Social Education as Important as Academia

Article excerpt

In the 18th century it was the custom for Britain's young men to embark on The Grand Tour to sample the classical delights of France, Italy and Greece.

My Grand Tour was a very different affair. At the age of 18, armed with a young person's railcard, I set out on a whirlwind trip around the United Kingdom to decide which university I would like to attend.

From my home in Dorset, I travelled via Bristol (too smug) to Lancaster (too remote), to Lampeter in Wales (too wacky) before coming to Birmingham.

For someone who had never been north of Shaftesbury my impression of the Midlands was composed of crass prejudices and petty snobbery: what sort of accent was that?

But Birmingham caught my attention. It was not just the wonderful campus, nor the buzz of the city centre, but the fact that when I walked round the university it was the only place I had seen students look really happy.

It may seem an odd way to chose your university, but I have never regretted it.

This was mainly because I was determined my time at college would be a social as well as an academic education.

In this regard Birmingham did not fail me. I would never claim to have been a model student: I studied little and drank too much, but I did learn about living in an inner city and managed to remove some of my more middle-class prejudices. …