From the moment the innocent Fresher arrives at the University of Southampton, it becomes common knowledge that Southampton Solent University are classed as ‘the enemy’. Bigger than any inter-hall rivalry, there are chants and Facebook groups, there was a relatively ridiculously idea of ‘Uni Wars’ at Orange Rooms one night in January… and of course there is the explosive new fad of ‘memes’, all of which serve to highlight the ‘divide’ between the two Universities of Southampton. Is all this innocent banter, or can we sense a slightly more sinister twist in the rivalry behind the jibes?
Having a friend who attends Solent, I can say from experience that flat mates and social nights hold a clear – but not a bad – difference, regarding both the kinds of people who attend the Universities and their general attitudes to life. From the moment I stepped into her (my friend’s) flat during Fresher’s Week, one of the girls along her corridor burst out of her room in a flurry of fake-tan and leopard print nails. She demanded to know why we (one of the other girls in my friendship group, who also goes to Southampton University, was with me), people from ‘the OTHER Uni’, were in the flat. She then proceeded to ignore us; flouncing off to the beat of chart music blasting so loud it caused the floor to reverberate.
Now, perhaps this girl was purely lacking in common decency, but to act with such contempt towards two people she had never met before seemed to take slightly too far the inter-Uni rivalry. Of course, I can’t from this experience assume that all individuals at the Solent behave like this (aforementioned bitch has now moved out of the flat because no-one liked her): on the contrary, after the initial bad start with this particular individual who treated my friend and the rest of her flat mates like they were beneath her, my friend has joined societies and made close friends without any problem at all, just like I have. However, on a fairly regular basis at the beginning of Semester One, she said ‘I think the people at your Uni are just more my kind of people.’ I found this an interesting way of putting it. How can a different university automatically ensure a different kind of person and who exactly are the kinds of people which Solent lack?
Southampton Solent gained University status in 2005, and offers degrees, foundation degrees and higher national diplomas in courses such as ‘Football Studies (BA)’, ‘Art Collections and Art Collectors in History’ and ‘Yacht Production and Surveying (BEng)’. Horrendously snobbish is what I am not; I hasten to add that if these subjects are where your strengths lie, then by all means go to Solent.
The high employment rates which come out of this University (around 80% are in full-time employment after graduation) point to the simple fact that actually, vocational courses may prepare you a lot better for an immediate start to the work force. But looking at this kind of course, I understand what my friend means by ‘they’re not my kind of people’. Students at the University of Southampton are introduced to a varied range of people and activities, something that comes naturally with the variety of subjects the University covers.
Perhaps you don’t really need to go to University to collect art (or maybe I’m just being churlish) but I’ve a suspicion the ‘rivalry’ between the two Universities isn’t so much to do with an inherent hatred of the other. Rather, it is more to do with a dubious feeling as to how the students from each University should act around each other. There is, really, no reason why a person with a Mechanical Engineering MSc and person with a degree in Art Collecting can’t get along, but the stigma attached to both Universities by the other serves as deterrence enough.
At the end of the day, we’re all at University to gain something out of higher education. I suspect rivalry between two Universities in the same city isn’t so much to do with the status of the Universities, but more to do with the inevitable competition which emerges between two institutes full of young adults with such close proximity to each other.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Solent students are a bunch of uneducated scum bags. Nah, only joking. There’s no difference between us and them, really. Admittedly, the grades we need to get into University are higher than what they’re required to achieve, with Medicine and Engineering not exactly top of the agenda when it comes to degree courses. However, this doesn’t justify the abuse both Universities hurl at the other; although on some levels it’s friendly banter, occasionally it can turn nasty. Ultimately – whether from Solent or Soton – we’re all looking to contribute to the economy and better the future of society: a feat impossible without a multitude of talent and skill. The phrase ‘it takes all sorts’ comes to mind.