Wot I learned at university

Graduation is a time for introspective leavers to take stock of all they've learned from their time at university. For James Ashford, it didn't take all that long

In a few weeks time I’ll be graduating from university. There will be a ceremony and clapping and everyone will probably chuck their hats at each other, because that’s what you’re meant to do at those sorts of occasions. There will be some vulgar parents who will give their children vulgar sums of money, and there’ll be other people who are happy enough to walk away with a degree.

Nevertheless, behind the smiles and gowns, there will be a significant number of students wondering whether they could have made more of their three years. Apart from a 2:1 and thousands of pounds of debt, it’s really not clear what we’re getting out of the deal. There are a few possibilities:

Financial responsibility

Oscar Wilde once said: ‘Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination’, which while being tremendously poetic, partly explains why he died in absolute poverty.

Students always complain about having no money, the majority being completely penniless most of the time. What I noticed, through my own financial flippancy, was that every time I ran out of money, it was entirely my fault. The reasons students never have any money is because they spend it on things they don’t need, and getting drunk. This self-inflicted poverty is rather different to not having any money because you’re the head of a large family of hungry children.

Seeing as even the most overworked of students only have about four minutes of contact time a week, there’s no excuse for not getting a job. In my first week at uni, I was scouted by Hollister for the incredibly serious and challenging role of standing in a dark clothes shop pretending to be cool. After going through subsequent interviews, accepting the job, and watching training videos showing me how to not steal the clothes, I decided saying ‘What’s up’ to arseholes wasn’t the career for me and bailed before I could do any real work.

Improved time management

There were a few weeks in third year when I seriously began to doubt my own abilities as a confidence trickster. Having blagged my way up the ladder of education, the unpleasant thought struck me that perhaps there is a limit to how much one can coast before they grind to a halt.

Luckily, it turns out that even at degree level, you can basically leave everything to the last minute. Not everyone will do this of course, but realistically the majority do. The attitude you’ve had throughout your education will probably be the attitude with which you approach your university work, no matter how many times you tell yourself different. Luckily, the results are similarly consistent, and you will go almost certainly go on reaping the same undeserved achievement you always have. Rejoice, you lazy bastard.

Friendship

Everyone always says that at university, you’ll have the best time of your life and meet friends you’ll keep forever. I’m banking on the first bit being a load of bollocks, but I can grudgingly accept that there are a handful of people I don’t entirely want to escape. What started off as a shared interest in beer bongs and public urination has evolved through various stages: middle-class Rastafarianism, surviving winter in our moulding house, girlfriends, breakups, bodybuilding, and ultimately, brotherhood.

Cultural enrichment

This one really only applies to arts students. BEng and Bsc types might be able to build you a bridge or heart valve, but ask them to give a summary of Metaphysics Zeta and they haven't got a clue.

Even if you generally take an alarmingly lackadaisical approach to your work, you can’t help but get into some of it. Unless you go to Sheffield Hallam, the fact that you’re at university at all shows that you have a basic capacity for learning, and that means you’re going to find bits of your course interesting.

Unless you do a vocational degree, the knowledge you gain over three years is never going to come up in a practical situation. The mistake that a plethora of morons and/or cabinet ministers make is to assume that an academic degree is therefore irrelevant and useless. Education is valuable for education’s sake, it’s one of the few things left that is worth being seen as an end in itself and not a means to an end.

Overall, going to university is just about worth it. There’s a vague transition into adulthood, a slight widening of the mind and the opportunity to spend your time doing absolutely anything you like. Unfortunately, most people only appreciate that opportunity when it’s coming to an end. Very few spend their time doing something truly productive, like writing droll student articles for the Independent.

James Ashford has somehow managed to acquire a degree in Philosophy from the University of Sheffield. He blogs, wittily if you squint, here.

News
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + + uncapped commission + benefits: SThree: Did you ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + benefits + uncapped commission: SThree: Did you kn...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence