DJ Taylor: How does ageing student Lucian afford his (surprisingly expensive) post-graduate lifestyle and what does he hope to get out of it?

 

Share

People introduced to Lucian for the first time – usually fellow students at the University of Loamshire – very often wonder how old he is. The brightly coloured sweatshirts and the wispy goatee might suggest a resting point somewhere in the early twenties, but there is a faint suspicion, born of the practised manner in which he enters the university dining hall, that he is a good deal older than this. As it happens, Lucian, for all his young person's slang, brightly burnished Doc Martens and hand-rolled cigarettes, is very nearly 31.

Just at this moment, Lucian is in his fifth year of study for a PhD in TS Eliot's poetics. "You can't rush a doctorate," he will tell admiring younger friends with ambitions in this field. Certainly, his own engagement with The Waste Land and Four Quartets has proceeded with commendable caution, involving as it has a gap year at the start and a six-month furlough halfway through spent on a mushroom farm in Cardiganshire, not to mention a nerve-wrenching crisis of confidence six months ago during which three draft chapters were torn up and thrown away.

There are veteran academics at Loamshire who claim never to remember a time when Lucian could not be seen putting up notices about the Warhammer Club, drinking coffee in the graduate common room or reserving squash courts for odd times in the middle of the night, but in fact he arrived there as recently as 2007. Before this, he acquired a certificate in fiction at the University of Warwick and before that an MA (the course was supposed to take a year but Lucian spun it out to 30 months) at Nottingham. Tony Blair was contemplating his second term in the year he began his undergraduate degree, and some of the people he studied with have children at primary school.

How does Lucian afford the (surprisingly expensive) post-graduate lifestyle and what does he hope to get out of it? The fees, it should be said, are paid by a doting grandmother. As for his ultimate ambition, although there is occasional talk of research assistantships and overseas fellowships, the fact is that Lucian has rather a taste for student life, its shared houses, marathon computer gaming and mid-afternoon plates of beans on toast. At any rate, the thought that at some point he might have to quit the University of Loamshire for the world beyond is enough to fill him with the profoundest unease.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Ashdown Group: PHP Web Developer / Website Coordinator (PHP, JavaScript)

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: PHP Web...

Recruitment Genius: Estates Projects & Resources Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in London, Manchester, Br...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: moderate, iconic royals are a shoe-in for a pedantic kicking

Guy Keleny
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: Cameron is running scared from the “empty chair”

Oliver Wright
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us