UEA is wonderful, so stop pretending it doesn’t exist

We both know you know where Norwich is

When I was studying for my A-Levels and had chosen UEA as my firm choice, swarms of people asked me why I wasn’t applying for a Russell Group uni. “You’ll get in though,” they said: “Don’t worry.”

It got boring having to explain that I wanted to go to UEA not because I didn’t think I could secure a place at a “better” uni, but because I really liked it.

I thought though that when I came to uni I’d stop having to explain my university choice to everyone, but UEA seems to be an enigma that outsiders can’t really understand. I still have to run through the conversation  every time I meet someone new:

“I go to UEA.”


“Oh sorry, the University of East Anglia.”



“Oh. So what’s The UAE like?”

We’re not the United Arab Emirates. We’re not “The UEA”. We’re just UEA. Okay?


This is us

We get it, we’re the new kids on the block. We’ve got nothing on the 184 years of Durham, nor the architecture of every Oxford student’s Instagram. But what we do have is all the fun of a polytechnic without the slander of actually being one. That’s what makes us like Hovis Best of Both – so start treating us like the craved BLT we know we are rather than the soggy egg and cress at the back.

You think you’re better than us because you go to a Russell Group uni, but there are so many unis in your “little” group that it’s more like a fan club for wannabe scene kids. It’s cooler to sit outside the gang, like how musicians now think it’s edgy to be vegan. We don’t want to be part of your cliquey group where you’re all the same. We’re different and don’t need an outdated, coveted title to boost our egos. We have an acronym for our name – we’re cool enough already.

What makes us even better is that nobody ever presumes we’re not all there by going to a poly. Don’t say you go to Oxford if you really go to Oxford Brookes or that you study at Manchester if you’re actually at Man Met. We don’t have to clarify which Leeds we go to, nor do we have an obviously less academic uni like Anglia Ruskin compared with Cambridge.

We’re the lone wolves. There’s no other uni like us, so stop denying our existence and give us the credit we deserve. We promise you we have way more fun than at any Russell Group uni – we even have a nightclub with aeroplane seats. We don’t need a label to make us seem better and attract more students, we just need a sunny day in the square for you to see why we’re so brilliant.

Sure, nobody likes a new kid  because they’re weird and generally have some strange look about them. Scratch beneath the surface though, or in our case, the concrete jungle, and you’ll find out how cool we really are.

Yeah, you probably think the concept of Pimp My Barrow is fucking weird. There’s nothing normal about decorating a wheelbarrow and dressing up before going on a pub crawl around Norwich. But we’re the outcasts, the Cadbury Mis-shapes to your middle-of-the-road Dairy Milk. We don’t want your fancy formal balls – we want to get pissed together dressed as nuns and Little Bo Peeps. And we know deep down that’s what you want as well.


People don’t think we’re pretentious because we’re at Durham. People don’t think we’re thick because we’re at Sheffield Hallam. People don’t think we live in Scotland because we’re at Newcastle. Sure, people don’t really know what to think of us, but at least that means we can pave the way for our own label. We’re only 52,  the youngsters amongst your well-established and reputable names. Your reputations have already been decided for you by people before you, but we’re building ours every day.

We understand, we really do. Location-wise, Norwich isn’t in your bubble of mainland. We jut out and we’re tricky to get to. But don’t cut us off because we don’t live right by you; don’t forget we exist because we’re not part of your Manchester and Leeds frenemy zone. In the 11th century we were the largest city after London, so let’s not forgive who the original big dogs were. And we’re on our way to reclaim that respect. Don’t think you can ignore us forever as a university because we’re on our way to get you.

You won’t see us coming. We’re sneaky like that in Norwich. You’ll be so sure that we’re still the nobodies that one day you’ll look around and realise we’ve overtaken you. I mean, some would say we’re already in the midst of this new dawn. Why not come back to us when you’ve been featured in the latest Avengers film, or when Stephen Fry thinks you’re cool, or when the fittest Radio 1 DJ is your graduate and not ours.

UEA is wonderful. So stop pretending it isn’t.