Google Analytics

Thursday, 21 May 2020

UMIST

Student life 1974 and now

UMIST Mathematics and Social Sciences Building
UMIST Mathematics and Social Sciences Building (when new)

I have been meaning to post about this for some time. I thought of it again this week because we are going to have to take daughter to retrieve the rest of her possessions from her shared house at university (not UMIST). It will be the second chock-a-block car load. The first was in March when the university campus closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Two full loads of a family estate car! Indeed, some students hire Transit or Luton vans to move their stuff. The materialistic society! Not how things were.

Arriving at university, 1974
Arriving at university, 1974
This lad is supposedly just arriving at UMIST (the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) as a new student in 1974. A suitcase, rucksack, soft bag and guitar case accommodate all his worldly goods (although one could question the feasibility of this). You can imagine he lugged it to Manchester on the train. 

It is from a 15-minute film (linked below) made by the UMIST film and television society to give an idea of student life. It’s a real time-capsule for those of that university or college era.

I went to UMIST myself a few years after this for a one-year postgraduate course as mentioned in the last post, and much is familiar, especially the Brutalist Maths and Social Sciences building with the letters UMIST at the top (12:46 in the film), where my course was based. I used to avoid the lift and huff and puff my way up to floor L feeling fit and superior until one day I was overtaken by a Ph.D. student running up the stairs with a rucksack full of bricks on his back.

For me, the film feels more like the three abortive months I spent at teacher training college in Leeds in 1973, or visiting friends at university around 1970 before I went as a mature student. The titles at the beginning say it was made in 1972, but the list of courses, cinema programmes, the name of the person running for election and the dates of rag week clearly date it as 1974.


Among the evocative things are: the dingy, sparsely-furnished accommodation; those electrical appliances; the A/V equipment; the Greenslade gig; the student societies; rag week (would health and safety let them use those floats now?); the cars – I recognise them all; the long gone shops such as Ratners which made the biggest PR mistake ever; “chalk and talk” lectures. And is that George Best who back-passes the ball at the start of the Manchester United match?

I love the background music tracks written especially for the film, accredited to Nick Rhodes, although not ‘that’ Nick Rhodes who would have been only eleven at the time.

It makes three years at university look the wonderful experience it can be, but, interestingly, less than a minute of the film (11.49-12.46) is concerned with academic work.

I have few problems with that. University is supposed to be a shared learning experience. You learn as much socially, by talking things over with other students, as you do from lectures and course materials. If you take away the social, there seems little point in being there.

And they are taking it away. Daughter has not had a good experience at her university this year. Firstly, there was no teaching because the lecturers were on strike, and then the university campus closed half way through the second term because of the coronavirus outbreak. She has been home since then. And for next year, some universities are now announcing that teaching will be online and there will be limited access to tutorials, laboratories, workshops and studios, and few student union activities.

She is doing art. Her particular interest is decorative ceramics. How can you do a degree in art if you can’t use studios and workshops, or show your work to other students? Similar questions arise with laboratory sciences, computing subjects, music and others. Is there any wonder students are beginning to say they are thinking of having a year out? They are not going to be saddled with student debt for lectures and tutorials through Zoom.

That would affect university finances, especially if overseas students don’t come. That’s a big chunk of Britain’s university income. I predict insolvencies in the sector. Will the government bail them out? Probably not. They are hotbeds of liberals and socialists.


MORE ABOUT UMIST

UMIST started out as Manchester Mechanics Institution, then Manchester Technical School and later Manchester Municipal College of Technology. It became a university college in 1956, able to award degrees on behalf of the University of Manchester, and changed its name to UMIST in 1966. It became a completely autonomous university in 1994 but merged back with the University of Manchester in 2004 and is now no more. The Maths and Social Sciences Building is due for demolition. Courses were mainly in the applied sciences, hence the male student majority. Look at that list (at 11.49 in the film): chemical engineering, electrical engineering, chemistry, polymer and fibre science, textile technology, management sciences, ophthalmic optics, mathematics, computation, civil and mechanical engineering, metallurgy, physics, biochemistry, mechanical engineering, building …

Funnily enough, I visited the Maths and Social Sciences building again around 2003 (although I did take the lift this time). As soon as I was inside it came back what a depressing building it was to be in.


