If you’re a Soton Tab veteran, you may remember an article we published last year about Solent. The semi-infamous “Why I’d Rather Go To Solent” raved about the virtues of attending Solent. And just a few days ago we published another, similar article about the snobbery of Southampton students.
In some small ways I agree with what the articles say, and I can see where they are coming from, but when it comes down to it I have to fundamentally disagree.
The two universities are home to vastly different cultures. Southampton has been built to what it is over decades, with adjustments and growing with the times. It has one of the biggest and best Student Unions in the country with a campus based and community feel. Solent students are not so lucky. Their SU is much smaller, offers much less and they are stuck in the middle of town, losing the community experience.
They also attract a vastly different type of student. Due to the entry requirements, it is fair to assume that many Southampton students have been fortunate enough to receive a good education, so the uni attracts a fairly academic intake and excels in scientific, forward thinking disciplines like Engineering.
Contrastingly (although of course, there are exceptions), Solent has lower requirements and tends to attract more vocational students who tend to be studying more Art-based degrees such as Media Studies. By nature, these two types of people have a different way of looking at the world.
The teaching style is completely different. Solent place a much higher emphasis on doing. For the most part, their degrees are more vocational and require a lot less of an understanding of the theory or history of its origins. Whereas Southampton, as a research based institution, teaches all of its degrees with this in mind.
The experience of Southampton you receive is also completely different, with Southampton Uni students congregating more on the grimy outskirts rather than the inner-city student hovels where Solent students tend to reside.
I’m not a snob, but I do resent the Labour government for allowing the Polytechnics to award higher educational degrees. I have no problem with allowing people who have come from lower levels of society access to higher education and actively embrace it! I had never paid for my education before I got to University, and I don’t see why money should be an issue. However, I do feel that by allowing it freely to everyone, the fundamental point of higher education has been ruined.
It has almost become a necessity to get a 2:1 in a degree in order to get a decent job, and this is because (if you believe the media) everyone has one. Higher education used to be a way of separating candidates, but now it acts as a standard and is expected, so many young people feel that in order to get a job, they have to get themselves into huge amounts of debt, which they may potentially never pay off.
Work places are now looking for students from certain universities to counteract this. When applying for graduate jobs, they often have a drop down menu for you to select your University and the high regards held for the Russell Group status means that Southampton’s place is usually cemented there.
Solent is not so fortunate, and no article could be written without the explicit observation about how low Solent usually features in national league tables. This is a representation of the University, not through the eyes of a Southampton student, but through the eyes of standardised, nationwide consideration which also takes into account the opinions of Solent educated students.
Rivalry is natural and healthy, so it seems fair that students from both sides will get defensive and territorial about their respective universities. You will find it in any city throughout the UK which is home to more than one University. It’s not something that should be criticised. In fact, I relish the fact that students like their university enough to want to defend it.
I think you’d find it rare to come across many students at Southampton who would actually rather go to Solent. Personally, I would much rather stay at Southampton University and gain from everything they have to offer rather then attend the disjointed student experience that Solent students seem to receive. But that is not to say that the Solent experience is not right for some people – it just isn’t right for me.