Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Lifetime Learning in Cambridge

Chumley and I took a jaunt to Cambridge, not terribly far from us given that we live in Cambridgeshire. Unlike the universities I'm used to, Cambridge is an association of 31 different colleges, of which King's College is pictured at left. It took its name from a bridge over the River Cam, which existed in 875. By 1200, there was an established scholar's hangout made up of brainy sorts who found the townsfolk in Oxford to be a little too hostile for their tastes.

Some things never change. Right from the start, Cambridge had problems with young students making a ruckus and disturbing the locals. There were also landlords who extorted unfair prices for food and housing from students that were at their mercy. This seems like the medieval equivalent of pledging a fraternity mixed with some slumlord action.

Flags posted all over the city celebrate the 800th anniversary of Cambridge this year. I wonder who would come to party down with the class of 1209? I didn't see a class picture chiseled into any of the buildings' walls. Maybe they'd be lured back with the promise that the Troubadours were getting back together for a one-night-only concert with some funky circle dancing.

Cambridge is full of tourists, but not to the point of overflowing. A good number of the young people we saw were certainly students, doing some shopping in the high-end stores within the city center. One thinks that only the children of the wealthy can afford to attend, but tuition and fees appear to be around $16,000 per year if they can get in. That is a large if. Getting in appears to be a bit of a longshot, and there's always been debate about whether it's helpful to admission to come from a prosperous background.

Aside from who is populating the streets, Cambridge is full of lovely, ancient buildings. It's possible to pop into a college, most of which are built around a central courtyard. Dining and living quarters exist within, as well as each college's porter. I wish I had someone to help me with my luggage when I moved into college. The city surfaces are typically university - full of notices on plays, concerts, protests, etc.

You are much loathed in the center of Cambridge if you happen to bring your car. It's a very bicycle-y city, and with medieval, winding streets, cars are a nightmare. We were wise, I think, and ditched ours at a car park that also served the YMCA (and as an outdoor urinal for the village people, by the smell of things.) Some of the colleges have signs posted that bike parking is for fellows only. It must be one of the perks of tenure.

The way Cambridge teaches includes small sessions of three to four people studying under the supervision of their director, in addition to attending lectures. I'm finally starting to grasp the concept of having a "college tutor." This is especially helpful to me, as Sting has multiple references to college tutors in his lyrics.

I wonder if one can do postgraduate work on the lyrical interpretations of Sting? I suspect the postgraduation job prospects are somewhat subpar.

No comments: