11 thoughts on “Back in my day”

  1. I am feel­ing guilty tonight, because I was at a din­ner party and dared breath the words: “My friend Dr Ian Hocking said…”

    Anyway. University. I think it’s very telling that 17 of the world’s 20 best uni­ver­sit­ies are in America, the home of the stu­dent loan and the com­mer­cial edu­ca­tion sys­tem…

    Having just applied for a job at the uni­ver­sity of Winchester — a job for which I was MONUMENTALLY qual­i­fied for (spelling wasn’t one of the require­ments) and not even get­ting an inter­view sug­ges­ted to me that the unis in the UK are dino­saurs and need a good boot up the arse.

    The fact that plumb­ers earn more than 70% of gradu­ates sug­gests that maybe you should only go to uni­ver­sity if that’s what your career path sug­gests you should do.

    There’s no shame in not going to uni­ver­sity — and a lot in study­ing for four years and then piss­ing about in cater­ing jobs for three years like I did, until I got my gig at AUP in Paris.

    Maybe I’m play­ing devil’s advoc­ate, but I think the finacial bur­den of study­ing is actu­ally a good thing, weed­ing out those who are ser­i­ous about get­ting a uni­ver­sity level edu­ca­tion.

    The government’s plan to get 50% of people going to uni­ver­sity will mean a degree will mean NOTHING. There’s noth­ing worse than mil­lions of people who have doc­u­ments say­ing their qual­i­fied, but clearly aren’t.

    Instead of get­ting more people into Uni, we should be mak­ing each uni­ver­sity place more valu­able and let­ting the real hard aca­dem­ic work­ers, whatever class or back­ground they come from, go to Uni and let the rest of the drips and the flops do what they do best.

  2. Not to worry, Roland. I often exclaim ‘Adventure Eddy would nev­er stand for this!’ — at ran­dom.

    You’re right that lots of people piss away their time at uni. I’m just sorry that we’re mov­ing over to a sys­tem whereby uni­ver­sity ‘value’ is out­come depend­ent, which seems to lose the essen­tial ‘learn­ing for learn­ings’ sake’ that used to char­ac­ter­ise (to a great­er extent, any­way) UK uni­ver­sit­ies. Of course, it’s only been since 1918 or so (I heard) that we’ve had the cent­ral fund­ing of uni­ver­sity edu­ca­tion. Before that it was much more commercial…and not in a good way, I’d argue.

  3. It does seem as if the end of the bin­ary (poly­tech­nics vs uni­ver­sit­ies) divide has been noth­ing more than a rebrand­ing exer­cise. In the major­ity of qual­it­at­ive meas­ures (and not just the atten­tion-grabbing league tables in the broad­sheets) the new­er uni­ver­sit­ies are dis­pro­por­tion­ately rep­res­en­ted in the bot­tom levels. Even those ana­lyses that high­light the good points of the new­er insti­tu­tions (employ­er-friendly courses) demon­strates the fact that a divide still exists.

    I’m not sure that the 50% tar­get will entirely devalue degrees, as Ronald sug­gests, but it does mean that employ­ers can be more picky about the type of gradu­ate they pick. Which leads to the ludicrous scen­ario of people enrolling on MBA courses imme­di­ately after gradu­at­ing (as I’ve seen in Asia) without hav­ing any real busi­ness exper­i­ence that they can relate to the the­ory.

    And I’m so glad Floella is head­ing up my alma mater. Does she get Big Ted to present cer­ti­fic­ates?

  4. I didn’t real­ise you were an alum­nus of Exeter, Tim! Me too.

    The point of the 50% uni­ver­sity edu­ca­tion isn’t lost on me to the extent that we should open access to HE. The prob­lem is that we have a real issue with the states schools here, as you know. Students just aren’t arriv­ing at uni with the skills they once had. Without tak­ing any­thing away from the stu­dents them­selves — who were clearly intel­li­gent and enthu­si­ast­ic — I had to refo­cus most of my first-year tutori­als towards basic lit­er­acy and numer­acy, nev­er mind get­ting into the details of psy­cho­lo­gic­al research. As a state school bod myself, I’ve no wish to cham­pi­on pub­lic schools, but I think we need to look a little fur­ther upstream to real­ise that 50% par­ti­cip­a­tion isn’t going to do any­one any favours when even the bright­est stu­dents aren’t ready for uni at 18.

  5. Another reas­on that the expan­sion of HE since the early 1990s has become unwork­able, not because of high­er num­bers of people from poorer back­grounds get­ting in, but because the dim­mer bas­tions of the middle and upper classes (who would have gone straight into busi­ness or the forces a gen­er­a­tion ago) now feel the need to go to uni­ver­sity, to main­tain their (privil)edge over the lower orders.

    And yes, proud if slightly frazzled Exonian, vet­er­an of rather too many sit-ins, Dada cab­arets and after­noon ses­sions in the Ram. Do they still do those excel­lent cheese pas­ties?

  6. I’ve avoided the Ram for a good few years now. I think my last meal was about five years ago. It didn’t look like a cheese pasty, but could have been… But there’s still the odd play in the M&D Room and plenty of scarves are worn by the stu­dents around town…

  7. The M&D Room! I once fought a rear­guard action at a Guild meet­ing, against a Conservative Party motion to rename that place the Norman Tebbit Studio. And later it saw the world premi­er of my Edinburgh tri­umph (“unbe­liev­ably atro­cious…”, The Scotsman) McB.

    Happy days.

    Well, not really.

  8. The Norman Tebbit Room? Jesus wept. Just ima­gine the compere at the end of an evening’s enter­tain­ment: “Thanks for com­ing, folks. Now on your bikes…”

  9. Sorry to gate­crash the Exeter Reunion, but..

    When I was trav­el­ling a few years ago I real­ised (espe­cially when I met Americans) how lucky I was to have gone through the UK edu­ca­tion sys­tem.

    When I was a wait­ress in the US I worked with people who were incred­ibly bright but couldn’t afford uni. And I dis­covered that any­one can go to uni­ver­sity there so long as they can pay their way.

    I’m glad I’m not a stu­dent now here in the UK. I’d be fucked.

  10. Hi Spinsterella…

    My wife is an American and she has $30,000 of bills to pay after attend­ing col­lege. A law degree in New York sets you back at least $100,000…

    That being said, the qual­ity of high­er edu­ca­tion in the states has the capa­city to be incon­ciev­ably bet­ter than that of almost any­where else in the world.

    I men­tioned above, 17 of the 20 best uni­ver­sit­ies IN THE WORLD are in the US and it takes more than a smile and a wodge of cash to be admit­ted to any of them.

    However, it’s also cre­ated some of the WORST high­er edu­ca­tion stand­ards, from com­mer­cial col­leges that can’t com­pete with the big boys in terms of aca­dem­ic excel­lence, so enroll stu­dents based on their sketchy ‘cur­riculem.’

    I.e. Evangelical schools that teach the cre­ation the­ory, lib­er­al arts col­leges that offer degrees in Madonna.

    So there’s bad stuff there — and you still pay tens of thou­sands of dol­lars for it — but undeni­ably the most impress­ive degree you can have on your CV is cur­rently to be found in the United States.

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