Be Patronised

The University’s latest attempt to get state school pupils to apply to Cambridge is patronising, ill-considered tripe.

be cambridge Cambridge Cambridge University education Jessica Middleton-Pugh private school snobbery state school Students

I recommend you take a trip to the University website to see their latest attempt to convince state school students to apply to Cambridge. I suggest you don’t do this whilst eating or drinking, for risk of spluttering with hilarity all over your laptop.


Education is not a preparation for life – education is life itself

The idea of ‘access’ is not the funny thing about this website. Rather, it is the ridiculously patronising, cheesy, over-animated and ill-considered videos that are included – the ones that are filled with students smirking through pointless and glib clichés. The worst part is that after announcing the statistic: ‘6 out of 10 students are from state schools…’, an overly earnest, posed and consciously multicultural group of students spout informative statements about Cambridge University, such as:

‘Education is not a preparation for life – education is life itself.’

‘Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.’

‘Study as if you were going to live forever… Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.’

If education really is life itself, I don’t know how we’re supposed to avoid sinking into the depths of depression after graduating. If intelligence is the ability to adapt to change, that makes a chameleon intelligent. And if I really was going to die tomorrow, I certainly wouldn’t be wasting my time doing a degree.

I know what you’re thinking: these students were paid to spout this rubbish. After all, you can get students to say anything for money. But I don’t think they were. You see, anyone getting paid to say this stuff couldn’t possibly keep a straight face, which leads me to the depressing conclusion that the students who took part in this video were being sincere.

Now, I don’t doubt that they believe in the importance of equal access for all educational backgrounds, but I wonder if any of them could honestly say that they would have taken this video seriously if they had seen it at the age of 17.

In fact, had I seen that video when I was still in school, I probably would have pissed myself laughing. For me, education was like taking the wind from my sails and being scuppered on coral. I wanted to escape from an environment where students were alternately patronised or insulted, and on the basis of this video I would have assumed that Cambridge was not that oasis of intellectual calm.

The Be Cambridge website suggests that the University believes state students students can only be spoken to at an underdeveloped level – one that is reminiscent of children’s television presenters, or lobotomy victims. These videos are aimed at children; not pupils who are supposed achieve the grades that Cambridge demands.

I’m all for creating a level playing field where a student can be recognised for achieving highly despite the limitations of his or her background, but Be Cambridge does not provide that playing field. I can’t imagine an Etonian being forced to sit through such tripe.