How to Survive University

Great advice. University should be a time to enjoy yourself, not to get stressed and and depressed.

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The Loss of Culture

I’m sure you remember the news a year or so ago about the closure of libraries? Well now it seems other public cultural spaces are also to suffer with museums and galleries under threat.

Almost a quarter have closed all or part of their sites, most alarmingly perhaps is the hit school services are taking. Many children only go to these places with school; is a new culture-deprived generation going to emerge? What effects will this have? Studies show the more culture a child experiences the better they achieve throughout their school career.

Elias and Scotson (2008) recognised how one group monopolises and uses sources of power to stigmatise others, later applying this to class. The education system shows that the dominant classes’ values are expressed, leaving working-class students at a disadvantage. Bernstein (1973) identified two forms of language, the elaborated code which is context-independent and universal and the restricted code which is context-bound and consists of less complex vocabulary. Whereas middle-class children are well equipped to deal with both, working-class pupils are disadvantaged as they are only accustomed to the restricted code. Therefore, middle-class children are more likely to succeed, leaving the working-classes to be viewed as less intelligent, hence, creating a cycle of inequality due to the social and cultural differences experienced by the classes. However, Bernstein has been criticised for his crude, stereotypical distinctions between the middle and working classes (Rosen, 1974).

Bourdieu argues cultural capital allows one class to hold an advantage in education, stating the dominant culture is misrecognised by the subordinate classes as legitimate; meaning excellence and academic achievement are defined in terms of the dominant cultural paradigm. Therefore, those who receive the appropriate cultural training are most likely to succeed (Jenkins, 2002). Also, Bourdieu and Passeron (1990) claimed the disposition of students to capitalise on their experience and thus succeed depends on the chances attached to the social classes. On the other hand, Halsey et al (1980) criticised Bourdieu since they saw state education as creating cultural capital in those who were from backgrounds which consisted of no formal education, thus suggesting education advocates social mobility rather than reproducing class inequality (Jenkins, 2002).

Already the extent of relevant cultural experiences affects grades since education has a very middle-class atmosphere; so, with the increased limitations on the ability of some to access cultural spaces such as museums and libraries will the gap between middle-class achievement and working-class achievement widen in the years to come?

The value of A levels & degrees and a general moan about the cost of education

When the coalition Government announced the rise in tuition fees there was public outrage, with student protests, riots and walkouts all over the country. This rise in fees was considered a betrayal of the Lib Dem party as they had previously stated they would never support such a move, and at one time even advocated free university places. Obviously power went to their heads.

As a student myself it can be said I’m biased over this issue but I would like to point out that the government encourages more and more people to stay on at school and has introduced a policy which prevents 16-year-olds from leaving education as they have to stay on until 17. There are several issues here but I shall stick with the tuition fees to stop this post from spiraling into a garbled moan about everything.

Making students remain in education for longer but raising university fees seems a bit contradictory to me as those who stay on after 16 to do A levels generally aim to attend university. Mixing them with students who would have left at 16 given the chance not only threatens class sizes and the danger of some students distracting others as they don’t really wish to be there, but you have to ask, what is waiting for them at the end of their A levels if they do not wish or cannot afford to go to university?

Of course, these 16 year olds could choose to go to college or start an apprenticeship, but not all will. A few of my friends completed their A levels and then decided university wasn’t for them, but there are no jobs available. Employers either look for 16-year-old school leavers or university graduates. One friend was told as she had A levels she was over qualified and shouldn’t she be at university? Needless to say, she didn’t get the job.

If this was a problem in my year (who, thankfully, just missed out on the tuition fees rise) then surely it will multiply next year as dozens of students with A levels struggle to find employment. One option is to move back a step, and maybe take up an apprenticeship, but if this was what they wanted to do they would have gone to college at 16. Are A levels really deemed useless except to universities? And now, even universities are questioning the validity and reliability of A levels, with many preferring to base their offers on their own entrance exams or interviews.

Anyway, despite trying not to, I have gone off topic. The rise in tuition fees meant that last year applications for university places rose as people fought to get a place before it became unaffordable, and this year, applications have dropped by 7.7%, with a 10% decrease in English applicants. The number of applicants still outweighs the number of places available but you have to ask where are these A level graduates going to go now? Many may view their A level accomplishments as moot and start again, have they wasted two years of their lives? Bare in mind that’s at least two more years they aren’t working or paying taxes.

University is further made unaffordable for many as the Government cut EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance) which saw poorer students through A levels or college and gave them a chance to go to university. I was never eligible for EMA but the difference just a little bit of monetary help made to some was staggering if you consider the expansion of their life choices and opportunities.

Maybe guides to money management would be a good idea as there are a few costs of university life you don’t think of as a first year. It may become a post in a couple of weeks 🙂

One good thing could come from this. Maybe the value of the degree will increase? And rather selfishly I think this will benefit me as I avoided the higher costs and may still benefit from the outcomes of less university applicants.

Facebook News Articles

The other day I was just scrolling down my facebook newsfeed when I noticed they’d added ‘trending’ articles. It’s as if the fact that the issues on twitter described as ‘trending’ are deemed important enough to be pointed out during TV shows, as presenters seem constantly aware and hooked into the online world, isn’t enough.

However, once I looked at one particular ‘trending’ article I fear for the nation’s intellect if what they are interested in is limited to the sexuality of penguins. Then, I found myself drawn to it and had to click on the link to see what the fuss was about. Why is it that silly stories of little real importance are more interesting and engaging than the real-life issues?

                   
Anyway, the article, from the guardian, amused, then disgusted, as it described a male penguin attempting to mount a dead female as recorded in the early 1900s by one of Scott’s Antarctic Expedition party. It then went on depicting similar behaviour of several others of the same species, as well as male/male activity and penguin paedophilia.

If this is the type of news students (including me) enjoy reading is there any hope for the future? How does real news stand a chance amongst such triviality?