Do Different – the University of East Anglia Revisited
University of East Anglia Revisited
Twenty years after my graduation, I returned to UEA, and found it comfortingly recognisable. There have been changes of course. It is now much bigger than it was in my day, with several times as many students than the 5000 odd there in my time.
Waveney Terrace, my old accommodation block, has long been demolished – its concrete breeze blocks gone for good, replaced with something modern and probably functional. Waveney’s design was based on a Scandinavian prison, or so the legend ran, and it showed. But we all had a tremendous affection for it. Apart from a few months in the ziggurat at Suffolk Terrace, and a few weeks in a cottage at Wramplingham, I spent most of my time in Waveney, as undergraduate and Resident Tutor.The heart of the university has changed little. I remember the pleasure of reading all the books, the tutors I had, and by gosh they were good, and a great deal of student politics. I remember the occupation of the Registry, the campaign against the Poll Tax, the protest against student cuts…. I remember the new avenues of thought and reading that were opened up for me.
If only we had known how lucky we were. At least we had a grant and didn’t have to pay tuition fees, the modest student loan came in while I was there, but it was so modest we scarcely noticed it. I never paid a penny back! I feel desperately sorry for the undergraduates of today, burdened with debts of tens of thousands of pounds, under legislation passed by politicians who mostly got grants for their own degrees and never paid anything back. I suspect that in a few years only the very wealthy will get anywhere near a university. Such a shame and so shameful. A lot of talent will be stifled before it has a chance to bloom.
UEA has a deserved reputation as a writer’s university. I just missed Angus Wilson, but I went to Malcolm Bradbury’s lectures, and my personal tutor was the late Lorna Sage (her book Bad Blood is well worth a read). I recall the happy memories of studying D.H. Lawrence with the incomparable George Hyde, who inspired me to explore many interesting literary directions – though how I wish that I had known then that he was a fellow Borrovian! I did a lot of writing of my own and still do. It was a happy atmosphere in which to work. My main degree was literature, but I did a minor in 19th century social history with Patricia Hollis, who commuted between UEA and the House of Lords. She increased my interest in that period. (Her son Martin Hollis has just written an excellent book on Edward Thomas, which I am reading at the moment).
Dear old UEA offered me an MA place when I graduated, but I couldn’t fund it, so I left heartbroken. I was touched by their faith in me.
I wish UEA well. I hope everyone enjoys their time there as much as I did. I hope politicians repent and treat all undergraduates much more fairly. UEA’s motto is “Do Different”. It certainly does. I recommend the place to anyone thinking of doing a degree.
Many thanks to Charlotte of the UEA Alumni department for facilitating my visit and arranging parking. The help was much appreciated.