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Whiteknights campus in the 1970s.

ALUMNI FEATURE: Memories of Reading University in the late 1970s and early 1980s

Words by anonymous contributor. 


I went to Reading University in October 1977 to study Modern Languages and obtained a BA in French in 1981. 


Britain was in a very gloomy economic state with a lot of strikes and unemployment in the mid- to late-1970s. There wasn’t the optimism about the future which students would have felt in the mid-1960s. Reflecting the despair and anger some young people felt, punk, a music which I personally didn’t like, was in the charts. I remember hearing punk on the Students’ Union’s jukebox. 


Little did we students know when we started at Reading in 1977 that, by the mid-1980s, the country would shake off its recession and enter an economic growth period. When I was at university, I had no certainty I could get a job after graduation, and the jobs market for Arts graduates was very difficult in the early 1980s. 


Perhaps it was because students were concerned about their future, that most of us worked hard to get a good degree, and the student protests of the earlier 1970s ceased. There were a few Left-wing students but they were in the minority. I think the word ‘apathetic’ could be used to describe how the students I knew, felt about politics. 


I enjoyed my degree course. Originally, I was going to study French and Italian, but decided to focus on French. Having a knowledge of French and first-year undergraduate Italian and German really helped me get into journalism. 


Whiteknights campus in the 1970s.


I got my first job in journalism through the Reading Careers Centre, which had an advert for a trainee reporter for a business news service. The firm hired me to report on European business news. 


University of Reading bulletin


I liked the Reading University campus with its lake and green spaces, as I have always loved the countryside. I decided on Reading as it asked for the highest A Level grades compared to the four other universities I had applied to. 


Reading was a very different town to what it is today, with its high-tech businesses. At that point, it hadn’t experienced the urban regeneration which took place in the 1990s on wards with the establishment of the “Silicon Valley” along the M4. I haven’t been back to the Reading campus since 1993 and now live abroad. 


I only spent two terms in a hall of residence in my first year as I really preferred to stay in my own accommodation. So I moved into an apartment near the Oxford Road, but the downside was having to catch two buses to get to the campus or do a lot of walking. 


One very significant event in my life while at Reading was meeting a youth worker from a local Baptist Church who shared his faith in Jesus Christ with me. 


I had had a Church of England upbringing but wasn’t religious when I went to Reading. After a lot of conversation with the youth worker and much reflection, I returned to my Christian faith. I joined the Reading University Christian Union and a Baptist Church, which provided a great social framework for my time at Reading. My Christian faith has been an anchor for my life ever since. 

About Taz Usher

Print Editor of The Spark Newspaper.

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