UCAS Figures Show More Student Strife and My Own War Story

We have been remarkably quiet on the Studio 279 News Blog of late, mainly in a variation on the Thumper Maxim “If you can’t say anything…don’t say anything at all”. As very little has occurred we have kept a kind of omerta, something apparently not shared by New York and New Jersey mobsters these days. But with news filtering through about latest figures about university places, we have opened our internet gob once more for a sound off.

The university admissions people UCAS has announced that the number of UK students accepted onto university courses dropped last year, and that record numbers of students failed to get a place. Almost a quarter of a million students were left without a university place altogether, and this is even before the mad rush to beat the tuition fees hike comes in. This is very sad, but sadly, not surprising. Why so, say you? Because it happened to me, dear reader, over two years ago.

As I may have mentioned, I studied for a two year Higher National Diploma course in Film Making, taken at a university I could commute to from Birmingham (names have been changed to protect the guilty). It was a course that seemed great and I was assured by the then course leader that there was a Third Year BA top up course approved, so come the end of the two years, I could either get the BA at that institution, or, if I preferred, look elsewhere. Needless to say, that proved to be a bit of a whopper: no such approval was ever given and no such topo up course would ever exist. So after two soul destroying years (during which time said course leader left) I applied for third years at other, more prestigious institutions, including one I had turned down in favour of the Mickey Mouseiversity as I felt the snooty prospective students were not my bag. After a faltering start, my film career would be given a shot in the arm.

Make that a shot in the head. There was a small financial crisis a few years back (you may remember it) that sent shockwaves through the global financial markets, and, it transpired, the university one too. With worries about lack of jobs, swarms of people were climbing hand over fist to get into (or stay in) university places. One university turned me down flat: no third year places, sorry. I accepted I may have to go in at year two, repeating a whole extra year. No good sunshine: no places there either. Then joy: the university I turned down first time round offered me an interview. I travelled up to that university city, 200miles ish from Birmingham, and impressed them with my BBC award winning short. Then at the one on one interview, midway through question one (“Why do you want to study here?”) one of the interviewers stopped her colleague to say there was a note on the application. It turned out there were no places available in the third year at all. “Do you want to continue the interview?”

Suffice it to say, there were stronger, more abusive answers I could have given, but partly blindsided by the development and relieved my pitching was over, I declined that courtesy, and left, after having taken tips to bolster an application for a year’s time. (Why I was not told about no places before I had travelled two hundred miles is not a question that sprang to mind until much later). But there I was, no university place, no BA in site, an almost useless qualification pending and few job prospects. Great!

It is the frustration derived from this state of affairs, along with other myriad issues with my course and the higher education system in general, that fueled the fires that burned into the creative inferno that is Graduate Decline. If you have yet to see it, you can see it on the film page here or on Youtube here. If you have seen it, email it to all your friends. They’ll like it trust me. And let it serve as a warning from one who knows, about what can happen when no university place there be…well actually it didn’t turn out too bad, but unless they have a BBC funded short in the pipeline they may not be so lucky.