“The Examination Schools, University of Oxford, offers large and versatile conference facilities in Oxford. An ideal venue for meetings, seminars, exhibitions and hire for other events.” – University Website.
Ever get the feeling you’re not wanted? Exam Schools, like much of Oxford, is a product to be sold to the highest bidder. And in its pursuit of a quick return on this Grade II listed building, the University is jeopardizing its very future as a seat of academic excellence. Worse, it’s screwing you over.
You might not spend much time in Schools – particularly if you’re a science student – so I’ll describe it to you: remarkably ill-suited to the very thing we assume it’s for: learning. Not only do the brilliant (and brilliantly-paid) academics give you the impression they’re slowly dying with each, last, syll-aa-bull they utter, but they continue to come off second best in the tag team battle with the overhead projectors, the lights and the microphones. The students all suffer from back pain and squints because they have to take notes on their knees and stare at the blurry screens. Despite the availability of warm, quiet, well-lit and not-otherwise-used-for-conference-guests rooms, students don’t have anywhere to go before or after lectures to consolidate their thoughts and make sure the information sinks in. An infinite number of monkeys may be capable of writing the complete works of Shakespeare, but they’ll probably do it a lot quicker if you give them desks to put their typewriters on. They might even produce something better if they’re given a few minutes to read through and check their grammar afterwards.
Last week I tried to stay in South Schools to finish off my notes after an afternoon lecture. I didn’t even last five minutes before a technician (read: nightclub bouncer) came and chucked me out. “Please Sir, I want some more” I said. “You’ve got the Bodleian Library, young man” came the reflex retort. Not wanting to break my concentration, I moved to the steps outside the building, where I naively assumed I’d be left to finish off my scrawl, albeit with the distraction of the cars on the High St. and people wanting to give me money because they thought I was homeless. Just three minutes before security identified me as a potential bomb threat to the imminently-arriving Iraqi dignitary. Shouldn’t have worn that backpack.
Oxford University is failing its students. The problem isn’t the cuts, but myopia. So let’s hope someone reads this and makes some improvements to Exam Schools. After all, we wouldn’t want to damage the brand we’re going to sell to 2050’s conference guests, would we?