IF 2,000 new people moved into Northampton this week, you’d think we’d notice, yes? Well, they have.
OK, quite a lot of them may already live here, but nonetheless there will be over 2,000 new faces arriving at the University of Northampton to start their higher education.
Meanwhile, many of our native offspring will be leaving, flying the proverbial nest, to start their studies at universities elsewhere.
It’s a week that would give the most seasoned population statistician a headache. And parents a weird mixture of pride, relief and heartache.
Bizarrely, despite hundreds of new Northamptonians arriving, we hardly seem to notice. Parking spaces become even rarer. Estate cars loaded with anxious parents bearing pot plants and boxes of baked beans might ask for directions.
But are we aware of more people in town? The doctors surgeries? The nightclubs? (If you’re a parent reading this you probably haven’t been near a nightclub for years).
Yet there are three times the students starting some Northampton courses compared to two years ago.
I was a newbie myself at the university last year, but unfortunately it wasn’t to start a three-year pub-crawl and get myself into yet more debt. I am a part-time lecturer.
And it’s been an eye-opener.
Student life has changed drastically over the last couple of decades. No doubt many of you will be feeling the extraordinary pain of financing your child/childrens’ three-year rite of passage. This will be at least £3,000 a year, for three years, for tuition and possibly the same for living expenses.
However, if you cough up for everything, you may not be doing them the massive favour you think you are.
From personal experience, both as a student and someone who teaches them today, it’s the ones who feel personal financial commitment who appear to get the most from their university life.
It’s not a universal truth, nor is it a gross generalisation. But most of the students I know who work part-time seem to be the most attentive. They know that every second costs.
Sometimes those students whose parents pick up the tab are easy to spot: they have the shortest attention spans, the worst attendance records, and hand in the poorest work.
In short, they are enjoying the cliched uni-experince without putting any knowledge in the bank. They have iPhones and MacBooks, they drive new cars and have sat-nav and therefore never actually have to explore the town they live in. It’s sad to how little they grow.
There have always been students who were helped out by their parents, from every background. None of us wants to imagine our kids living in a slum with nothing to eat.
It’s all very well for us, whose education was grant-funded by the Government. No guilt about missing lectures due to a chronic hangover, living on cornflakes for every meal until the grant cheque arrived.
Today’s undergraduates have to remember what it costs. I reckon, roughly, that every lecture missed by a student will have cost the parent about £24. It will probably be their only lecture that day.
We want our children to go to university. We’re proud of their exam results and the fact they got a place. But these days, its no longer enough that they got in. There are thousands of students and over 150 UK universities. It’s how you use your three years that matters.
The students I teach actually taught me a lot last year. I now have a far better understanding of the multitude ways anyone under 25 communicates. They might not be tub-thumping radical thinkers, but they can email, text, Twitter, Facebook, Bebo, Myspace and publish your startled expression on YouTube faster than you can say “a cider and blackcurrant please.” And the less said about chatroulette the better.
If you are new to Northampton this week, welcome. Don’t feel nervous, we’re really quite nice if you venture off campus and get to know us. . .