By Lianne Barnard

I’m sure many of you have been in this situation. A lecture theatre or small seminar room, it’s late afternoon, the artificial light and the grey dusk from outside is making your eyes heavy with tiredness and you’re watching the second hand twitch relentlessly, the lecturer is trying with all his mite to seek some kind of response, asking questions, any questions to try and engage, he asks a terrifyingly obvious question, that harks back to your years of A levels, and you look around the room, and everyone has remained ignorant to the most simplest of queries, even with your shock you remain silent and bury your gaze in something completely out of the view of the lecturer’s searching eyes, you doodle biro flowers in the corner of your notebook and you wonder why you bothered, you long for the early finish even the lecturer is willing. As you read that horrifying image you might have tried to think that wasn’t you, or you’d never experienced that, but the truth is you most likely have, and you’ve more than likely been that individual who knows the answer time and time again or has a response but remains silent like a naughty child. The truth is you probably all are, after two years at university I can safely say, I have come across less than five examples of individuals that aren’t. It’s a baffling problem, that has no explanation in my view.

What I find worrying is the whole understanding that university should be built on has changed, university isn’t something you attend on a compulsory basis, it isn’t something you have to sit through and endure like the drudgery of your school days, it’s a personal choice that should not only be undertaken because of ambitions in a particular career but a staunch interest in your field of study. University is about broadening the way you think, understanding the way you think, indulging in the luxury of immersing yourself in your chosen subject and being able to listen and speak with like minded peers. I feel particularly, nowadays ,the normalisation of undertaking a degree and attending university, has bred university alumni, that are not aware of the extreme luck they have to be there in the first place.

Apart from the current third year the entire UWE student body is paying the higher level of tuition fees, fees which hundreds of students rebutted in protests which lasted weeks, in which UWE students were involved. Why then do students seeks to waste this massive extortion by half engaging in their studies? Why do we sit in lectures and seminars day after day, aware of the massive financial and personal strain university life puts on all of us, and not grasp the time we have to broaden our minds and capabilities through talking and debating?

What makes this issue worse is the animosity students have towards others on their course who do intend to involve themselves vocally in seminars and lectures. I have spoken to countless people who damn the more vocal of their peers for the fact they speak in any capacity. I have personal experiences, being someone who wishes to get my money’s worth out of the thousands of pounds I am investing in education, where I have heard peers openly voicing their disgust at my involvement in a friendly class debate with the lecturer.  This is a worrying reality, and even though remarks and back biting don’t stop myself, personally, from what I feel is development, students who are less confident in public speaking may find this completely debilitating.

Of course not everyone is comfortable speaking in front on large groups but I find it difficult to believe a lecture theatre of thirty plus students have difficulty in small seminar groups, as they have the capability to attend university in the first instance.

Some may read this and find it an irritant,  some may greet it with the same animosity you greet the individual you and your course mates mock because they seek in a small way to develop themselves through debating in seminars and asking questions in lectures. But hopefully some may see this as food for thought, and go into their next lecture with an open mind and open vocal cords, instead of damning the girl who sits at the front and apathetically nodding at the lecture, take your university career into your own hands and see it for all its value and opportunity.