May 7, 2013 by Sian Rowland
My business partner and I often run training at Kingston University. They have a great range of modern, airy classrooms with lovely views, efficient IT equipment and a buzzy learning environment. We usually book the main Penrhyn Road campus but ran a recent training day from the Kingston Hill campus. It was a trip down memory lane for me as this is where I did my undergraduate degree. I liked it there so much I returned to do my Masters degree but haven’t been back for at least ten years. Much has changed but some has stayed the same. We were in a brand new building standing where there used to be crumbling halls of residence but the canteen where I hung out on the rare occasions I wasn’t in the student bar was very familiar.
It was here in the canteen that I noticed the biggest change of all. Not the cleanliness, fresh paint and wide range of foods on offer- although that was new too- but the students themselves. The canteen was heaving but every single student was clean-cut, fresh-faced, neat and tidy. There were no punks, goths, hippies, grebos or mods. There were no charity shop jackets bristling with protest badges, no band t shirts and no pink or purple hair. Wrists with dainty chains and necks with fashionable necklaces replaced arms full of cheap bangles, frayed friendship bracelets and leather thongs. No one stomped around in DMs and there were no artfully ripped jeans or black tights with holes. None of the students looked like they’d spent all night partying and experimenting with unsavoury substances, cramming all night or working evening jobs to make ends meet.
In fact everyone looked like they’d stepped out of a Benetton advert.
I mentioned this observation to my colleagues and teachers. One suggested that this was to do with the nature of the courses at Kingston Hill- teaching, business and law amongst others. It was the same when I was there though. When I was on teaching practice I dragged the only skirt I possessed out of the back of the cupboard, ironed it and became a teacher. The rest of time I mooched around in charity shop finds and friends’ cast-offs like everyone else. Someone else suggested that it costs so much to be a student now that only the better off go to university. Perhaps, but none of us had much money, hence the make do and mend fashion and weekend jobs.
I think another colleague nailed it when he said that university is not so much a stepping stone on life’s journey but is now an integral part of a career path that starts at school with study and only the sorts of activities that look good on a CV followed by a gap yah delivering baby turtles or saving rainforests. I wonder if these perfect-looking students will succeed in securing their ideal careers in a competitive jobs market and be happy, well-rounded people or whether the freedom we had to be ourselves for a few years made for a more all-round education.
What are your experiences and what do you think?
There aren’t many photos of me as a student but here’s one I managed to find. I’m dressed up posh for this one. I’m wearing my flatmate’s t shirt and charity shop waistcoat. Smirk and dodgy fringe- model’s own.