• fab posted an update 3 weeks, 6 days ago

    • Maybe it’s an indication that people have a better understanding of how clever they are, than how attractive/entertaining they are?

    • No, it just means there are a lot more vacuous idiots than there are academically gifted people.

    • There are twice as many people trying to punch each other unconscious every week, consensually of course, than there are applying to be on a harmless TV show. That is far more worrying to me, as a member of civilised society.

    • Could those 85,000 vacuous cretins not be herded onto an island (any island will do, the further from civilisation the better) and left there?

      I doubt it’d be too hard to con them into going, and they really wouldn’t be missed.

    • What fraction of Love Island’s applicants were black/minority? I don’t ever recall a reality show being blamed for the applicant pool not reflecting the nation’s ethnic mix.

    • The question must be, who applied for both? An each way bet, surely a sign of greater wisdom.

    • Let’s see now, which is going to be most attractive?

      The chance to spend a few weeks on an island with a bunch of (superficially,) attractive randy people, getting paid for doing it, with the knock on effect of Warholian 15 minutes.


      Studying your arse off for a few years with the chance of paying a small fortune to study your arse off some more, with no guarantee of reward at the end of it?

      People need to be told which would be the most attractive option to the general public?

      Mind you, this and the other thread has given the cogniscenti here the chance to look down their nose at “love island” participants and fans.

      • I’m really proud of my younger cousin who went to Cambridge (he’s tackling finishing his PHD at the mo), but I basically agree. On the other hand, I was a little bit sad that Ellen MacArthur became a national hero in France (thanks to her French sponsor meaning she came to be noticed there) when she didn’t become one here during her sailing exploits, with her actually coming from the UK. It set me wondering about what is promoted as being worthwhile here, what is considered worth putting on the news and TV channels and in other media (IIRC the celebrity Jordan was more noticeable at the time). I don’t think it says anything at all that fewer people have applied to Oxford than Love Island, though, I think that’s just a convenient way for some people to look down their noses at who they see as ‘the masses’ etc. I think who has control of the media, and what gets promoted as being worthwhile and the quality of what is promoted ( this is subjective, I realize), are probably things worth pondering, though.

        • Maybe you’re part of the problem if you feel that Ellen MacArthur didn’t get due recognition in the UK?

          The media that thrives is the media that we choose to use and take notice of. Even though sailing is way outside my range of sporting interests I was somehow very aware of her exploits.

        • My memory is that Ellen MacArthur was massively famous at the time, though maybe she got even more coverage in the East Midlands. On the same thread though, I do remember Tony Bullimore (clearly a very brave and formidable man) becoming hugely famous in the UK for being rescued, while in France, Pete Goss got the acclaim for actually doing the rescuing.

          Back on the subject, I think state schools do fail to encourage pupils that Oxbridge is possible. My daughter goes to one of the better state schools and is predicted three As (not A*s), but has basically been discouraged by the school who have identified their 8 (and only 8) great hopes.

          • That’s because A* is the new A, and lots of people get them. Having said that, she’s only 1 grade out and if it’s technically possible for her to get A*s then she should be allowed to apply.

            • yes, I know A* is now the top, even so for her course the required grades are A*AA, so she’s not far away. And the school can’t prevent her applying. But the point I was making was that even at a very high performing state school they are discouraging one of their better students from thinking Oxford is for them. This means that for many subjects, courses at the next tier of universities are more oversubscribed than oxbridge.

      • You are wrong. A piece of paper with “Oxbridge Degree” written on it rightly or wrongly opens many doors which a piece of paper with just “Degree” written on it does not.

        • That’s assuming you manage get an “Oxbridge” degree of course, the chances of that will no doubt bear heavily of whether to apply to Oxbridge or Love Island…

        • @adam This observation is certainly true in many circumstances, like shortlisting cvs in some professions. But the favoritism would, at least in part, be recognized for the extra mile that many Oxbridge graduates are prepared to undergo to meet their objectives. A place at Oxbridge denotes a combination of objective setting and hard work that is prized across many walks of life.

          But I’d say that the greater advantage an Oxbridge education bestows is not that doors are opened for you. No, after battling through the experience, it’s that you never fear you cannot contend with what is on the other side of the door. And that is priceless.

          • >This observation is certainly true in many circumstances, like shortlisting cvs in some professions. But the favoritism would, at least in part, be recognized for the extra mile that many Oxbridge graduates are prepared to undergo to meet their objectives. A place at Oxbridge denotes a combination of objective setting and hard work that is prized across many walks of life.

