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By Sam Richardson
Let’s get two things straight: yes I am a hypocritical bastard, and I may indeed be writing myself out of a job. However this isn’t an attack on posh people, red trousers and the like, just a little cynical reflection as I slide closer to the looming abyss of real life.
Imagine yourself as the business big dog, sitting opposite an eager Oxbridge graduate looking for a job. They got a solid 2:1, are smartly dressed, and pretty normal in every way. So you ask them: what makes you better than other universities? “Essays!” they shout “I do loads and loads of essays!” Big deal.
Who writes essays in real life anyway? It’s one of those skills that are disappointingly useless; in the real world, even if you write for a job, your boss isn’t going to be impressed by your ability to churn out 2000 words in the half-hour before the board meeting. In fact that sort of thing is rather looked down on.
Returning to our hypothetical situation, the struggling Oxbridge applicant launches into an earnest discussion of Proust, Marx or some crap like that. You roll your eyes and stare at the ceiling; you couldn’t care less. Acting intelligent used to be all the rage, in those heady days before the banking crisis. But since people found out that Oxbridge-educated bankers had been pretending to make money out of thin air, talking b*llocks has never been so unpopular.
This clearly brings us onto tutorials. Any Oxbridge student knows the tried and tested method: just say ‘yes’ to everything and count down the seconds on your watch. I tried this on my work experience, after being ominously called for a ‘chat’ by my boss. The poor man got so frustrated he had to take a fag break. I can understand why.
At this point in the job interview the desperate applicant whips out their secret weapon – a minor position in Lawsoc! Triumph! Or not. Because you, the business highflyer, yourself very possibly educated at these universities, will know from your student days that Lawsoc (or, let’s be honest, most student societies) do bugger all. Persuading an obscenely wealthy law firm to haemorrhage some money in your general direction is not ‘negotiating’, just as buying some sushi, putting it in a room, and getting people to eat it is only ‘event management’ in the very loosest definition of the term.
Thus we come to the crux of the matter: anyone who’s been to Oxbridge knows that our much-vaunted superiority is a complete scam. It’s only accumulated goodwill that keeps the whole bloody charade going: history graduates hire more history graduates, because they know no-one else will give them a job, probably for good reason (a historian myself, I should know.) For our own sakes, let’s hope no-one reads this article and in makes no impression on the real world whatsoever. Knowing the OxStu, that shouldn’t be too difficult.
Sam Richardson (my blog http://thelondonmob.wordpress.com/)
I’m not sure how I can argue this without sounding like a self-satisfied, narcissistic douchebag…but here goes.
Yes, Sam, we write a whole load of essays. Yes, essays aren’t all that useful as they stand as an entity in themselves. But it isn’t about the essays themselves, it’s about what the essays represent. Okay, so I may have just come out of a Philosophy tute, but I have a point. I could emphasise the analytical skills that we supposedly gain through multiple essay writing, but let’s be fair, there is little analysis in rephrasing arguments.
Back in the 19th Century Oxford took on the most impressive students, let them fuck around for three years, and then sent them on their merry way, letting their ‘Oxford education’ speak for itself. Sadly, no more. But compare the Oxbridge workload to, let’s say, that of a sports science student at Hull. Anyone who has visited friends even at the likes of Bristol and Edinburgh can tell you that the level of time and effort spent on their degree per term is equivalent to what we do in around two weeks. The Oxbridge graduate knows the value of (hard) work, we do it all the time.
While our Oxbridge education may not exactly prepare us for all the shocks of ‘real working life’, it certainly does so more than many other places might. Is sleeping in until 3pm every day an employable trait? Are we prepared for the real world if we spend countless hours watching Made in Chelsea on 4od? I may not need to know whether or not I am a brain-in-a-vat in real life, but at least the nine-to-five nature of working life will not present me with a huge change in my lifestyle and, if anything, may be a welcome relief.
And let’s say you aren’t particularly hard-working. You’ve spent the last two days in bed catching up on the exploits of Caggie and all her friends. Well, then can only be one reason why you are still here – you can bullshit – and if that isn’t a useful life-skill, I don’t know what is. Let’s face it, it got us in to this hallowed institution, and now that we have perfected it through hours of tutorials, it will help us a lot in life.
We may not really be superior in our intelligence, nor in our breeding. We certainly aren’t superior in our looks. But what really sets Oxbridge students apart in the job-search process is that we’ve already been ‘filtered’, it saves employers hours of looking through hundreds of identical CVs by enforcing this arbitrary mark of “excellence”. And for all of our sakes, let’s not ruin the illusion.