Is it just me, or is everyone you meet at uni from Surrey?

How can one county produce so many people


I was 18 years old when I first made a friend from Surrey, in a seminar at Leeds Uni. A few days later I met my friend’s housemate, also from Surrey. I asked if they knew the first person. They didn’t.

And they just kept coming. My flatmate’s coursemate? Surrey. My new colleague? Surrey. My friend from home’s girlfriend? Surrey. Countless boys and girls in smoking areas across the city answering “Surrey,” “Surrey,” “Surrey,” like a gurgling brook of Home Counties coincidences steadily growing into a gushing torrent of Guildfordians.

These people are from Surrey

And I’m not alone. Ask anyone you know, and they’ll have come across a buffet of people from Surrey, even if they’re at the most far-flung uni in the UK. It’s the go-to home county of the university student, as if UCAS made an admin error some years ago and suddenly started cannoning acceptance letters into sleepy Surrey settlements like that scene in the first Harry Potter film.

Tell me I’m talking bullshit, but it’s something that’s been confined to late-night pondering and hushed conversations for too long now. I’m from Hertfordshire, and in my time at university I probably met two, maybe three others like me. People from Oxfordshire, I know a few. Kent I could count on one hand. East Sussex? One, and West Sussex likewise.

But Surrey is a completely different kettle of fish – a tiny little kettle, filled with a million fucking fish. Woking, Farnham, Godalming, Cobham; Dorking, Chiddingfold, Walton-on-Thames and even leafy Reigate – whichever Hobbit-sounding hamlet they skipped out of it, you can be pretty sure which Shire it was in.

The county has a population of about one million, many of whom we can safely assume from the stereotype are old (or at least outside of the small window of being university age). Of the remaining, say, 80,000, there’s probably only about a third or a quarter currently at university.

In contrast, UCAS stats say 532,300 start uni every single year. Assuming there’s around four years worth of people at uni in the UK at any given time, that makes two million university students in the UK to (we assume) only about 15,000 people from Surrey. So how, just how, are they absolutely everywhere?

These people are also from Surrey

Maybe it’s just coincidence. Maybe it’s something more sinister than that, like the plot of The World’s End or Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Or maybe it’s just that Surrey, in all its Home Counties glory, sums up what we expect from uni students in 2016.

It’s the old stereotype: the Jack Wills-wearing Surrey boy and the hockey-playing Surrey girl, who travel to far-flung places like Durham and Manchester and Exeter and Bristol to meet new people who are probably all from Surrey too. Because that’s the thing – you can take the kid out of Surrey, but you can’t avoid Surrey kids, no matter how hard you try.