            If you are saying that an Oxbridge degree primarily indicates the achievement in getting there in the first place then I agree, though obviously, that will often be partly due to the support is given at school and at home. I certainly worked extremely hard for my place at Cambridge, though it didn’t really seem like work at the time because, for me, spending a large proportion of my time practicing the sort of hard maths problems in the entrance papers was basically enormous fun. Though having said that, the level of pressure I felt to get in (mostly, I think, self-imposed) meant that I would have been close to suicidal if I had failed!

            > But I’d say that the greater advantage an Oxbridge education bestows is not that doors are opened for you. No, after battling through the experience, it’s that you never fear you cannot contend with what is on the other side of the door. And that is priceless.

            I don’t agree with that – it certainly isn’t true of myself and of plenty others, at least doing the maths course at Cambridge. For me it was just three years (the worst of my life) of struggle and drudgery trying to stay afloat with a ridiculously difficult course (deliberately designed, it seemed, to grind people down by attrition leaving a handful of brilliant survivors to go on to do research) and scrape a degree at the end of it. It was academically largely a waste of time and I’m pretty sure I would have got far more out of an easier course at another good university. It destroyed for years my enthusiasm for mathematics and badly undermined my self-confidence for many years thereafter; I still feel somewhat bitter about it all 35 years later. I know that I am far from alone in my experience. Now, as a maths teacher, I would be extremely reluctant to recommend anyone applying unless I felt they were significantly more able than me.

            Yet, and it’s a big yet, however negative and academically worthless the experience, I am in absolutely no doubt that the bit of paper with “Cambridge Degree” written on it has always had the power to open doors.

            • Your description of the academic aspect certainly resonates with my recollection (and my daughter’s current travails at Cambridge). However, you present your “brilliant survivors” as the winners in the Oxbridge environment. My experience was of being surrounded by a thousand very able, very ambitious peers for whom the academic tasks were a tiresome distraction from the business of transitioning to adulthood. Those aiming for nothing more than a first class degree were the losers in most eyes!

              It’s a matter of objectives and expectations. You were very probably more interested in your chosen subject than I was. I opted for modern languages, over other subjects at which I was more adept, primarily on the basis that the workload was relatively light. The achievement of a place was enough to satisfy my academic ambitions. For me, Oxford was a place to enjoy the company of and, yes, measure myself against some very driven people, many of whom had obvious talents beyond the narrow academic realm.

            • My problem was that I had to work really hard just to keep my head above water (lectures each morning then most of the rest of the day, often into the small hours, struggling desperately to understand my notes) and, far from aiming for a first, I ended up, after three years, more or less relying on some doable questions on seismic waves (!) to come up in the exam to get a degree at all (I felt near break down and almost thinking of packing it in half way through my final year). The result was that I made nothing at all of university life and lived a Jekyll and Hyde existence, hermit like in my room most of the week and just about staying sane by escaping to go climbing for a day or two at the weekends – and Cambridge is a pretty rubbish location to be a climber, though my escapist obsessiveness with climbing at this time did quickly turn me into a pretty competent all round mountaineer.

              It’s not a university experience I would wish on anyone.

        • @adam I suspect the difference in your experience to that of other posters is subject. Maths and physics simply are harder and require more work than modern languages or PPE, and that would be true at other universities as well.

          • I made a similar observation earlier and the awareness that the sciences required more hours of “compulsory” study did steer me away from Chemistry towards Languages. But science is not harder than the humanities. Once intractable maths and science problems are being solved all the time, yet a comprehensive understanding of the human condition (philosophy and literature) or influencing and predicting behaviour (politics and economics) eludes us still.

            • You can argue that this is true for the subjects, but studying sciences is definitely harder than studying humanities, if only because understanding of a subject can be tested without ambiguity. You do not get far by providing your own “interpretation” of a maths or biology problem!

            • @songbird How does having a better definition of the correct answer make a subject harder? If anything that should single out the sciences as easier. Not that I’m making that argument since I’ve already observed that the sciences very obviously impose a greater compulsory workload.

              In literature or philosophy you are probing the mind of the author/philosopher, often from a distance of many centuries, to elicit his/her take on the great questions of life, mostly dealing with love and death, but also conflict, betrayal, lust and power. But you are obliged in that process to confront those questions yourself and blend your modern interpretation with the original, then present a case, as a barrister might, for rebuttal by a tutor or examiner, who not only understands the subject better than the student ever will, but also brings his own, often contrasting, interpretation to the examination of your work. There is no right answer to regurgitate, as in science, but there is a demand for insight, analysis, sensitivity and the construction of a case that can be defended against a brilliant and authoritative mind.

              Make no mistake, I think Science is cool but I personally found the black and white materiality of Chemistry, the subject for which I had more talent, rather uninspiring. The ambiguities and evanescence of truth in the work of the Great Thinkers offered a richer challenge.

