I was talking to someone recently who was researching what the University of Cambridge was like in the late 80s and early 90s. I think this research was in part prompted by the current proposals to alter the way higher education in England is funded and in part because those of us who were students then might now have started to do something interesting. Certainly, there was an interest in asking whether the socio-economic make-up of the student body then differs from how it is now. And it's certainly true that a lot of us are worried about what the current funding proposals will do to the chances of the less well-off coming into higher education so it's a good question to ask and something we need to look at very closely.
Anyway, as I was talking two things struck me. First, I couldn't really tell this person whether any of my friends and, if any who, came from less privileged backgrounds. Now, this was in part because I was a pretty think naive thing who might not have spotted these things. But it also wasn't really anything we talked and thought about. Is that good? I don't know. I suppose I knew what the parents of my close friends did and sometimes we'd visit over the vacations and see where their families lived. But I don't remember us making much of which school someone had gone to. Perhaps we decided it was best not to ask. And perhaps we were all deciding that now we were grown-up undergraduates we weren't going to be defined any more by our parents or our schools. Or perhaps we were too busy with other things.
The other thing I remembered vividly was being terrified about my Greek. I had done no Greek at school and so learned Greek in the Faculty's 'Intensive Greek' (IG) programme. I remembered not only being scared every time I had to write a Greek literature essay (because I really couldn't read the text very well) but also having a sinking feeling every time something I was reading for, say, Greek history, helpfully decided to quote a chunk of untranslated Greek. No use to me.
And finally, I remembered how that feeling persisted. In my final year I was genuinely torn between applying to do research in Latin literature (prose, probably, perhaps historiography) or ancient philosophy. The problem with ancient philosophy was that, although I really enjoyed it, I thought my Greek wasn't good enough. Two of my supervisors (these two good people) very kindly took me for a cup of tea in the Sidgwick Buttery and we talked over the options. In the end, I'm glad I made the choice I did but I very nearly chickened out. Good job too; I would have been truly terrible at Latin lit.