Cynical elite who reject the Conservatives

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The Independent Online
All in all, the Oxford student is scarcely different from any other young person. We might take more drugs than our counterparts at Cambridge, and we might have more sex. More of us might vote Labour. We might have a more cynical view of university life, with only 10 per cent of Oxonians claiming they are having "a great time", as against almost half of all students at the Other Place. But really these things say less about us than they do about Cambridge.

Nothing else will brand the Oxford student as all that unusual. Those whose view of life at university is all seething hormones and writhing bodies, have been misinformed.

On average, students can expect to find one or maybe two sexual partners in their time here. Three out of 10 students are virgins - slightly fewer than last year, but hardly enough to mark Oxford out as the Las Vegas of sex.

Our drug-taking experience is evidently more finely honed than it was in Bill Clinton's day. Among those who have dabbled, cannabis remains the staple, but a quarter have tried ecstasy as well. More than one in ten have experimented with cocaine.

The Oxford, the students most likely to have tried illegal drugs were ex-independent school men. And the least likely? The state-school male, at 48 per cent. An interesting disparity, you might think, but not enough to support the view of Oxford University as a two-tiered society of earnest working-class scholars on the one hand, and louche aristocratic dilettantes on the other. The rest of our results fail to suggest anything other than how integrated our community has become.

For example, whatever kind of school you went to, if you are an Oxford student today you are extremely unlikely to vote Conservative. In Oxford as much as anywhere else, 1995 has belonged to Tony Blair whose popularity has risen sharply on last year.

If this year's survey reveals just one thing, it is that you can prove anything with figures. At first glance, readers will note that the Bible is now officially our favourite book and Jesus Christ the man of the moment.

Far be it from me, of course, to allege that the Christian Unions may have resolved to fill in our questionnaire en masse ... but if the nation's young elite is spearheading some sort of religious revival, I can't say I've noticed it.

n Conal Walsh is editor of the Oxford University newspaper Cherwell.