Rah Rah, Exetah?

Rowley Sword examines the changing face of Exeter’s ‘rah’ reputation.


As term begins again and the Jack Wills gilets are thrown back on, it’s time to pose the question: does Exeter still deserve its ‘rah’ reputation?

Exeter, or ‘the Durham of the South’, has swelled to the brim with well-educated, well brought-up public school pupils for years. Head up to Holland Hall and it takes seconds to find a Leavers ‘11’ hoody from Downe House or Cheltenham. But as Exeter’s scene adjusts (the growth of underground nights such as Cellar Door and Beats and Bass Society to say the least) could it be that Exeter is moving away from Holland Hall and closer to Lafrowda? Flat caps and ‘edgi’ clothing have sprouted up all around campus, although there is still plenty of Hollister and Ralph Lauren lying around.

With the ever-increasing cost of halls, it will be difficult for Exeter to rid itself of the ‘rah rah Exetah’ tagline. In fact, back in 2010 Exeter featured in the top ten most expensive universities, so it is no surprise that the people it attracts are those who can afford it: privately educated well-off public school boys and girls.

You only have to look at your mates and Exeter’s societies to realise that the rahs are here to stay.

For me, I look at a close friend simply known as ‘Posh’ (there is the answer) and I can easily see why the ‘rah’ reputation does exist. Heading up for a ‘classic prelash’ with a fine bottle of champagne, he’ll often be sporting a green Ralph Lauren jumper and finest brown Church’s loafers. After ‘lashing’, he and others head out to ‘banterous’ sports social where they consume more champers and aged port. For many this reinforces the Exeter stereotype. Who did we have come open the Forum? Only the Queen whom we students love!

The question is, though: does it really matter? Exeter has not got rid of its ‘rah’ reputation, outsiders probably still believe it is the place to find students involved in fine dining and discussions of politics around the table, but once you’re here it’s clear Exeter isn’t all that it seems. Exeter’s nightlife has adjusted hugely in the last year and shows that us ‘rahs’ don’t all have a silver spoon up there and nose turned up against the ‘riff-raff’.

We did not feature in the Telegraph’s latest top twenty universities with the richest students; even Manchester and Southampton were ahead of us. Yes, we may still have a reputation of being fairly ‘rah’, but it definitely should not drive people away from Exeter. I remember wondering hard if I was going to come here and be surrounded only by public school people (which did pretty much happen), but it quickly became clear it wouldn’t be a problem. We may be ‘rah’, but Exeter students are definitely amicable and easy-going. We don’t close ourselves off to everything and simply remain stuck in a ‘posh-boy’ bubble, and probably never will.