Oxford University with overlay of text and photo

Oxford University advises students to ‘make sure your friends are in your debt’ in bizarre post

Coming from a uni which has produced over 153 millionaires

The University of Oxford has advised students to “make sure your friends are in your debt” in a post on Instagram and it’s the most Oxford thing I’ve ever seen.

The post, which is an advice reel on maintaining a friendship, was posted on the university’s Instagram account on International Friendship Day and was written by Oxford Psychology Professor Robin Dunbar. The caption reads: “From spending time with your friend to laughing lots with them, Prof Robin Dunbar reveals his tips for maintaining a friendship.”

This comes from a university which is not only the most expensive university in the UK to attend, but also one that produces the most millionaires of all UK Universities.

The full piece of advice reads: “Be generous with your time, love and money – always make sure your friends are in your debt.”

From a university with a yearly endowment of over seven million, this guidance seems totally tone deaf. There is a difference between appreciating and feeling indebted to your friends because you love them and making sure people are in your debt. To me, this seems like a perfect way to lose friends, not maintain them and to be honest, it reeks of privilege.

One Oxford alumnus described the advice as “one of the most cynical things I’ve ever read” with another comment under the Instagram post reading: “The debt bit is a bit suspicious”.

By encouraging students to keep their friends in debt to them, the university seems to be spreading the sense of superiority that Oxford students are so often rinsed for. It’s ok to ask your friends for help if you need it, it’s not a competition and by having your friends owe you all the time you’re not being a better mate.

In the middle of a cost of living crisis where a quarter of students felt they had to skip meals to save money, encouraging students to make sure their friends are always indebted to them just feels downright odd.

Some of the other guidance in the post seems completely normal and basic. It includes things such as “Work on keeping your values aligned”, “See your friend as often as you can”, and “Being with your friend is more important than giving gifts.” But things take an odd turn when it advises students to “always make sure your friends are in your debt.”

One of the other bits of advice Professor Dunbar includes is “Laugh a lot. Happy people make the best friends”. But it might be hard to laugh a lot when all my friends owe me.

Featured image before edits via Ben Seymour on Unsplash

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