Thursday, 2 June 2011

Standards of Higher Education, Grasping my 4-Hour-Old M.A.

Today I found out that I got a 2.1 in my English Literature degree from Edinburgh University. A respectable grade for a very respectable degree at a decreasingly respected institution.

My Bookshelf: Proof That I'm Extremely Well Read

I have just read (Oxford grad) Daniel Knowles' response to an article written by (Oxford grad) Owen Jones and wanted to response in (non-Oxford grad) kind. First, to directly address some of Jones' points.

So, 'normal' people don't want to mix with the wealthy and privileged? If this were reversed, the world would weep. I faced some extremely insulting displays of reverse-snobbism in my seminars, and it always crossed my mind: If I mocked your accent back, I'd be asked to leave this school quicker than you could say 'Rah'.

It also seems absurd to suggest that Oxbridge admissions are unable to tell the difference between the genuinely bright and those who had only "benefited from tens of thousands of pounds of resources thrown at them all their lives". Have they not been doing this a long time? It is not in their interests to admit only the truly worthy?

To suggest, even in passing, that Oxbridge ought to be brought down to a level on par with other institutions of higher education, fills me with despair on a day spent grappling with UK higher education. It exactly contradicts what I have thought for four long years, slogging away at this degree: If only ALL universities were more like Oxbridge. It shouldn't be this easy. The reason everyone in my class, excepting a handful of die-hards, walked away today with a 2.1 is that we are just not pushed. There's not enough of a threat of failure, not enough time spent in a classroom (although, those as neurotic as yours truly will not struggle to make up for the former). Call me Queen of the Nerds, but I wanted to work more, and harder. What was the point of all of that time and money otherwise?

Essays were so sporadic that any hope of improvement on style and technic could only be implemented too late. Students outside the Oxbridge nirvana are not taught good essay practice, strong argument construction, or even to construct an accurate bibliography. I came into my own during tutorials, always eager to debate ideas with my classmate, who were always either too hungover, or disinterested, to rebut.

I realise that in writing this I am painting a picture of myself as an overeager 'brown-noser' but my point is this, and this alone: ALL universities ought to strive to be MORE like Oxbridge. Their hallowed halls still echo with the voices of the best and the brightest in the world. The education system needs fixing, the recent survey on books in the home proves that complacency towards academic betterment begins much earlier than Jones' seems to think. The is much to be done. However, to blame the standards set by Oxbridge is just... madness! Anyone suggesting that these institutions ought to be diluted, to be made to suit the shamefully low standards of the Everystudent, has got to be making a play for satire. The standards of university ought to be raised to match Oxbridge, or else higher education in this country will be brought to its knees.

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