Well, the title says it all. This morning I was introduced to the first-year students of the University of Kent at Medway as their new RLF Fellow. And got a good look at my potential customers, of course.
I mumbled a bit about who I was and why I was there. It didn't make a great deal of sense to me but it must have had some impact as I've got at least one person coming to see me on Friday. Well, as I cheerful informed her when she made the appointment, I need the practice!
I was struck by how very different the atmosphere was from when I was a student a quarter of a century ago. Everything is so much cleaner, for one thing. I noticed this most in the canteens - gone are the fag-ends, polystyrene containers and crushed pastic cups that used to litter the floors. And the students get more support. I don't think there was any such thing as a "Student Learning Advisory Centre" in my day. We had a couple of talks about study skills, about which I can remember nothing at all, and after that were pretty much left to it. I had a personal tutor whom I was supposed to meet once a term. I bumped into him once on the stairs and he said: "Well, this can count as our termly meeting" as he kept going in the opposite direction! Now strenuous efforts are made to prevent them from dropping out.
The students themselves struck me as very different also. They seemed very serious and (literally) sober. When I were a lad, there'd have been at least three strikes, a lockout and four demos going on by lunchtime, but it wouldn't have mattered as scarcely any of the students would have got out of bed by then anyway. It doesn't seem to be like that any more.
Part of me applauds this, of course. After all, I'm a taxpayer, and I'd hate to think of my money being pissed away by the likes of my younger self. ButI can't help wondering what happened to youthful high spirits. Are they really so much more conscientious than we were? Or is it something else - fear of failure, perhaps?