‘Unprecedented’ grade for aspiring environmental academic

‘Unprecedented’ grade for aspiring environmental academic 

A student achieved the seemingly impossible, not only achieving a first class degree, but earning an ‘unprecedented’ mark of 100% for his dissertation, winning him a top award at the University of Cumbria’s graduation ceremonies and the admiration of academics.

Taylor Butler-Eldridge, 26, from Norfolk studied BSc (Hons) Outdoor Adventure and Environment at the university’s Ambleside campus and won prize for the highest dissertation mark.

His exceptional dissertation took the unusual format of a card game that allows participants to experience and record their responses to randomly selected walks around Ambleside.

His tutor, Jamie McPhie, Senior Lecturer in Outdoor Studies was so stunned by Taylor’s efforts he believes he not only produced a professional quality game but invented an entirely new method of psychogeography – a niche field of experimental research that Taylor explored in his dissertation.

Jamie said: “The original markers wrestled back and forth with this unprecedented grade, often doubting their own professional judgements, looking for comparisons and external verifications, but there was no doubt that this was truly an exceptional piece of work of PhD standard”.

He continued: “I believe Taylor is one of those rare individuals who will achieve crowning heights without stepping on anyone.

“He will continue to climb a metaphorical mountain but will always put others in front of himself to keep them safe - and just as they reach the top of the mountain, he will stop and say, 'after you'!”

However, Taylor initially doubted his abilities and after his first year on the course was unsettled and anxious at the prospect of continuing.

Luckily a tutor spotted his potential and persuaded him to stay, and with each passing year, Taylor consistently improved, achieving the highest grades and with that his confidence grew.

Learning of his astounding mark, Taylor was initially astonished, believing it to be a mistake.

He said: “I still think there’s a typo. When I first looked at it, I thought there must be something wrong with my dissertation. Of course, it could still go further, but thinking about it now I’m genuinely quite pleased with how it turned out.”

Before coming to the university, Taylor experimented with digital design and engaged those learned skills in the production of his game. 

He continued: “My previous background is in digital design, so it was great to use some of that experience within my research in outdoor education.

“The game uses psychogeographic walking and recording techniques to capture a strong sense of place whilst unfolding any social, political or environmental concerns featured within that space.”

“I plan to take my dissertation further, hopefully in the form of a book chapter or maybe some journal articles. I’d like the game not just to be stuck in a box.”

“Next steps for me is an MRes at University of Exeter studying Critical Human Geographies, but I’m hoping there will be a space for me back in Cumbria to do a PhD.”

However, this amazing achievement is not Taylor’s first taste of success.

Earlier on in the year, Taylor was selected to give a micro-lecture at The Royal Geographical Society, about his time inspiring and educating schoolchildren on the impact of plastic pollution on marine life with Surfers Against Sewage.

He also won volunteer of the year at the university’s Salute Awards for staff and students. Taylor had organised a Windermere beach clean, again in conjunction with Surfers Against Sewage.

In September, Taylor is chairing a panel session at the Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography, where he will interview other academics alongside his old tutor, Jamie McPhie who now considers Taylor one of the top experts in psychogeography in the country.

The ceremony took place at Carlisle Cathedral at 12pm on Thursday 18 July.