This school year is my final year in university, when it is all done I will have had 7 years of college education (4 undergrad, 3 graduate). I thought I was fortunate to receive a fairly good education. During my undergraduate studies I earned a Bachelor of Arts majoring in (British) history from the University of Dallas. The University of Dallas is Catholic liberal arts university. Unlike most liberal arts universities today, UD continues the tradition of Classical education, meaning the great books of philosophy, literature, theology and history are required in its core curriculum. http://www.udallas.edu/ I found it to be a wonderful education. Being a history major however, my only (quasi) profitable option after my undergraduate studies was to go to law school, to earn a Jurist Doctorate degree, in the hope of finding a job after law school as a lawyer. I attend Texas A&M University School of Law, and I have been fortunate to find meaningful employment during law school. http://law.tamu.edu/. Now, piled in debt from student loans from law school, I soon enter the non-education world for good. However, I have in my anglophilia, wondered what it would have been like if I had gone to university in the UK.
I want to hear your expediences of attending university in the UK. I looked into what it would be like to apply for university in the UK, and I found this useful guide for applying for schools. http://www.mdx.ac.uk/tutor-guide/index.html. It looks like students entering university now have more technological tips for helping them go to school than I did! And I would imagine that I had an easier time of it than my parents, and my parents then there parents etc. I also know a little bit about the famous universities of the UK: Oxford and Cambridge (as well as there famous row boat competition), the London School of Economics and St. Andrew’s. I have also read about the tuition fees political controversy and specifically Nick Clegg “changing his mind” over the issue. I know schools have political and non-political clubs and organisations as well. But beyond that surface knowledge I feel like there is a big hole in my understanding of British university life. So here are my questions for you if any of you could give me an answer it would be much obliged:
1. Does Classical Education still have a strong influence in British universities? In America, most universities have moved beyond the traditional college education format, my alma mater and a few others being an exception. They seem to have moved in two directions, the first being toward “practical” education, and the other toward a more left wing curriculum. The “practical” curriculum way of seeing university sees the job of the university to prepare students to attain a job. A very utilitarian approach. Very often students who gain a more practical education major in business, sciences, engineering or mathematics and very often these students find themselves good solid well paying jobs after school. Conversely, most liberal arts education in modern America focuses on modern left wing authors and issues of “social justice” rather than the pre-modern thinkers. Liberal arts majors generally struggle to find employment. My understanding is, Oxford and to a lesser extent Cambridge, traditionally educated their students in the classics. Do many British colleges still focus on the classics or has it changed like in America? What was your experience?
2. Do British schools have intense rivalries? Do they have sporting rivalry? In America, many, many universities have intense rivalries. Some are academic, such as Harvard v. Yale, but most of the rivalries are because of sport. In America, college (American) football and basketball specifically garner strong school spirit and rivalry against their opponents. My undergraduate university did not have a football team but where I go to law school, Texas A&M has a long and proud football tradition. http://www.aggieathletics.com/SportSelect.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=27300&SPID=93232&SPSID=632660. It is really fun to attend college football games, they are a spectacle. There are rabid fans, tailgating and stadiums that often seat more people than professional games. College football games often are watched by millions of people as is the College Basketball tournament called “March Madness”. I know in Britain of the famous Oxford Cambridge boat race (and the heated rivalry between those two schools) but know very little about other sports rivalries. Are sports an important part of university life in the UK?
3. Do you think British universities are good at educating the country’s youths and fostering tomorrow’s leaders? According to lists I have seen, there are quite a few universities from the UK ranked among the best in the world, including this list. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2012-13/world-ranking. That is at the very least, a positive. But what do you think? Can British universities be improved? Are you satisfied with them and were you satisfied with your university experience? If you did not go to university, are you glad you did not go?
Any thoughts would be appreciated, I would love to learn more about British universities from you!