As PhD’s go they can be fairly isolating experiences, so what a surprise when I receive an email inviting me to a student rep meeting, followed by a meal in Central London. I’m usually good at transferring information (or at least remembering to print out the details) but not on this occasion. Not only do I arrive at the wrong campus but an hour early. Anyway, after a mad rush eventually made it to the correct venue and on time.
The meeting was held in a resources room, which is full of what can only be described as ‘pre-millennium’ computers. They are unwieldy and distinctly dirty sandstone in colour. The room also has a rather over-sized oval table in the middle which impinges on space needed for successful computer use and mobility. As the meeting begins, the PhD student reps inevitably move the agenda towards the lack of upgrades for the computers and the very out-of-date browsers. Presumably they mean Internet Explore 6, which has led sections of the web community to campaigning for its demise.
I’ve been here before, with this discussion, many times over the last couple of years, having been at two other London universities. The complaints from students are similar. It’s a combination of lack of money, apathetic IT departments and a general underestimation of how important these resources are to the modern day student. One of my previous universities (which shall remain nameless), didn’t even have internet access in one building. As with my previous universities, the same pattern seems to occur. Every year a new software upgrade is introduced, sending the first few weeks of term into turmoil due to the ‘teething problems’ of getting said software to do what it was suppose to do.
As the meeting ends, there is a 45 minute wait before we all get the tube down to Central London. I check out the student union bar. On approaching the bar, I notice the inevitable lack of ale and the unavoidable sight of six different types of lager, which will almost certainly be similarly bland in taste. Don’t think I’ll be back there anytime soon.
The meal is enjoyable. There is a good gender and cultural mix, so healthy for cultural exchange within a education establishment. This is a decent time to discuss projects and get to know some of the students on their second and third years. When I did my MA there was very little that one could glean about the course from other students, as it was short by comparison (one year). Had pizza and the department stumped up £10 a head towards the meal… nice.