First Impressions of University Life

When interviewing alumni of Royal Holloway College and Bedford college from the 1960s, I would like to question them about their adjustment to and first impressions of university life. The Robbins Report of 1963 encouraged the widening of university education to all who qualified through ability. It would be interesting to discover whether the widening of education to different socio-economic communities was immediately obvious to students starting their studies at Royal Holloway College and Bedford College in the mid to late 1960s. If this was the case, what were their first impressions of this? Did they embrace the opportunity of meeting people from different backgrounds to their own or were tensions present? Perhaps, the student body wasn’t overtly diverse, but students wished it had been.

Likewise, at a time when single-sex schools were prominent, it would be valuable to discover the first impressions of students from such backgrounds, when arriving at a newly co-educational university. I would question whether being in a new social environment made them feel homesick, or if they enjoyed being somewhere different from home.

Questions less unique to the context of the 1960s but universal to student life would also be useful for potential future research into university culture. Did the students of Royal Holloway College and Bedford College in the 1960s find it easy to make friends within their first few weeks of study? It would also be interesting to discover if university work was a daunting progression from their school work. Additionally, I would ask whether they liked their new local area and if the college itself felt like a home away from home immediately or if it took them longer to adjust, if at all.

When conducting the interviews, there is the potential for the alumni to recount their university experience as a whole rather than their first impressions. Therefore, I must frame my questions to overtly emphasise my focus on the first term of their studies.

The demographics of students attending university changed immensely during the 1960s, and it should be discovered whether this influenced individual first impressions and the ability to adapt to university life.

Becky Tabrar