Another June, another article in the Daily Mail about drunken students in Cambridge. Toffs! Idiots! Posh wasters!
I’m not condoning binge drinking or loutish behaviour, but I do wonder why it’s always students in Oxford or Cambridge who seem to feature in these articles. I was in Macclesfield – hardly the site of a great university – last Christmas Eve, and walking down through the town centre at 11pm, found myself dodging round people very much the worse for drink, and struggling to avoid stepping in a trail of what was unmistakably blood on the pavement. Meanwhile, here in Oxford, most of the students will depart in the coming fortnight, and I’ve no doubt that, much like last year (and the one before that), I’ll fail to notice any appreciable difference in the number of drunkards and disorderlies I pass as I walk home across the city centre in the small hours of Saturday morning.
Studying at Oxford was the most demanding and exhausting thing I’ve ever done, and, I must admit, I sometimes found a drink or three helped me to cope. And yet. I never did anything which would qualify me to feature in an article like the one I’ve linked to. Neither did the vast majority of my friends and fellow students. Meanwhile, at less headline-worthy institutions (and in just about every town in the UK), it turns out that the same small minority of idiots binge drink just as badly as those at Oxbridge.
The vast majority of students at Oxford and Cambridge work extremely hard, play equally hard (but not to the detriment of others around them), and deserve better than this kind of lazy smear from the media.
I also can’t resist pointing out the article’s claim that the students present “were mostly educated at expensive public schools before arriving at Cambridge” is a typical piece of lazy, kneejerk “journalism”. According to a bit of elementary Googling, Cambridge admitted 59.3% of its intake from state schools and colleges in 2010. The article may be suggesting that the majority of those at the ball were from the other 40.7%, but speaking from experience, I’d be surprised if that were true. When I was at Oxford, ironically, the generous bursary schemes for those from lower-income backgrounds often meant the state-educated students had a bigger disposable income to spend on things like ball tickets than those whose parents were (at least on paper) better off.
In the interests of full disclosure … I’ll be attending the Magdalen College Oxford Ball this Friday – Oxford’s equivalent of the one in the Daily Mail article above. I’d be willing to bet a few pounds that one of the newspapers will do a similarly shocked expose of how people behave during and after it, and I’d be equally willing to bet that neither myself nor my friends will rate even half a column inch, along with the vast majority of the 1800 guests.