Since the beginning of my university career, the media have been getting their knickers in a twist over a finding that only 12% of lecturers vote Conservative, which somehow makes universities breeding grounds of extremist left-wing ideology. Studying somewhere like Bath, I think it’s safe to say that student politics isn’t as cut and dry as the media makes it out to be, but it did leave me wondering, is there a tendency for students to become more left-wing at university?
I decided to seek answers from the most left-wing group on campus, Bath Marxists; spending a day going to their meetings and talking to their members. In order for this not to be written off as left-wing propaganda, I also tried to get involved with our most right-wing group, the Conservative Alliance. However, they only meet once a year and I was on a deadline, so I settled for a text interview with one of the group’s committee members and the only Tory that I have begrudgingly befriended at uni. In true politician form, he replied with paragraphs of text and no real answers.
According to the Marxists, university is a time for students to explore their beliefs, so there are more radical groups on campuses than there are in the world, but they don’t believe that students have an inherent left-wing bias and thought that the Conservative Alliance had more members (which after pestering the group in question for a vague turnout number I’d say isn’t true). The Conservative student that I spoke to said that he felt like students from both ends of the political spectrum agree on a lot of student-related issues such as housing and the environment (really?). He blamed the NUS for the misconception that students are more left-wing, saying that it works hard at putting right-wing students off and has a desire to get involved in issues that it has no influence over. This was almost comically contrasted with the Marxist group’s description of the NUS as a ‘glorified discount card’ – I guess no one’s a fan.
“This was almost comically contrasted with the Marxist group’s descrip tion of the NUS as a ‘glorified discountcard’ – I guess no one’s a fan.”
Considering the disproportionate Marxist presence, I was left questioning what this meant for our political climate on campus. I spoke to my Tory acquaintance about this, and he agreed that it’s important that students have a chance to freely express themselves politically. However, he did voice his disappointment at the existence of an ‘extremist’ group on campus, and then went on to accuse Marxism of having ‘racism and greed’ at its core, ultimately deciding that Marxism and fascism ‘share many ideas’.
However, my takeaway from their presence is very different. To me, it seems that the Marxist presence on campus is a product of the university making student lives more and more transactional. Whether it be oversubscription leading to student homelessness, salesmen harassing us on the Parade, or the University’s perverse policy of fining perpetrators of sexual harassment on campus like a glorified pimp instead of supporting victims – it’s hard not to feel like a pay check, and I don’t blame students for condemning this capitalist approach to education.