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What They Don’t Tell You About University and Where Things Went Wrong

In The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf, one of the character’s state ‘I want to write a novel about silence’ […]. The things people don’t say’.

Whilst I am no Virginia Woolf and I have no desire to write a novel, I share the desire to write about the ‘silence’ and specifically ‘the things people don’t say’ about University (or not enough). University is hard. It’s not the doss that people often assume it to be; years of non stop partying, endless drinking and blagging your way to a respectable 2:1 degree with minimal effort. Thanks to the increased tuition fees, University has become synonymous with stress and pressure.

For £9000 a year people want to see results.

They want you to ‘prove’ that your experience and the cost of University is ‘worthwhile’ and equally you want to feel like you are ‘good enough’ to be attending University.But what ‘results’ really matter and what constitutes ‘worth’ in terms of our time at University? A first class Degree? An internship straight after graduating? 3000 friends on Facebook? A high paid salary? A sports Hoodie with your name on the back?

Our University experiences and their worth are not defined and cannot be reduced to merely monetary value, nor is our success and ability determined or restricted by a class division. Worth and success are subjective terms, and the thing that we need to question is not the value of ourselves and our experiences, but rather why we are allowing our success to be measured or scrutinised by a criteria implemented by others.

In my seminar last week my lecturer asked us ‘what is wrong with the education system?’ and ‘what would we do to change it?’ To that, I reply this: University, to me, has always been about the development of myself and my knowledge in a subject that I love. With that in mind, it is ironic that whilst Universities advocate the development of individuals and the ‘freedom’ of University life, students must progress and grow in a way that (with the help of a rubric) someone else can then decide whether or not is ‘good enough’.

To me, it’s a catch-22 and so I’ve decided not to play anymore.

I most likely won’t be getting a first class degree; I applied for no internships after I graduate in July; I don’t have 3000 friends on Facebook; and sadly, a sports Hoodie with my name on the back will forever be an item of clothing missing from my wardrobe; and most importantly: THIS IS OKAY.

My intention is not to undermine or detract the value of these things for anyone else, but to simply raise the question of why we value the things that we do and how we determine our worth and the worth of others.

There is a lot more to life than academic achievement.

About Ruth Williams

A student in my third year studying English Literature.

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