With more students applying for a degree now than ever before, the prestige of a degree doesn’t really carry the employable advantage it used to in the good old days. With this in mind, Impact set out to investigate which is more important to students: the actual degree, or that university experience?

With over 200 societies, the most in the country, UoN really does have something for everyone. There’s no doubt a club can enrich the university experience beyond a degree, providing character-building and plain entertainment in equal measure. Don’t be fooled into thinking these are limited to educational or prestigious pastimes; with societies centering around activities as pole dancing and cocktail-making, many a night-owl’s fancy might be tickled.

Of course, you can join a society to complement your academic pursuits (Creative Writing Soc, fellow Impact writers?) to add to the already plentiful range of professional opportunities offered by the university. Take for example the Advantage Award, a 30-credit additional qualification that students can obtain on top of their degree, taking part in disciplines such as volunteering and language-learning in the process, offering the same kind of practical experiences an entire apprenticeship might.

“University provides excellent networking opportunities that can be useful in later-life careers”

Or, if you’re feeling charitable, there are a vast array of volunteering opportunities around the city, from the Uni’s own Night Owls (which aims to help drunk students on nights out – a name to remember if you ever find yourself waking up unsure how you got home!) and weekly Soup Runs, which can provide some extra-curricular relief from those long nights spent at your desk revising for those ominous upcoming exams (don’t worry Freshers, you shouldn’t have many of these until 2nd year).

Even with all of this, uni just isn’t the same without friendships. While the common assumption that people make their ‘friends for life’ at university, and maybe even meet their ‘soulmate’, simply doesn’t apply to everyone (and some people might go through a few ‘soulmates’ throughout first year…).

What cannot be denied is that university provides excellent networking opportunities that can be useful in later-life careers, not just at official events such as the annual Media Conference, but also through the people you meet in your halls and course. Just think of how many bands meet at universities!

“Freshers shouldn’t be afraid to approach their lecturers and tutors with any questions they might have, as they tend to love having their brain picked about their subject”

However, networking at university isn’t limited to students-meeting-students, but also gives students the opportunity to meet experts in the careers they want to pursue. The first port of call is obviously lecturers – they’ve been there and done that, know what you’re going through and probably have some useful contacts in the respective industries they teach toward.

Freshers shouldn’t be afraid to approach their lecturers and tutors with any questions they might have, as they tend to love having their brain picked about their subject.

On top of this are the open lectures which occur at certain points in the year, which anyone can attend. It’s worth keeping your eyes peeled at the SU for when these talks occur; even if they happen to fall on a Friday, it’s important to remember there are plenty ways to get the most out of your time at Nottingham without getting drunk at Ocean every Friday.

One of the most unique way to do this (and cheapest) is by attending open lecturers which interest you. You never know what you might learn, or who you might meet.

Trip Hop Band London Grammar formed after meeting at the University of Nottingham
Trip Hop Band London Grammar formed after meeting at the University of Nottingham

But of course, the whole clubbing experience, probably at least 50% of the reason why you’re here, let’s be honest, cannot be denied. A lot of time spent at uni feels almost likes a holiday, and sometimes the ability to go out to clubs one to five times a week with people of the same age, albeit away from the tropical beaches of Magaluf, Zante and Ibiza, seems worth the infamous £9000 alone. Well, maybe it would, if it weren’t for that £5 entry fee…

However, the truth is that most of these extra-curricular activities, this networking and these friendships, being able to experience a new city and enjoy a buzzing nightlife, can be experienced and enjoyed outside of the university scenario.

 “It’s seen by some as 3 or 4 years away from ‘the real world’, but the truth is, university is just another tile in the mosaic of ‘the real world’, that preps people for later life in many more ways than just giving them a piece of paper”

University only makes it easier for people to experience all of these things. It is primarily a place for learning, and always will be, but it is a gateway to unusual and exciting experiences the average person might otherwise miss out on.

The degree is what people go to university for, and certainly, most people I’ve spoken to seems to think so, but perhaps everything alongside this is what makes university actually worth going to.

Because, at the end of the day, the flipside is true; higher education can be obtained without the university scenario through apprenticeships, some of which offer degrees at the end, and part-time courses that can be completed entirely online. However, people still insist on coming to university to enjoy the experience. It’s seen by some as 3 or 4 years away from ‘the real world’, but the truth is, university is just another tile in the mosaic of ‘the real world’, that preps people for later life in many more ways than just giving them a piece of paper.

“The degree is what people go to university for … but perhaps everything alongside this is what makes university actually worth going to”

In the least cheesy way possible (I’ll save that for Ocean), university really does push its students and help them figure out who they are and what they’re made of. It teaches them practical skills they can apply to later life, while also showing them that life can be fun and serious at the same time.

‘The university lifestyle’ as it’s known as really is a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity, and perhaps we should be thankful for that (ugh, we wouldn’t want that happening in our kitchens when we’re in our 30s, now, would we?), and because of that, it makes sense for students to enjoy it to the full, putting their efforts in sports and clubbing and volunteering or whatever else almost as much as they put effort into their actual degree. Besides, a 2.1 isn’t bad, is it?

But feeling like you’ve missed out on all of the other things you could have done, unfortunately, is.

Matteo Everett

Featured Image courtesy of Ethan Block on Flickr (Licence)

Body Image ‘London Grammar’ courtesy of Plotr Drabik on Flickr (Licence)

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