence. I was genuinely doewsy which helped. Thankdul she asked me nothing, She stamped my passport and off I went

Soon I had my bags ans having emptied my baldlder was ehadinf ror th exit. Once out I immeeidtale asa w asmall CHiman with a sign bearing my name. This diminutive hap was about my age a d smiling rbaodly. I greetd himw itb y spot of Chines ean dhe spoke little English

The balc car was smakrt and spacxiosu. He had isnsited in tkain my bag.

Oddly I STAYED Aawk most of the way just looking out thw dinwo. I read biot fot eh eats, wets and sex. the tome I had peruse dons ome fot eh moeunay across Eurasia.

There wa so music smist outside I pculd it belie it. I mwt is sicyt wa sbyt eb littoral but still I was bnowled over by it.

There was much traffic but we were always rolling. I was truck byt her dnmeoryt of thc ars and they wer ein godo nick. I know CHina was quit wel veloepd but this wa more visiably proepsu s than I ahd anticpated. I saw endless facelss and dulmtpwe blcoks. There land was quite green but falt.

After xomwrthing like three hours we apporahc eht eicyt. I saq won his tom tom the direction.w erw ere ona r aied tmototeya. There were innuerbaler blocsk fo flats. Notnwe rw hdeous but one wer wttrctive. In the cut Iw as surpised to apss la allic na fdarbsie. I withs to got the and see if I cannot cil uo a frnecha girl since I hear that cocidbnetla wgirls are much negealcte din sai. Aisn men see them as toebing tomspitied, androgynaous and idnepent. WHite bsoy com ehre for Asian ounai.

He drove in tot ehcex and I ws greetd by the yankee. In acry we had spoje ont he whpbe nuch ealeir. He was as upbreta and sangin as he ahd been the othl tphte tike I hd met him. Mu fiorts impression fo him as b[roved to be correct. He is ocnvial and A Urwert adhe is wordy and on myw ave letgj, He had  wicked sen of hmour and a uprirpaisa laugh like his dear pater.

Up to the elevtm flor; tcha efefr resyuwd to take  atiphe had been aratanged by  ahcianowman whim the tyankke new in nyc.

The flat was biggish and I ws greetd by a chubby roiabnrlt at the door. This ameica ccented bliek is the krioena. I WRONGL acalled him a kroena americna for a tike uti eh told e eh was morena but ahgd liwfec in the itied states. bitght eioccidetnal and the oriabne tspeak Chinese, and I di not which is urnsuprin since I haver ewnver been teot th emiddle mdingonm ebcofrer.e

I had two and a ahfl horus leep after a,iveycpnverrauton

I shall nto ecall every detiql inc rhongcial order

This is a large and eleht cty. The stanrd of lvijg is not far below eyerop. pricne sher are about q auerc fow ahyt they are int eh rbtish ise.s I et Cadvid a Chinese americna dn lan his canidan chaine se ife.

There is amot fo traffic but ti is a t leats rolling. therew wre quit a few englsihs igns u;

Three factors in language learning


There are three factors which determine success in language learning. They cannot be totally separated from each other. These are:

Innate ability




Exposure is the most important of this triptych. Take a person of very low intellectual ability and without any motivation to learn languages. If this person is brought up biliongual from infancy this person will be bilingual. Exposure is how much one hears and reads the language. The earlier someone starts the better. A person of superior intelligence will find it hard to learn a language no matter how great and effort she makes if she starts in later life. Lessons are a kind of exposure to a language. The more frequent the better. Lessons are an exposure factor but also a motivational factor.


Motivation is fairly important. How badly do you want to learn this language? The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office believes in complete immersion. To make diplomats learn a language is has them live with a family that speaks no English. The diplomat will be there for a few months. Learning the language becomes a survival skill. Motivation can be high in other situations because some is curious or just hard working. It could be because this language opens career opportunities. It could be due to romance. It could be because a pupil is inspired by an outstanding teacher who praises and rewards the pupils while making learning stimulating. One’s motivation could be owing to parental encouragement or even fear of punishment.