Michaelmas term has begun and the undergraduates have taken over the libraries, giggling and flirting over their laptops in the most excruciating manner – this, of course, as seen through the eyes of a seasoned academic visitor like me (insert appropriate emoticon here).
Term time in Oxford means (a bit) less tourists and (a lot) more students. The undergrads in their youthful joiety are everywhere. And they are young: here, it’s common to graduate at 21. Where I come from, Finland, one can enter the university at any age and never leave. I started my studies in 1996 in translation of Russian language and in 1999 in journalism and mass communication – I graduated in 2008. Many of my journalist colleagues still haven’t finished their thesis.
Wouldn’t happen here, not with tuition fees of the recently proposed level. I cannot imagine how I could have ever gone to university if Finland had tuition fees. Free education and egalitarian ideals are something to keep campaigning for in Finland.
Granted, I worked full time as a journalist from 2001, and didn’t have time to complete my degree till I took a three months study leave in early 2008. (Since September 2009, I’ve been on a rather extented study leave here in Oxford.)
University life at Oxford is in many respects very, very different to Finnish universities. Whilst my former student union, Tamy (of the University of Tampere), terminated their annual dinner party as a relic of past days of elitism, Oxford students can have formal dinners every week. Dress code: black tie. Elitism here is still very much present, no question about it.
A year ago I rummaged through Oxford’s numerous charity shops to find a long evening gown for these events. The result was a lovely dress for 19 pounds. Here’s a picture I took at my first formal dinner:
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have the term’s first seminar to attend to – hosted by my former supervisor John Lloyd.