In response to Lewis Martin’s article ‘Don’t Be Fooled by the Royal Illusion – The Failings of UEA.’
The Queen’s recent visit to the University of East Anglia was, in my opinion, rightly celebrated as a momentous occasion in the university’s history. I might not be hugely pro-monarchy, but I am definitely pro-UEA, and I could appreciate the enthusiasm and atmosphere on campus on the day of Her Majesty’s arrival. I followed the event closely on social media and thought it brought a sense of enjoyment and happiness to a cold January day, with large a crowd turning out to celebrate not only the Queen, but the university as an institution too, which was great to see. However, I found it interesting that not everyone saw it that way.
Lewis Martin’s recent article for The Norwich Radical — ‘Don’t be fooled by the royal illusion – the failings of UEA’ — correctly identifies many difficult issues with the university I attend. The increase in rent prices of campus accommodation is a problem which I agree is very important to raise. This will be hard for so many new students to take, especially when the cost of rent can often exceed the amount of student loan someone receives. I do believe this is a vital issue to raise public awareness of, especially when, as pointed out, the university have not been so efficient with spending in the past when it comes to ‘self-aggrandising projects’.
I might not be hugely pro-monarchy, but I am definitely pro-UEA
These complaints about the university have not otherwise become apparent to me thus far and are not representative of my experience of university. High rents for campus accommodation were common amongst all universities I looked at, and it was just something we had to put up with. The issue has a lot to do with insufficient maintenance loans and grants – a problem that goes far beyond the responsibilities of the university. While I am also paying a lot for my tuition, that is again the responsibility of government and I cannot blame UEA for taking advantage of the option for charging higher fees. After all, I want my university to be able to attract the best possible academics. All teaching I have encountered in the History department throughout my time here has been of very high quality, with each tutor having lots of time for individual students. I have always felt valued by the teaching staff and greatly helped by them in my degree despite having so few contact hours. It’s no surprise UEA ranks highly for academic services spending as well as ranking very well in the money spent on student facilities.
I have never felt that the problems of UEA and the marketization of higher education has overshadowed my enjoyment of studying here. I’m just not sure that these issues truly affect the huge number of positive aspects of attending university in Norwich, and my view is clearly shared by many other students. In 2016, UEA was ranked as the third best UK university for student satisfaction, and is the only mainstream English university to have a top five ranking every year since the survey began. It’s obvious that many students love the university, perhaps for the teaching quality, our campus, or maybe the great work the university does in bringing people together. For me at least, it is all three of those things, and I think most students felt that the Queen’s visit was a chance to celebrate UEA and all its achievements as one of the top academic institutions this country has to offer.
I have never felt that the problems of UEA and the marketization of higher education has overshadowed my enjoyment of studying here
I’m already over half way through my three year degree and have loved my time here at UEA. I had a hard time convincing myself that studying in my hometown was the right decision to make, and I don’t think I could have done that with any other university. I wanted to feel as though I was growing up, moving on, and getting a real university experience – and at UEA I have always felt those things.
Even more important for me was the social aspect of university. I can say comfortably that I have made several friends for life by studying here and spending my time with a mixture of different people. The setting of UEA in the huge green-space campus by the lake with so many places to socialise and learn together makes me forget about my struggle with high rents in first year and the thought of paying back my tuition fees. UEA is about so much more than that. I have never felt as though I am being ripped off by the university, no matter how much money I have paid them (and will continue to pay) over the years. To me, the enjoyment, teaching and social aspects of studying at UEA are priceless.
I believe having the Queen come to support an art exhibition and our university was all about celebrating what the university does for us as well as the prestige it brings to the city of Norwich. While every university has its problems, we should not let that cloud our judgement of the amount of opportunities and happiness that higher education can bring. UEA has treated me fantastically so far and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for it. Our university truly is the jewel in the crown of Norwich and, in spite of its problems, we should learn to fully appreciate how well it serves the vast majority of students choosing to study here.
Editorial Note: In our Founding Statement The Norwich Radical states that, in organising our society and economy, we ought to prioritise social justice and the equitable distribution of wealth, power and resources among all people. We stand against the marketization of higher education and align with, and advocate for, the right to free education.
Featured image via telesur.tv