Evelyn Waugh said the only degrees worth getting are firsts and thirds. He got a third, so maybe he would say that, but he had a point. I studied Politics at university, and there was a girl in one of my classes who did not know who the Chancellor of the Exchequer was at the time. She got a 2.1, which means that anyone who did not get a first may as well have failed, because their degrees are borderline worthless thanks to people like her. It’s already easy to get a third, so you don’t need my help with that. But if you want to get a degree which not only Evelyn Waugh but your parents and future employers would approve of, there are a few things you can do to make it easier for yourself. By dropping a few banana skins and bowling a couple of googlies you can set yourself apart from the people content to play by the rules and drool their way to a 2.1. Here are five tactics you should utilise in the search for your first.

Gay S&M-loving post-structuralists should be your role models

Get to know who the cool lecturers are, since there is always at least one, and take their modules. Read their work and cite it in your essays. Academics love this because their books are rarely in the top million on Amazon, so they’ll appreciate the attention. Take things further, as a few of my friends did, by becoming mates with said lecturers and getting your dealer to sell them weed which you can bond over. Being stoned can make talking about your essay much more fun, and also make you seem like a bohemian rebel intellectual like Michel Foucault (pictured above).


The first thing you’re told by lecturers is that plagiarism is punished heavily- and it is. Plagiarism, or doing a remix of someone else’s work, is also essential, so you’re going to have to be good at it to avoid getting caught. Most universities now use a computer program called Turnitin to check your essays, which automatically scans your work and compares it to pretty much everything ever written, so copy and pasting is out of the question.

This means you need to be creative with your references. If you’ve only read a book by a guy called Roberts, your references should technically say (Marsh, cited in Roberts 2009), (Marx, cited in Roberts 2009), (Hay, cited in Roberts 2009). It will then be obvious that you’ve only read one book and you’ll get bad marks. Instead, go to Roberts’s bibliography and steal his references. There’s nothing stopping you from quoting the same passages as Roberts, so it looks like you’ve read all of books he’s talking about because you’ll be citing Marsh, Marx and Hay directly even though you didn’t read them.


The purpose of an introduction is to summarise the book or article’s main lines of argument. This means you can usually get away with just reading the introduction to most books, although don’t let it slip that all your citations are from pages one and two. Simply change the page numbers in your references so it looks like you’re quoting from different parts of the book- this is undetectable on Turnitin and human markers never check page numbers.

Also, it pays massively to be original with your lines of argument- as long as you research it well enough, take an unusual approach that no-one else will have thought of- so arguing that Moby Dick is a metaphor for sex (he’s named after a penis) is a winner.


If you are allowed to write about the same thing more than once, you should definitely do it. I wrote three of my final year essays on Foucault and got great marks because I knew it better than people choosing different topics in each module.  You can also recycle your own references from your other essays (which you stole from someone else), so the amount of reading you have to do is even less. Just make sure you aren’t found guilty of self-plagiarism- which is reproducing sections of your own work. Narrowing your focus is only possible if you choose similar modules- so knowing loads about Israel and Palestine won’t be very useful in your British History module.


Unless you’re at Oxford or Cambridge, the chances are the majority of people on your course won’t be knocking on Mensa’s door. Thanks, New Labour, for trying to drag half of Britain’s mostly illiterate school leavers into universities. This means you can get a first by simply doing less badly than everyone else. Most kids at university fail before they’ve even started, because they don’t have a complexion which is set up to deal with success. They get all girly and nervous about exams and crack under the pressure, and they do irrational things like cry and complain when they inevitably get justifiably poor marks.

Make them crumble even more horribly by belittling them at every chance. Walk around with Immanuel Kant books hanging out of your pocket and lie about having all of your essays completed way before the deadline.  Drinking everyone under the table can be fun, but make sure you’ve always got a quote from Nietzsche to win the drunken argument. Not only will the other students be intimidated, so will the lecturers. Do all of this, boys and girls, and you will be winning the university game.