Dear Durham… Your international reputation isn’t there yet
You’ve probably had the fortune of hearing this often, what with our glowing student satisfaction statistics, but I love you to absolute shreds. Every time I see the cathedral when my train pulls into the station, I burst into song loud enough for people to consider pressing charges for oral assault. But I have to admit, introducing you to my parents was no fairytale.
I can’t be sure if it was their dedication to the practice of medicine (thus limiting their idea of what constitutes ‘an education’) or their incredibly Asian thought pattern, but the blank look that I got from my mum and dad when I told them that Durham was my first choice for university was definitely not a reaction based on glowing statistics. It would have hurt less if they had thought that Durham wasn’t a good place to study, but I was in for an evening of heartache when they asked me if I had just conjured this magical town up from the depths of my over-active, Potter-esque imagination, all on my own.
I can pre-empt those counter-arguments of yours that cry ‘stereotypical Asian infatuation with Oxbridge’ or ‘simple ignorance of the International community beyond Europe and parts of the US’, but grant me this one rant. The fact is that I’ve heard many a College Master and Head-of-Department in our self-contained little university-town, express a desire to internationalise Durham, making it the centre of worldwide debate and research.
Take it from an international representative, who admittedly didn’t know you existed before she scoured the league tables to look for a way to escape the labyrinth of the London Underground – that won’t happen without some liberal modification of approach.
A map of the UK looks completely unrecognisable when viewed through the eyes of an average South Asian; picture a large island anchored in the Atlantic, with one city – London. This city has the best and indeed the only institutes for higher education in the country. Oxford and Cambridge are the only exceptions, but their proximity to London and their monopoly over secondary education in South Asia saves them from the clutches of obscurity. Anything and everything that is not in Central London, Oxford or Cambridge, constitutes of lush green pastures and sheep. One does not study in green pastures or among sheep.
I have no desire to slate my hometown by making this fictitious map public knowledge, but I do want to show you what you’re working with if you really want to ‘internationalise’. Even besides maintaining an international presence with bodies like the Cambridge International Examinations or the Oxford University Press, these ‘known’ universities sell themselves by sending representatives to schools around the world, and very naturally forcing people to believe that they are the best, because they are the only ones trying to look it. With the humanities picking up an international interest, I really think you can carry your stellar reputation at home beyond the borders of the UK and Europe in many ways other than hiding at the top of a league table.
As much as I want to keep you all to myself, I want people at home to know you exist – so I can feel the same high while parading around in my stash no matter where I am in the world.
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