The folk on the Apprentice are generally of the type who feel like Oxford and Cambridge graduates cannot possibly have any common sense. You don't see intelligence praised very often on the programme (it has that in common with the Gospels, according to Bertrand Russell, who doubtless was a big fan of Alan Sugar). They have a discussion of the World War II, during which it becomes clear that not a single one of them on the whole team can state with any confidence when it happened. To the nearest year, even. Yikes.
Interestingly, they've just told them to go and get a mortarboard, and one of them confidently stated that these were closely associated with graduation and particular at these ancient universities. Well, I never wore one. I did wear one of those gowns, and the 'Jedi' white fur hood on a couple of occasions, and (from memory) the academic bands (two strips of white cloth that appear to have no possible function). But I didn't wear them all day every day, because we just didn't. It seems that these places have an undeserved reputation for intentional mysteriousness.
So, for those unacquainted with the real experience of university (those universities, at least), here are two defining moments:
In one, the person who was elected JCR president acquired the nickname 'The Bollocks'. This is the level of wit and wisdom we managed. In response to a comment in the book about his presidency which read 'I think Ed is the bollocks,' he wrote 'what an important word 'the' is.' There you go. Razor sharp. He now teaches history at (a prestigious) university.
In another, some Americans asked a college-mate of mine if Cambridge students had an equivalent term of gentle abuse for those at Oxford (they call us, apparently, Tabs (as our degrees are marked 'Cantab')). He replied with something along the lines of 'yes: c**ts.' It's a really interesting feature of that most vulgar of words that it is the target of the rhyming slang 'berk', which usually doesn't feel quite so coarse.
There is a sort of violation that has taken place in trying to mix these two worlds of the fiercely academic and the fiercely business. I'm not sure which way round it is, though. My university experience was such that I am desperately jealous of those going to university now, and those for whom it is still in the future. But I will say this: the relatively high cost has changed what university is to many people. Those training to be doctors or lawyers, for example, can see a direct return on an investment. It's much harder to justify education, particularly of the type I had, which was of limited utility in the world of work at large. I would have struggled to make the choices I did if the costs were tens of thousands rather than a few thousand altogether. Alan Bennett shall have the last word today...
Scripps : Oh, Pos, with your spaniel heart. It will pass.
Posner : Yes, it's a phase. Who says I want it to pass? But the pain, the *pain*.
Scripps : Hector would say it's the only education worth having.
Hector : Pass the parcel. That's sometimes all you can do. Take it, feel it and pass it on. Not for me, not for you, but for someone, somewhere, one day. Pass it on, boys. That's the game I want you to learn. Pass it on.
Headmaster: Fuck the Ren-ai-ssance! And fuck literature, and Plato, and Michaelangelo, and Oscar Wilde, and all the other shrunken violets you people line up. This is a school, and it isn't normal!
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought