Category Archives: university

This is England


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First published in Pluto Student Newspaper.



After a student was photographed urinating on a war memorial in Sheffield a few weeks ago, you could have expected us all take something from it and buck our ideas up. We aren’t animals, we’re academics.

But apparently the message didn’t get out to two UCLan students who went out on Halloween dressed as Madalaine McCann, and Adolf Hitler. Not respectively.

But who’d have expected any more as, the weekend after, on Remembrance weekend no less, we are met with the headline, as picked up by the Huffington Post in the United States “Miss England loses crown after bar brawl”.

Yes, the lovely Rachel Cristie, niece of Olympic athlete Linford, is the alleged instigator in a bust-up with Miss Manchester, Sara Beverly, over the Sky One Gladiator Tornado. The fairest maiden in all of England scrapping in a pub. Classy.

And not for the boys to be outdone, on Sunday it emerged that ‘Grandpa England’ (my words- I’m running with a theme here), the father of England Captain John Terry was filmed by News of the World journalists dealing cocaine. Ted Terry, who has been given a house, mortgage free, by his talented son resorts to crime to fund his jobless ‘luxury’ lifestyle. Great.

It is 2009. The ‘word’ on everyone’s lips, tweets and Facebook statuses is ‘Jedward’. Two largely talentless twins making fools of themselves on national television. These are our role models.

Yes my friends, apparently this is England.

In a world with few boundaries where everyone can see everything I often fall back on the idea: “what would my parents think?”

If that fails, maybe your parents are of a different school of thought, then ask, what would Facebook think? People who weren’t there when you came up with your hilarious idea, people who might be affected by what you are going to make a mockery of, what would your future employers think?

It might be sad, but it’s certainly true: we live in a digital world where potentially everyone can see everything. Huffington Post readers from across the Atlantic believe that someone who ‘we’ have ‘crowned’ Miss England decks people of a weekend. For all many Americans know, she could be married to Prince Charles.

Our own university is launching a P.R drive to raise its profile in a world where appearances are everything. Maybe we too should increasingly be thinking in the same way.

University is only a learning gap preparing us hopefully for bigger and better things. We will all have to sell ourselves in an ever-increasing crowd at the end of it. Who wants to end up Joe Bloggs 2:2 in English Literature, North Tower of the World Trade Centre- Halloween 2001, currently till trainer in a local convenience store?

Fortunately for Ms Christie, although she has given up her highly esteemed post after careful consideration, she now has her career as a potential Olympic heptathlete to concentrate on.

For some people there may not be repercussions, but for many people, there are. Think- what would your parents think?

Image commissioned exclusively for Pluto- By Imogen Wood.

Students as consumers- the great university debate

First published at http://www.pluto-online.com/?p=1768

The debate is rumbling on about where we go on funding for university.

The NUS has been protesting in London against removing the cap on top-up fees. But what is really at issue here?

In these hard economic times, we need, and need to be world-class graduates that can compete in the global markets and excel in our given fields.

China, India, Brazil and Russia, the growing economies, have seen their chance to shine here, and are understandably grasping it with both hands.

A lecturer comments on an article on the Independent Online that many UK students (I’d have preferred it if he’d made it clear that it wasn’t all) are wasting their degrees:

“Because they are constantly told that they are ‘customers’, students increasingly assume that getting a degree is simply about being spoon-fed, and taught to the test, in return for paying their 3,000.

“There is alarmingly little appreciation that learning/studying is an interactive, two-way process.

“The same mindset also means that a growing number of students are choosing whether or not to turn up for (compulsory) classes, on the grounds that ‘If I don’t attend lectures or seminars, it’s my money I’m wasting, so why should you care? Besides, you can’t afford to kick me off the course, because you need my fees!’”

He continued: “Many students today have an alarming inability or unwillingness to think independently or engage intellectually. They expect everything to be done for them (consumer ‘rights’, naturally), and many of them seem far more interested in spending their days and nights text-messaging or playing on their Facebook sites than reading books.”

Can you say it doesn’t sound a little familiar? We’re a pretty despondent group by all accounts. Many are scraping through, blowing their loans and not ending up in a career worth the money.

However they decide to solve the funding issue- they might consider removing the cap and allow better universities to charge more, a progressive tax or a sort of tax after education- are universities producing the high-quality graduates necessary for the future, to improve on a knowledge-based economy?

In January this year, the BBC wrote that intake to UK universities is at “an all-time high. It [the government] wants more than half of young people to go on to higher education.

However, they went on to say that: “The number of UK students at UK universities fell from 1.97 million in 2007 to 1.96 million last year.” The drop is more than likely a funding issue than a realization that university might be a waste of time. Plus, what are the other options?

Oxbridge and the Russell Group universities still out-perform, as always. And these graduates are apparently getting twice as much contact time for their money. But would allowing these institutions to charge more yet again price some out of education?

Universities are depending upon international students for their income, some charging almost seven times what the natives are asked for, is this really fair? And it seems part-time students are getting a raw deal. But is doing a degree on that basis more or less useful? It is obviously necessary for some learners but is six years too long to get something that might ultimately not bag you your ideal career?

Current undergrads have been perpetual guinea pigs of New Labour. Third years will have been half way through primary school when Tony and his cronies got their optimistic but misguided mitts on our futures. Coming to the end of its natural life, we might have been able to breathe a sigh of relief- the end of meddling and patching-up. But no, the mess could take years to clear up. Because what is the answer?

And what of the tutor’s comments? Is many student’s treatment of their degrees another example of ‘rights without responsibility’? Everyone has the right to go, but what responsibility comes with it?

University was at one time only for the privileged, why are we all not more grateful of the privilege we have been given?