Rivalries between universities are a time-honoured tradition. Oxford vs Cambridge, Edinburgh vs St. Andrews, Glasgow vs Edinburgh, Glasgow vs Strathclyde, Glasgow vs Caledonian – you get the picture. The rise of social media has only exacerbated these rivalries, with university meme pages churning out seemingly endless amounts of posts taking cheap shots at the opponent universities. I think most of us are guilty of sniggering at some of these posts – or even liking one or two of them – but what can this tell us about attitudes towards students of rival universities here at Glasgow?
A quick glance at one Facebook page that shall remain unnamed shows an overwhelming amount of jokes at the expense of students of Strathclyde, Caledonian and the University of the West of Scotland (UWS), specifically about the inferiority of their degrees and intelligence in general. This reflects the prevailing attitude on campus: that our university, and the students who attend it, are unquestionably superior to its Glasgow-based rivals. Although the league tables would appear to confirm that the quality of education received at Glasgow university is better than that of the other universities, this is not necessarily universal across all subject areas: Strathclyde is well-known for its excellent science and engineering courses, and many Glasgow graduates go on to undertake postgraduate teaching courses at UWS. For students wanting to do more unconventional degrees, such as 3D animation or computer game design, Glasgow simply isn’t an option; smaller universities such as Caledonian offer such courses at undergraduate level. So why, then, are so many Glasgow University students disdainful of these rival universities?
The answer may lie in that familiar old beast: classism. While Glasgow is not the worst offender in respect to the balance between private- and state-educated admissions in the U.K. or even Scotland (St. Andrew’s, anyone?), there is still around a gap of around 10% between the intake of state-educated students here and that of Strathclyde, Caledonian and UWS, whose admissions are all made up of over 90% state-educated students. The higher amount of privately educated students at Glasgow could account for the elitist attitude towards these universities – an attitude which just isn’t present in our rivalries with similarly elite universities such as Edinburgh. It is an unfortunate fact that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to go to high-ranking universities, sometimes because of lower attainment and sometimes because of a lack of confidence to even apply. I think a lot of us here at Glasgow need to be more aware of the fact that not everyone has grown up with the same privileges and opportunities we have had.
Furthermore, people’s need to put down students from less elite universities shows an embarrassing insecurity about their own intelligence. It’s almost as if they feel that because Glasgow isn’t among the very top universities in the U.K., they have to prove that it’s at least better than some of its rivals. Why are so many of us desperate to assert our university’s superiority over others? Isn’t it enough just to be studying at a good university? After all, a degree is a degree (and let’s be honest, a lot of us are going to end up unemployed anyway).
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of your university, nor is there anything wrong with a little bit of healthy competition between universities. But there’s no need for it to come at the expense of other students. It’s well past time for us to stop being so elitist and start being a little more respectful of one another.
Image Credit: Glasgow Uni Memes for Eduroam Hating Teens
(The depicted classism is not endorsed by qmunicate)