            • Being able to clearly distinguish correct and wrong answers in an exam leaves much less wiggle room for the student, no chance of getting by with some waffling and a good sales pitch! It is, therefore, possible to test a much larger body of knowledge in any given exam.

              I guess you will find that most science questions also do not simply ask for recalling material. Ideally, I want to know whether a student has understood the underlying concepts and can, therefore, apply them to a problem at hand. The regurgitating exams exist, but I would class them as simply lazy or even bad teaching practice!

            • “The regurgitating exams exist, but I would class them as simply lazy or even bad teaching practice!”

              I agree entirely. I don’t know about over in Germany (?) but here in the UK rote learning and regurgitation of formula keyed through Pavlovian training with certain question styles seems to the the main outcome of A-level sylibii and teaching.

              Kids talk about the “suvat equations”. Putting asside my distaste about the non-acronym nature of the name, or the use of arbitrarily chosen variables to yield the name, it distressed me that they think of “s=ut+1/2at^2” et al as physics, and of bunging numbers in as doing physics. They are solutions to the equations of motion under certain rigid constraints. They should be learning the equations of motion and how to solve them, not learning canned solutions. The only reason to learn canned solutions is in vocational training. I’ll stop now before I rant about “write answer here” boxes with the units pre-printed in the box.

            • @ratface There’s also a lot of variation within the sciences. I started studying chemistry at university where there seemed to be usually be one single correct answer but for a variety of reasons dropped out of university for a while (ironically to get a job as a lab technician based on my chemistry skills). I later went back to study biology, mostly plant ecology, where often there is no single answer & its often a case of considering alternatives and justifying a choice. I found that much more satisfying than chemistry (a bit like you I suspect). All a long time ago but I still remember one question for our finals general paper – “Skin – the perfect wrapping ?” difficult to prepare for that & similar questions other than to have a good knowledge of the subject.

          • That may be true, but, by all accounts the Cambridge Maths course was (and probably still is) exceptionally demanding and fast paced. What’s more, you could be good enough to get in and then three years hard work later you could understand your stuff and still potentially be unable to do any questions in your finals – there were no questions just testing basic understanding, incomplete answers got very little credit and all the questions were hard. So you could end up with nothing while others who wouldn’t have considered applying to Cambridge got firsts at other good universities. It was incredibly demoralising for many. A friend seriously considered doing an Open University Maths degree afterwards just to regain some self respect academically (something I might even do in retirement having got so little out of my time at Cambridge!).

          • > Maths and physics simply are harder and require more work than modern languages or PPE.

            Except for the truly brilliant few (and there were certainly some at Cambridge!) for whom the Maths course was apparently effortless. And unlike brilliant physicists, they didn’t have to do lab stuff and unlike brilliant humanities students, they didn’t have to read books and write essays.

    • On the contrary, it seems to me that any country where the ratio of attention-seeking halfwits to academically able people is only 2.3 to 1 or so is doing pretty well.

      • To take the topic unnecessarily seriously;

        The populations aren’t the same. The applicants to Oxbridge are mostly 17/18 yo Brits, plus mature students and foreign students. I don’t think there’s an age restriction on ‘Love Island’ and there definitely isn’t a restriction based on your assumed grades. Naively it looks to me that, as a percentage of the base population, the application rate to Oxbridge may be far higher….

    • I’d be more worried about the number of people that read Digitalspy.com.

    • I think kids in the uk are often discouraged from thinking oxbridge and similar elite establishments are for them by the very people who should encourage them most, whether parents, friends or schools.

      • With 6 UCAS choices I really don’t understand why schools are so discouraging – and I really do think they are. Especially as Oxbridge drop people out of the process earlier on meaning they still get to make 1st and 2nd choices elsewhere.

        You’ve got to be in it to win it.

        The only reasons I see to discourage are (1) to protect fragile egos – far better to try and fail I think but on a climbing forum I’m preaching to the converted and (2) to allow the school to conserve effort intensively coaching applications (and exam results???) on fewer students to give them more chance of a bragabble result on limited resources.

    • Just to balance out the last few responses in case some of our younger members are put off applying, I absolutely loved my Cambridge years. Went from a Scottish state school aged 17 thinking I was way out my depth. It took roughly 72 hours before I realised I was in heaven. So many great people and so much going on. It’s definitely a ‘work hard play hard’ place (we had Saturday lectures). I am no genius but never found the work that problematic. Late night supervisions (Friday 9pm anyone?) initially seemed a chore but often descended into rambling drunken discourses (alcohol provided by the Prof) which were hugely entertaining. It’s a beautiful place and anyone who gets a place is very privileged regardless of what comes later in their career. Hobbies and intrests do take a bit of a back seat but that’s what holidays are for.