Can you put a price on College pride?

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When I reached the end of my undergraduate degree at Lancaster University, three short years that felt like it had happened in the blink of an eye, I felt – as most final year students do, even the ones that deny it – panicked at the idea of the next stage of my life. I had no plans so to speak of, and despite knowing what I wanted to do once I left university I just didn’t feel quite ready to leave yet.

At Lancaster, at least in my department, the lecturers, course convenors and staff heavily encourage staying on to do a postgraduate degree. So, after looking into the possibility and discussing the idea with my parents, I signed up to do a Masters degree at the university I’d come to call home.

There’s just something about Lancaster, a certain magic that other universities – at least the other universities that I applied to and visited – didn’t have. I think a certain part of this magic comes from the collegiate system. Once your place is confirmed as a student, one of the first things you’re required to do is pick your college. And, once you actually arrive, the first people you meet and the first people you call friends are ones in the same college.

Welcome Week, alongside the excessive amounts of alcohol, is all about college pride and college rivalry. And that spirit continues for the remaining time you’re at Lancaster, and even after you leave. During a trip home when I was in second year, I nipped out to do some errands while wearing my Lancaster University team hoody. The man serving me in the shop I’d popped into noticed, it turned out he was a Lancaster alumni. After asking me how I liked Lancaster and what I studied, his next question was, “what college are you in?” He was a Furnessian, and upon hearing I was in Grizedale, he made sure to let me know how in his final year the Furness bar sports team had absolutely destroyed us. It was truly riveting. But my point stands, even years after graduating and leaving this place, your memories and your time at Lancaster matters, it’s not just University pride but college pride.

You live and breathe your college for the short time that you’re in Lancaster, so imagine my disappointment when I learned that upon registering as a postgraduate student, I would become a member of Graduate College. No longer an official Grizedalian, as if the past three years had been irrelevant. And it’s not just the social side associated to college status that bothers me. As a member of a college, you’re required to pay a college membership fee. Sure, it’s only £12, and what’s that in the grand scheme of things when you’re paying nine grand a year to even be here? But, if I plan on having nothing to do with my new college, choosing instead to remain loyal to my old college, why should I be required to pay for events I won’t be attending and services I won’t be attending? I will admit this is a small, almost irrelevant point and I did in fact pay my college membership as the money goes towards things like travel grants and bursaries. If I had been allowed to remain in my undergrad college, I still would have paid the fee to Graduate College, gladly even.

My main point of contention is to do with integrated Masters. Despite still earning a Masters degree, students who decide to do a Masters degree from day one (or have no choice but to) are members of their original college for the full four years of their degree. Meanwhile, students who decide a little later on that they too would in fact quite like to pursue their studies further are forced to relocate. Where’s the sense in that?

I’m not alone in this attitude towards college change-ups. I have a friend who was so desperate not to leave his undergrad college; he applied for the role of Assistant Dean so he could remain a member, despite not particularly wanting to do the actual job. Similarly, I know of another student who wouldn’t stop begging and bothering her college SCR, they changed her college membership status on the database just to shut her up. As far as the University are aware, she’s still a member of her undergrad college.

While I have nothing against Grad College – I know some truly lovely people who are from Grad, they have an incredibly hard working and dedicated PG Board, plus they put on a great Grad Fest last year (I loved the petting zoo, just the memory of the baby llama still melts my heart) – it’s just not Grizedale. I’d understand the requirement to be a member of Grad if you were choosing to live on campus. There isn’t enough accommodation on campus for the first years, as well as the second and third years that choose to stay, as it is, so moving the postgraduate students to Grad is understandable in that sense. But I live in town, so what am I gaining? As the college with the highest number of student members, you’d think they wouldn’t miss one or two students – especially little, old me!

The difference is, before you even arrive at University you feel an allegiance to your college. This is largely to do with the hype surrounding events such as Welcome Week and making those all-important memories from the best years of your life. Entering a postgraduate degree, you’re just there to postpone the real world, a 20,000-word dissertation looming, staring you straight in the face. Where’s the excitement there?

So, I’ll spend the rest of the year mourning and insisting to anyone who asks I am still in Grizedale College. And why wouldn’t I? I’m Grizedale ‘til I die.