For once, York students can be glad to be Oxbridge rejects

by Rhiannon Williams

by Rhiannon Williams

For a great many students here, Oxbridge rejection is the first real disappointment in their lives, lighting the curmudgeonly way for the even greater woe of joblessness upon graduation. Sitting in the JB Morrell, but dreaming of being at the Bod, we offer ourselves the consolation that at least our lack of work offers us the chance to partake in societies, activities and ‘me-time’. In the back of our minds, though, is the dreadful thought of writing “2:1, University of York” on future CVs, and its inauspicious consequences.

Though recent national press would have us believe the contrary, Oxbridge life for serious students is something of a grind, involving workloads that prepare their graduates frighteningly well for the working world. A friend of mine at Oxford has devoted a Facebook album to capturing her despair in various parts of the Taylor Institute, which she frequents after her dissertation supervisor informed her that to do a proper job of it she must become pentalingual.

Comparing these achievements with my own, I feel a sense of shame. So I am always grateful for a news story which panders to the perception our nation has of Oxbridge: i.e. that it is a mere extension of the public school fantasy.

Enter Hertford College’s Penguin Club. An all-male drinking society numbering just 15, it makes up in reputation what it lacks in size. Earlier this academic year its members were rapped for covering each other in goose fat, alternately scoffing and throwing up raw squid – all in tandem with performing a naked streak.

Last week, the Penguins were suspended indefinitely after compiling a “list of fitties” with whom they planned to sow the wild oat at a (god forbid) “drunken party”.
Surely a bit of a harsh penalty for a bit of schoolboy idiocy? Any of Hertford College’s young belles stupid enough to take up the Penguins’ offer aren’t really demonstrating that they’re ‘Oxford material’.

Cambridge isn’t immune from these hi-jinks either. The Magdalene College equivalent subjects initiates to a fifteen-course feast with pig’s snout, wasabi and a pint of water containing a live goldfish. Should a prospective member be fortunate enough to regurgitate the beverage with the fish still breathing, they are awarded a pass on the following couple of dishes. Competitors at the University’s Beefsteak Club combine wolfing down ungainly nosh with pragmatic edge, covering the floor of their venue with tarpaulin for an easy clean, KFC-style.

This brand of macho bingeing is rendered particularly grotesque by the fact that those taking part are from extremely wealthy backgrounds. Undeniably, there’s something more unsettling about the sight of a rah ordering Moet than a North Face-wearing hooligan with a few bottles of cider. Worse still, these people probably have parents who will guarantee unbridled access to every grad job going.

In York there is a contingent of upper class super-consumers who, if given the opportunity, would probably engage in the same gratuitous practices as the Penguins. Thankfully, that contingent is small, and a positive thought we can tap into as we struggle to write out increasingly pointless applications borne out of desperation for a wage, any wage at all.

10 comments

  1. I find this article insulting and untrue. I don’t really see the point in the article other than the author trying to console himself about not getting into Oxford or Cambridge. In particular I found the sentence ‘In the back of our minds, though, is the dreadful thought of writing “2:1, University of York” on future CVs’ most offensive. This is something a lot of students would be more than proud of. I think that the author has completely ignored how good a university York is, and that many people chose York as their first choice and did really well in getting here.

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  2. I agree with Flo. I’ve never read such a load of piping hot crap. So you didn’t get into Oxbridge – are you going to spend your time at what is still one of the country’s best universities crying about it? Get over it, man!!!

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  3. I personally chose York as my first choice and didn’t even consider Oxbridge, but I don’t think we need to accuse the article of being offensive. At the end of the day York doesn’t give off quite the impression on a CV that Oxford does, and whether offended or not, it is only human to enjoy hearing of the idiotic nature of the goings on in institutes above our own. I am perfectly happy to be at York………but let’s not take ourselves too seriously.

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  4. It might be interesting to note that the members of the Wyverns in Magdalene College do not all come from, I quote ‘extremely wealthy backgrounds’ and this is probably the same for other drinking societies in Oxbridge.

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  5. Concern about a CV impression is only a concern for those aiming low – – for a job.

    Aim higher – – be a job creator.

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  6. “This brand of macho bingeing is rendered particularly grotesque by the fact that those taking part are from extremely wealthy backgrounds.”

    No, no it isn’t

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  7. A degree is not a status symbol – it’s a tool. You use it to further your career. Having a ‘2:1 from a top 10 Uni’ is as good as you need. The rest is down to you.

    On personal note, nearly two years after graduating, whilst being an intern at a small company I was head hunted by a FTSE 100 as a direct entrant. I met a lot of people on their grad scheme, 90% of them more interested in their status in the firm than their ability (e.g. more interested in comparing how flash their company issued mobile phone was, rather than the skills they were learning). A few years down the line it turns out they’ve all hit their career ceiling – those of us who worked hard at being good at our jobs in the first place (and all the sacrifice that entails) are finding the world full of opportunity. It’s probably worth noting I was not a studious student.

    Attaching some status symbol to the library you got to day dream in does not bode well for the path you’re about to choose once you hit the world of work.

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  8. 7 Apr ’10 at 3:57 pm

    current_student

    “those of us who worked hard at being good at our jobs in the first place (and all the sacrifice that entails) are finding the world full of opportunity. ”

    congratulations on your success, but didn’t this all happen while this country still had a functional economy? as far as i can tell, it is hardly full of opportunity at the moment.

    some extra status wouldn’t really harm any of us trying to find our first real jobs.. but I disagree with liam, i think an upper-second class degree from york is quite an achievement (though this obviously depends on the subject). york may not be oxbridge, but we’re still talking about a top university.

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  9. Is current_student who I think it is? :P

    Also, Oxbridge students do not have a much better fate these days either as far as I can tell!
    A.

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