Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
There are two universities in Southampton. This one (Soton, or “Uni of”) and Solent. And they’re completely different in every way. Nothing alike. Like apples and oranges, but if oranges were vegetables. After all, one has massive ties to boats and aerospace – whilst the other has huge links to planes and shipping!
The biggest real difference is that Solent has lower entry requirements. And oh, does that go to some people’s heads!
My general reaction to rivalries is usually one of “who’s arsed” – how bad must your own life be going to spend that much time judging others? (I say currently, judging others, of course.)
Being from the glorious Solent metropolis, I see this “friendly rivalry” pop up from students that study at Southampton that aren’t from Hampshire – and not from Solent students. People from these parts, after all, have been taught from conception that the real mortal enemy is in fact Portsmouth – anything east of Whiteley Shopping Centre is believed to be evil beyond reproach.
But hating a part of our own city has such a stranglehold on some people that it reaches university senior management – allegedly. I’ve heard quite a few whispers over the years that the university doesn’t sign off on fixtures with Solent on the off chance that we might lose. The idea of Soton being scared to lose is so vain that I almost can’t believe it.
But then why does this rivalry exist? I believe it’s because of one simple belief: Soton requires higher exam grades, thereby making Soton students smarter and better. Do I have to say that exams aren’t everything? Having A* grades didn’t prepare me at all for freelancing and the people skills you need to go far with it. You can have A* grades in Maths and Physics and still end up with a whopping U in Social Skills – just ask anyone in Engineering!
In my experience, it really does correlate with people who need to feel superior about something over others. Anecdotally, the one person I remember being super anti-Solent was a private-school boy who was desperate for approval from others. Anti-Solentism became his personality because there was nothing else to fill it with, other than the copious amounts of whey protein that he hoarded. He was personally invested because it was his defence mechanism; Southampton was his second choice, and he’s had to slum it at a Global Top 100 university instead.
Studies into intergroup contact almost always show an increase in tolerance and understanding between different groups when you get them to work collaboratively, supported by the authorities in charge. You can see how the findings of this might be relevant. Maybe Soton’s management should push for more cooperation, forcing both sets of students to work together. Or instead, we can continue down this beaten path, a one-sided divide perpetuated by only the pettiest. The ball’s in your court.