Natalie Haynes: Pity the students whose parents still hover

Notebook

One of the defining characteristics of Cher, Alicia Silverstone's smart-yet-dippy heroine in Amy Heckerling's Clueless, is revealed when she brings her report card home to her father. She views anything less than a perfect grade as a jumping-off point, so has negotiated her way to higher marks with a combination of brains, charm, and manipulation.

But demands for re-marking seem to have got beyond a joke. Oxford dons, it's reported, have reminded colleges of the strict rules for exam grade appeals, following a doubling of requests for them. Fair enough, you might think. Those ivory-tower dwellers probably can't stop banging on about Kierkegaard for long enough to pay proper attention to some undergraduate's thesis. But of the 224 appeal complaints made last year, of which 90 per cent were exam-related, only a single paper was found to have been incorrectly marked.

With ever-increasing fees, you can see why students might wish to make sure that their money is being well spent on a class of degree that is likely to increase earning potential by a vast amount over their working lives. Except that the dons don't believe that it is the students who are initiating the appeals, but rather that their razor-elbowed parents are the guilty parties.

This makes me incredibly sad for the current generation of students, who are already paying dizzying fees in the certain knowledge that they can't get a job without a degree, and that they'll be lucky if they can get one with a degree. Because it turns out that they also can't escape their parents, even if they can afford the crippling rent to leave home.

I didn't have a mobile phone till the very end of my student days back in the 1990s, and luckily it was the size of a breeze-block and had a battery life of 11 minutes, tops. So if I wanted to speak to my mum, I had to find a phone box that wasn't filled by a weeping girl whose boyfriend lived 200 miles away. I also had to find limitless 20p pieces, even though these were also the gold-dust currency for the launderette.

And though I was often sad and worried at college – I simply don't buy the idea that children are feebler now than we were, because I'm not convinced it's possible to be a more weepy and pitiful teen than I was – I learned to cope with my own problems, with the advice of my friends and only occasional parental support.

Sure, I learned a lot about Euripides at university, but I learned far more about self-reliance and, crucially, resilience. These are skills you can only acquire if you're left alone.

We can all have a stake in this

As a fan of vampire fiction, I'm delighted to see that the Bulgarians take Angel, Alice and Edward – and probably some of the ugly vampires – even more seriously than I do. Archaeologists have discovered two skeletons pierced through the chest with iron rods (the Bulgarian equivalent of a wooden stake through the heart, apparently) to stop them turning vampiric.

Bulgarians, it turns out, were hammering rods through the hearts of deceased (either before, or certainly after the rod thing) evil-doers right up to the 20th century, so they couldn't come back to feast on the blood of the living. After the CNN jubilee coverage, is it possible we should add Piers Morgan to the list?

Comments