Things We Should Stop Giving A Good Time

ii) Russell Group Universities

I vividly remember a conversation I had with one of my college tutors during one of my lowest moments in upper sixth. She told me she was going to get me into a Russell Group university with all the power she had, because I was too good not to go to one.

Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciated the comments (although, in truth, they just made me more adamant that I wasn’t going to go). But why the obsession for clever people to go to Russell groups? There are so many more educational establishments out there! Not all clever people are academic and even those who are don’t always respond to their style of teaching.

I’m in a great position to comment on this one. My undergraduate degree was at a Russell Group, my postgraduate one was at what is classed as a polytechnic.

There are many reasons why I preferred Lincoln to Nottingham, most of which I address this month. But possibly the biggest, and most important, was the relationship between students and tutors.

My view of teachers is an odd one. I’ve never seen them as superior to me, or in any way above me. My favourite teachers are the ones who have treated me as equal to them, not as people who are there to educate me and nothing else. I had a maths teacher who made a few mistakes (another thing I can’t stand in teachers – those who can’t accept they make mistakes: everyone does) and I was that dick who pointed them out. He always followed his correction with a petty insult about Everton or my hair. That was the kind of teacher-student interaction I was always after.

I was, naively possibly, expecting university to be more like that. Banter, for lack of a better word, jokes and laughter – not just hard work. I certainly didn’t expect tutors to see us as anything other than equals who are after a helping hand to get them to a higher level. After all, where does hierarchy end? A student could become a teacher pretty quickly after being taught by their now colleagues, is that change expected to happen overnight or should it be a more gradual process? We all have different views, mine is personally the latter.

The other thing is, I’m fine with calling my teachers Mr this, Miss that in high school and college but once I reach 18 and am classed as an adult by everyone in society I should be able to call tutors by their first name. Titles are there for a reason, but if they address me as Gareth and not Mr Hardman then I should call them Jim and not Professor Moriarty.

I’m very modern, I know.

I’ve addressed this many times, so many people are probably bored by my repetition but I’ll say it one final time for effect, in Nottingham my tutors were all either Dr or Prof, in Lincoln they were all their first name. It made me immediately feel more at home, it immediately made sure I enjoyed it more.

It shows the major difference between Russell Groups and polys. At RG, they care about grades, at polys about people. I’ve not got a job from either of them, but the skills gleaned and the results achieved which I prioritise when mentioning my life to people all come from Lincoln.

In fact, I associate myself more with Lincoln now than with Nottingham. Nottingham is where I live, no longer where I went to university. Lincoln is my university town.

I appreciated the help I got from Xaverian to get into a good university, I just wish I had been offered the positives of going to what would be considered a less academic university.

There’s no doubt that RG universities play an important role in shaping the country’s future. But they aren’t for everyone, and that needs to be pointed out louder and clearer than it currently is.


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