23 comments:

  1. When I left home and started university in 1975, I moved out with 2 suitcases and a box of books. I feel bad for university students today having to do long-distance online learning because of the pandemic. It's such a pale experience compared to being on campus. The happiest day of my life was when I started university and started my new life on my own.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So the UMIST film was exactly your university era. I'm wondering whether things seemed as primitive and unsophisticated in Canada in those days.

      Delete
  2. I was a Mature Student in the early seventies doing a Post Grad Teacher Training -at Birmingham. Rnning a home and having a son at didn't leave much time for any student activities. My son read Music at Manchester in late seventies early eighties - I have never asked what he got up to but I know the car was loaded to capacity at the end of each year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Doing a university course when you have a home to run as well is no easy thing. I had no such responsibilities so could live the irresponsible student life, except I worked hard because I knew what I'd have to go back to if I messed it up. I guess some students were frugal whilst other took lots with them.

      Delete
  3. My school education started in the summer of 1974, when I was six years old (the usual age for children in Germany), and I have never been inside a uni building except for visiting a communal cinema and can therefore not fully relate to the UMIST film.
    But I know a good base line when I hear one, and I am VERY impressed with the moustaches of some of the male students!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Google Peter Wyngard as Jason King in the British television series of that time. They all wanted to be as cool as him.

      Delete
    2. Having just read his wikipedia entry, I can see what you mean about his looks, but as for his personal life, it seems to have been anything but cool.

      Delete
    3. They probably weren't aware of all that. I wasn't.

      Delete
  4. That is an interesting film. Very 1970s! Moving your daughter reminded me of moving my son into the dormitory his first year. He was on the third floor and there was no elevator. It was easy to pick out the parents by the huffing and puffing on the stairs!

    It seems many of the universities around here will be using on line classes at least to start. As you said that makes it hard for someone like your daughter as an art major. My son was a music major and online classes would not have worked!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, there were some music students on television today pointing out that orchestral and ensemble playing was an essential part of a music degree, which simply does not work on Zoom and the like. And how do you play brass or woodwind wearing a mask!

      Delete
  5. And there was me thinking that U-Mist was a spray on deodorant from Boots' The Chemist. Lord knows that some of those smelly left wing students needed a damned good spraying. It all seems like distant history. Even the colour reminds one of black and white days. I noticed that some of the student cyclists were wearing COVID masks. They were ahead of their time. Was that you in the back end of the Rag Week zebra?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I got the front end after complaining about always being given the bum jobs. A spray on deodorant FOR boots is probably more to your needs, what with all that walking you do.

      Delete
  6. What an interesting post, thank you. My father went to UMIST just after the war. He then went on to Sheffield University and ended up at Oxford.
    I went to Manchester University and have now ended up doing lots of gardening!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting. We all end up doing lots of gardening in the end. Do you have a blog as well?

      Delete
  7. A friend and I were talking today (through masks!) about the state of education, period. I have two grands who graduated high school this year,
    and one still in. My friend's daughter is still in. We both feel much in tele education must be worked out for children to learn...anything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just seen a UK university Vice Chancellor being quizzed on TV, and he was reassuring that institutions are trying to work through how they can run labs and other non-lectures. I guess the detail will be what matters.

      Delete
  8. Anyone can read the right books or watch the many excellent Open University programmes. The whole point of college life is to network … a bit difficult to do via cable television.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree - lectures are only the starting point. I think back to my own degree when we took a team approach to attending lectures, sharing notes, and then following things up independently by reading around the subject. More recently when I worked in universities it seemed there were a lot of students who thought lectures gave them everything they needed. What you pay for is to become a member of a learning community, and to be assessed as well.

      Delete
  9. Interesting post. I hope things improve for your daughter's art degree. It's been a rough year for all students of all ages. I feel for them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it will come down to the detail. She says at another university they have already told the art students that only the final-year students will be able to use the studios, which could well be liable to legal challenge for reimbursement of fees and living costs with damages for wasted years.

      Delete
  10. After years of saying they could not deliver courses on-line, the colleges are now doing it. Sadly I cannot imagine paying the full tuition for such an experience. I sympathize with any art student. I taught English at an art college and it would be insane to do art except on site.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our government has said students must still pay full tuition fees because the quality of the courses will still be as good. I wouldn't even want to do English like that. I know English students spend an awful lot of time reading and often have fewer lectures (I did a subsidiary in English at university), but for that reason they need the face-to-face experience or else they'll go crackers.

      Delete

I welcome comments and usually respond the same day (unless it looks like you are trying to advertise something).