Keele University

By Barrett, Tim | History Review, September 2000 | Go to article overview

Keele University

Barrett, Tim, History Review

Tim Barrett, currently a postgraduate student, recalls his undergraduate days in Staffordshire.

When it was suggested that I should think back to my glory days at university and write a short essay on the subject, I readily accepted -- how could a would-be historian refuse such an invitation? I can recall hazy images of books, slightly clearer images of beer glasses, and some unforgettable images of fellow students. Sadly, there isn't space to share all these with you -- though with regard to the latter, it's probably just as well. I will, however, tell you a thing or two about the campus.

Social Life

Keele University is at once vast and peaceful, intimate and bustling (OK, I got that out of the Prospectus, but it happens to be true), and while I can't claim to have seen every campus in the UK, Keele, which is still my university, must surely be one of the most beautiful. At 617 acres, it's certainly among the largest. Countryside, extensive woodlands, and five tranquil lakes await the student in search of quiet contemplation, yet at its heart Keele boasts a large, lively centre of shops, markets, banks, bars and eating places. 75 per cent of Keele students live on campus, as do many of the staff, so this is no illusory or part-time heartland. It's a place where a real community goes shopping, chats over coffee and, most importantly, lets its hair down -- not that I intend to tell you about that.

Of the more formal entertainment available, the Keele Students Union supports over 50 student societies covering every interest and activity imaginable. The Union also organises a staggering range of evening entertainment and runs seemingly countless bars where many of the things that I shall not be mentioning take place.

Should Keel's facilities sometimes prove insufficient to offset the heady pleasures of study, the campus is only minutes away from the theatres, cinemas, pubs and clubs of the Potteries conurbation. If still further distraction is required, the M6 motorway and nearby rail links cater for the most spontaneous spirit; Manchester and Birmingham are just an hour away. And if Keele's summer raft races are disturbing that quiet lakeside contemplation I mentioned, there are art galleries and museums in the nearby towns, or you can get on your walking boots -- the Peak District is well within range.

I must confess that hill walking was never my strong point, nor was sport in general come to that -- hence the dominant beer glass memories -- but I vividly remember the vast range of minor sporting injuries paraded by my undergraduate peers. Exhausted folk would hobble into lectures after triumphing somewhere on Keele's 46 acres of playing fields. Lacrosse, soccer, rugby, cricket, and, of course, running about and jumping over sticks, each took its toll. If the elements ever got the better of the all-weather training facilities, these same masochists would seek their bruises and sprains indoors, via badminton, netball, five-aside basketball, volleyball, judo, boxing, yoga, and karate. The Athletic Union, so I'm assured, runs over 30 student sports clubs for both recreation and competition, and instructional classes in many activities are organised each semester. Pure madness in my opinion ...

Academic Life

Undergraduates have plenty of opportunity to play hard but there comes a time when some academic work simply must be undertaken. Nevertheless, the budding historian can take heart, since Keele's highly respected Dual Honours system guarantees constant exposure to the ideas and influences of another chosen discipline. If this sounds a little scary, or indeed if it raises fears of `diluted' study, be assured by one who's been through the process: the variety of approach entailed in a Dual Honours course not only brings rapid and often intense intellectual rewards but it also builds into a distinctive body of academic achievement.

At the risk of sounding like a careers advisor, today's employers are seeking individuals who can appreciate the wider, global context in which they work and a Dual Honours degree ensures that students stand out in the modern job market.

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