Shortly after we moved in to Staunton Hall in 2003 we were appoached by Nottingham University for permission to bring a coach load of their architecture students for a ‘field day’ in the grounds. They had been doing this when the hall was a hospice. Naturally I said yes, and went out to meet them when they arrived. A lecturer gave them their brief; to design a chapel or a theatre somewhere in the grounds. I gave them some history of the area, after which they split into informal groups and moved off. I commented to one of the lecturers that I was surprised none of the students had any questions, to which he replied, “Don’t be surprised; hardly any of these kids will ever practice architecture. It’s just ‘bums on seats.” They asked to come again the following year but I turned them down.
This month ‘A’ level exam results are out again, an event which assumes greater importance with each year that passes. The students I’ve spoken to are satisfied with their grades, and all are headed for university. Their parents are urging them on, and I a lone voice advising caution. Successive governments have chucked money into the pot and now every outfit has jumped on the bandwagon and become a university. Do they all give good value? I doubt it. Will there be jobs at the end of it commensurate with the years of study? For some, yes; for a great many, no.
Speaking of the thousands of pounds accrued in fees one father said to me that his daughter would probably never have to pay it, as though this made it go away. it doesn’t – I pay it through my taxes. Like so many grand schemes, this funding falls prey to the law of unintended consequences. And for many ‘bums on seats’ will translate into ‘bum jobs.’