If someone asked you what the oldest British university was, you'd probably be right in guessing Oxford. Not really any surprises there.
At over 850 years old, the University of Oxford weighs in at the oldest we've got.
Others can come up with crazy stories about predating the dinosaurs. Durham, for example, officially founded as recently as 1832, can claim highly tenuous descent from a bunch of monks living on Holy Island in the 8th Century with only the Venerable Bede and a few sheep for company.
Meanwhile, it’s even harder to say which is the youngest university since colleges are constantly being given the right to use the U-word in their names, but it still doesn’t necessarily make them universities.
But does age mean anything? Well...
Meanwhile, youth brings vigour, a thrusting go-get-’em attitude. New methods of teaching, new types of course, new approaches to age-old ways of doing things. Age ain't everything.
No one can deny that the face of higher education has changed drastically and rapidly. And a lot of the change has been led by new universities.
Some have been accused of being degree factories — overlooking the universal education to provide the university education.
But the truth is that’s what a hell of a lot of students want, especially the kinds of students who’re as new to the higher education game as the new universities — mature students, working class students, female students, vocational students, local students.
Before the sixties, they were like needles in the academic haystack.
Many of the newer universities were purpose-built from scratch and so the facilities do the job they’re supposed to do very effectively.
On the other hand, they were often thrown up in a hurry and started falling apart before the paint was dry. Some of the newest universities are still building and for a few years it may be like turning up in Majorca to find you’re sleeping in a cement mixer.
If you’re building a university, your priorities are the basics first. Things like lecture halls, teaching rooms, offices, a library, staff salaries — that kind of stuff. Bars, welfare, computer rooms and student accommodation come next. It can take a while before they get around to sports facilities, theatres and shiatsu massage parlours.
Whatever your choice, be it a university as old as time or the new kid on the block, make sure you do your research and decide what's right for you.
Yeah, the Norman castle seems really cool. Come December though, you'll realise how literal that title is. You might regret dismissing the newer universities with their fancy central heating when you and your new mates are huddled round a textbook bonfire.
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