But it's Robbie who's had the greatest personality change. It turns out the wild one (best known for a predilection for throwing up on buses) is manically writing essays and harbouring a (previously well-hidden) desire to be top of the class. "Second-year exams really count towards your degree classification," he explains, "and I want a First."
Apart from revision, the other topic of conversation in the house is the protest at Oxford University where the students are refusing to pay fees. Since October 1998, all new students have to pay their own tuition fees. Robbie and the rest of the house are lucky - they were the last intake to escape the new ruling. But what do they think? Thirty years ago students were in revolt. There is precious little sign of rebellion in Manchester.
Robbie, for instance, is taking a lenient line. He's a member of the University of Manchester's Labour Club. Ten years ago he would have been spitting at Thatcher, Thatcher, the Grant Snatcher, but now he agrees with the Blairite stance on fees. "I can't see how the Government can get around it," he says. "It's a realistic solution and I can see why they have done it. What's happening now is that companies have to pay more wages to college-leavers, who are demanding more money because they have to pay these student loans."
In fact, Robbie is an unashamed lover of the free market. "I am a capitalist and I believe in a free economy," says the economics student. "Individuals should be merited for their talents. I don't think it's right for people to criticise fat cats, because they work really hard and get paid for it."
So what does Robbie want to do when he leaves college? The answer comes as no surprise: "Some sort of financial work, like merchant banking," he says assuredly. "I come from an enterprising background, my parents own property and shops, and I believe you should have money if you work for it. The first things I want to buy are stocks, shares, real estate."
Ian, too, is obsessed with money - because he has so little of it. He has to pay 3.4 per cent interest on his pounds 1,000 bank loan. So what does he think of the free market? "I've usually been on the poorer side of capitalism. It's fair enough if people earn their own money in an inventive way like Richard Branson but I wouldn't say greed is good."
He must take time out before his third year so he can afford his final year of study. He's going to live at home for a year and get a job. "I'm getting my exams out of the way and then I'll start looking for a job in Leeds or Manchester," he says. "I reckon I have to earn about two grand. I'm quite good with telecommunications, so I might get a sales job." I hear Charlie Whelan's post is vacant. Perhaps he should try there. After all, if you're not going to beat them, you might as well join them.Reuse content