University is What You Make of It

Debunking the Oxbridge myth. It’s no better than Durham or any other top university.


Having recently read some articles, which centred on the topic of top universities, I couldn’t help but bring this quote to mind: ‘When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.’ A number of these articles presented arguments which pandered to the Oxbridge student stereotype; fundamentally asserting that Oxbridge students are superior and that no other university could be part of this relationship. The other articles primarily argued that those who attend Oxbridge are pretentious rich snobs who are out of touch with reality.

These views do not stop at Oxbridge- but extend to Durham, LSE, UCL and other top Russell Group universities. To these opinions my initial reaction is: ‘what a load of bollocks!’ To have such views, that these institutions are not places for ‘normal’ people, but are for pretentious intelligent robots, is not only wrong but detrimental.  It deters those from working towards being part of these universities -purely out of fear of not fitting in to these closed upper classed groups. If I were to conform to this view, most of the people I know should not fit in to these universities.

In the case of Durham, we are classified as the equally pretentious ‘wanna be Oxbridge’. Yes this is an annoying identifier, which is not helped by freshers introducing themselves as ‘Hi I’m an Oxbridge reject. ‘But it should be noted that Durham has not become a top university by riding on the Oxbridge tail-coats. Yes, some applied to Oxbridge but many of us haven’t; like any other university we have a mixture of applicants. We’ve established our own valuable reputation, similar to other merited universities.

This guides me on to an important point: with the media already creating incorrect stereotypes, we as students do not have to adhere to such stereotypes. There should not be an attitude of ‘ah, they are one of us’ when Russell Group students meet. And for those that attend non-Russell Group universities,   they should not consider Russell Group students as privileged ‘Toffs’ -whom they couldn’t possibly relate to.

Similarly, there are a number of mistaken presumptions concerning universities that are further down the league tables. Students from these universities are depicted as less hardworking than the so- called ‘elite universities’. Granted, Russell Group universities provide courses which are more intense and attract academically capable students. However this should not be used as a basis to argue, which one article absurdly does, that those outside this group do not spend all-nighters at the library and are fundamentally less hard-working.

I recently spoke to a successful lawyer ,who achieved her degree from Hertfordshire University, and she admitted that she felt intimidated during her degree because the students from these ‘elite universities’ were considered  the employers, whereas the ones that  were  further down the league table were considered the employees of the future.

Yes, gaining a degree from a prestigious institution should be met with a sense of achievement; however it should not be seen as a guarantee for a successful career. Of course a degree from a valued university provides you with recognition- but with this current job market, it is going to take more than recognition to secure a job. It is the application of knowledge rather than the wealth of knowledge that will shine to employers.