On the 18th of July, after 7 long years, I passed my English Literature and Creative Writing degree.
I’m the first Clarke in over four generations to have letters after their name.
And I did it through a global pandemic, the loss of a parent, and the serious illness of the other.
Cause for celebration, yes?
See, this course has been the bane of my life for the past 7 years. I have absolutely despised every single second of it, and I couldn’t be more pleased to see the back of it.
Why? Sit back, and I’ll tell you.
Every single year without fail, there was an issue with funding, and the issue was always that the university couldn’t be arsed confirming to Student Finance that I was registered on the course. I can’t tell you how frustrating it was calling/emailing the uni, who told me they couldn’t help and to get in touch with Student Finance, who then said they couldn’t help and to go get in touch with your university.
NON-EXISTENT GREEN CREDENTIALS
The cost of each term included textbooks. In an age of being more eco-conscious, why in God’s name would you force these huge volumes of paper upon people when the exact same contents are on the same web forum that you have to submit your assignments through?
If people want the option to have a physical volume so they can mark it up and scribble notes on it, fine, but don’t force them on people just so you can charge them a higher fee. The production of these books requires the cutting down of huge numbers of trees and the release of fumes into the air by the vans that deliver them.
Does that sound like an institution that’s eco-friendly, has sustainability in mind, and is in tune with the times?
I also had endless arguments with my tutors. In one instance, a story I had written had a brief point of view from a dinosaur. Dinosaurs, I was told, don’t have thoughts, and this strayed into the realms of children’s storytelling. Because the university didn’t recognise children’s stories as valid literature, I was docked 10% of my marks.
In one instance, the cut-off date for an assignment was only announced after the cut-off date had actually passed. When I challenged them about it, I was met with a ‘tough luck’ shrug.
I would often receive my assignments back around midnight, which makes me think that the people marking them are working on them as a side gig. If they’re up until midnight marking, am I really getting their full attention or best work?
If you think they’re quite niche things for me to complain about, that’s fine; I get that. But answer me this one: how would you feel about paying £3,500 per module and having to learn subjects like bathing costumes in Blackpool in the Victorian era and making the instruction manual to an electrical appliance into a conversational piece? I’m not joking.
I was told that I’d need to spend about 18 hours a week doing part-time study. Because I hated it so much, I devoted exactly 1 hour a week to it and maybe 4-5 hours on an assignment.
I got a high pass every time.
That’s not a brag either; I don’t consider myself to be incredibly bright, but I just didn’t have to try very hard. I honestly don’t think the university particularly cares who is doing the course or if it’s challenging; they just want the cash to keep rolling in.
THEY JUST DON’T GIVE A SHIT
My biggest gripe is reserved for their sheer ineptitude and utter lack of humanity.
I was so pissed off with the course that midway through, I asked what the absolute minimum mark was that I had to achieve in order to pass.
Did I get an answer?
Did I balls.
And after 7 years of asking about the scoring system and not getting any straight answers, I finally learned (through my own research, not the university’s) that my university has a different scoring system than every other university in the country. What that means in real terms is that with the score that I achieved, I got a 2:1 pass, but had I studied at any other uni in the country, I’d have gotten a First.
It makes me wonder whether they couldn’t give me a straight answer or if they just didn’t want to tell me the truth. How is that, in any way, shape, or form, fair? They sure as hell don’t advertise that little morsel of information when you’re handing over your money.
And then, in one final flourish of utter dumbfuckery, the website crashed on the evening before the results were due to be announced. I got lucky because I got up at the crack of dawn and was able to access them, but it took 35 minutes and three different devices to do so, and it promptly crashed again. Some people didn’t get their results until late in the afternoon. That’s beyond unacceptable. The Vice President of the university emailed everyone the day after with the most insincere apology I have ever read. Disgusting.
I’ve racked up about £18,000 in student debt doing this course, and I haven’t learned a damned thing. It’s often made me angry, tired, depressed, and stressed. It’s taken away precious time I could’ve spent with my family and energy that I could’ve poured into something that I really enjoy. I’ve genuinely learned more by logging onto LinkedIn every day, posting, and interacting with people.
CONSIDERING UNIVERSITY LIFE? READ THIS FIRST
My advice to anyone reading this considering uni life? unless your future career absolutely depends on having a degree, get out into the world and experience it instead, because you’ll learn so much more. Do not give these people a penny of your money; travel, invest, start a business, put the money towards a mortgage, go and get drunk, do anything but waste your time and cash on a system that’s so antiquated that its processes were written before mobile phones, video networking, remote working, and social media were even a thing.
On results day, I wanted that experience you see on the news of kids collecting their GCSE results, all smiles, so excited for what their future might bring, and their friends and peers being so proud of them. Instead, it was utter chaos. It felt more like a divorce – a sad, lonely, expensive experience that you don’t care to talk about very often.
The ultimate anticlimax.
I’m not saying that will be everybody’s experience, but I also think that I was not alone in feeling that way.
So, I had a few drinks on the 18th of July. I toasted my achievement, but mostly I was raising a glass to say good riddance to bad rubbish.
If you want to see what I’m up to these days, head on over to my LinkedIn profile and comment, say hello, and let me know about your own experiences.
But for now, it gives me great pleasure to say fuck you, university life.
Ste Clarke, BA (Hons) over and out 🎤⬇