Boris Johnson commented recently “There are hundreds of thousands of dur-brained kids sitting for three years in an alcoholic or cannabis-fuelled stupor while theoretically attending a former technical college that is so pretentious as to call itself a university. After three years of taxpayer-funded debauch, these young people will graduate; it is a con, a scam, and a disgrace.” I study at Southampton Solent University, established in 2005, taking a BA Hons degree in Football Studies. Oh dear! Boris is talking about me.
I was a mature student, well into my 30`s when I decided to go to university. At 17, I was flung out of the education system and onto the streets of Bournemouth. At that time it was only just beginning to dawn on me that I could pursue a university education but instead I became an estate agent. I then progressed into property development and ended up 20 years later with a bit of money, a few houses and a beer belly but also disillusioned and bored. Enough was enough! I wanted to get involved in the football industry.
I applied for the Football Studies degree at Southampton Solent and two years later have my own views and experiences to add to Boris’s. Every now and then something goes awry on the course; a bit of catastrophic organisation or perhaps a lecturer forgetting to turn up for a seminar. But incidents like that can and do happen in every university so why is there an “ageist” backlash towards new universities?
Fifty students enrolled on the course and whether some were in an alcohol or drug fuelled stupor would have made little difference to them acquiring a degree or not. The vast majority were not “dur-brained”, but some were simply not up to the academic side of the course. Before anyone starts sniggering, there is an academic side; the papers are rigorously marked and if they are not up to the required standard, you fail. Just like a degree in history or law. There are just 22 of us left going into the 3rd year. With a 56% drop out rate, we like to think that our course has made a strong contribution to the rather feeble 17% drop out rate reported by The Times for Solent courses recently.
Boris points out, “It is patronising, in that you really can’t tell, just by reading a course title, whether it is any good or not, and whether it will be of any intellectual or financial benefit to the student”. He’s right! The course for me has been fantastic. I have studied units in a range of subjects. The Football Development unit has nudged me towards football community work. I have been working two days a week at Bath City Football Club and have just attended a fascinating two day course about engaging with hard-to-reach kids, offenders and former addicts using football as the “hook”.
I am amazed how far I have come and the knowledge I have acquired from my “vocational” degree in just two years. The washed out thirty-something has gone and I have a new lease of life and the potential of a new career that has already begun.
What’s Mickey Mouse about that?