Is undergraduate education working for the good of those who embark on it?

Written by Graeme Whiting

Over the last few years I have formed an impression of university education, which perhaps differs from what the majority of people in our country have. Most of what I refer to in this blog is gleaned from the numerous newspaper articles that I have read in the last few years, so this is not a first hand exposition.

When young people win a place at university, they are inclined to develop their mind-set to behave in a way that brings those establishments, the bastions where mostly middle-class children study, into disrepute! Is it the poor parenting of that societal group, or is it linked in some way to my paper written in 2009 entitled, ‘Britain, a country where children bring up their parents?’

Apparently, universities don’t care about the declining behaviour of some undergraduates in the streets of university towns and cities! Perhaps universities should analyse what is happening at the various university ‘games’ that are played out in public, like young children might play at a birthday party, and take steps to protect the reputation of their university, and their students? Perhaps they should demonstrate that they care about the effect such ignorant behaviour has on the local population! Do they have any power, or control, over the behaviour of those undeveloped ‘and clearly mis-educated children’ who think they can run riot in our cities and towns, and behave in a delinquent fashion without any consequences?

Have we forgotten the summer episodes in that beautiful and peaceful seaside Cornish village called Rock, which was the centre of much negative publicity in the past, where unacceptable behaviour was reported, of dozens of post ‘A’ level students from major public schools, who moved in to disturb the wonderful peace, and ‘celebrate’ with alcohol, drugs and sex, before receiving their results and preparing for the move to university halls, perhaps for some to continue this trend of behaviour, aided and abetted by many of their parents?

Is the leadership of these institutions of higher education, and indeed the schools from whence undergraduates came, that those young teenagers attended before becoming undergraduates, incapable, or unwilling, to keep their attendees in check? How can such young people be enriched with a conscience for the rest of society without moral leadership? Do these young ‘gentlepeople’ have any thought or concern for the inhabitants of those towns and cities where councils do not dare to challenge the unacceptable behaviour, often animal-like, drunken, outrageous behaviour, because of potential trade loss, or because they have become used to a lack of action by both universities, town councils and police? Can we continue to use a large proportion of the NHS budget on reckless, inappropriate behaviour that needs vast numbers of paramedics, ambulances, police and the fire brigades to deal with antisocial behaviour from some young people, who seem to have a mind-set that looks towards the weekends, so they can behave in such a way because they have no desire to do anything that does not revolve around drink and drugs? Well done Cambridge for cancelling this year’s May Ball, because there were apparently elements of racism in the chosen theme ‘around the world in eighty days’!

Do university dons and Chancellors look upon Rag Day, Fresher’s week and the May ball, with admiration for the few who outrageously participate, even though many of their charges know how not to behave? Do they applaud this behaviour? Many are well brought up young undergraduates drawn into the mayhem of unacceptable behaviour at such ‘silly’ events, because it is not cool to make a stand for uprightness, for fear of being dismissed as boring, being overpowered by the new trend in this country: for young people to control the streets at night, even though they are themselves out of control?

Isn’t Higher Education supposed to create freethinking young people who can take their place in university and society as upright, moral individuals who have been educated in their schools to contribute to society? What of those younger people heading for a university place who are watching inappropriate behaviour, and may therefore assume that is what they must do to fit in when they enter university, and who might use their schools as places where they can practice out-of-control behaviour, so they are prepared for Fresher’s Week?

We know that university education is far too expensive, is morally very shallow, but is it worth the time and effort that young people put into it? What lessons of good behaviour do they learn there? At university, young people who have not yet broken out and who may not have dropped into negative pursuits before they became undergraduates, will soon learn from those ‘city displays’ that it is a learning ground for such vices. Universities are just not able to manage their charges, who pay them high sums of money for a very over-estimated higher education. Can we win back Britain’s values for the scholars who will be world leaders when and if they mature?

At weekends, tens of thousands of young teenagers, usually not undergraduates I might add, rampage around our cities, drunk, aggressive and drugged on so-called legal highs! What is a legal high anyway? Is it a dangerous drug camouflaged by some grotty label that is attractive to those young people who can barely read the labels, let alone know how to behave!

A recent tour of Europe gave me an insight into the problems we are facing with young people from this country. Travelling across the English Channel on a passenger ferry at the wrong time of the year can be absolute hell, and I was not surprised when I read in the national press that a ferry captain had taken the step to throw such a large group of drunken and unruly university students off the ferry, who were heading off to Europe to cause mayhem in another nation’s city, for a stag do!