Monday, 12 October 2009


Before I start properly I must say that I’ve never lived in “digs decked out with flat screen televisions” or enjoyed “lunches of smoked salmon sandwiches” whilst at university. But it seems that Kevin Sharpe, Professor of Renaissance Studies at the University of London (Queen Mary), thinks this is the norm for students and believes an upper-class lifestyle is the reason behind students graduating with £20,000 of debt on average. He says that most students have “the latest iPods” and spend much time on “mobile calls at peak times”. Well this is hardly unique to a student population, is it? The majority of people I know (although not me) have got an iPod and contract phone - students and professionals - and this is not an indication of “upper-class living” at all in the UK. But maybe this factor isn’t the thing that was most thought-provoking about Professor Sharpe’s research.

I have come to university to get a degree and enjoy myself - hopefully in equal measure! There will only be three few years of my life when I am a student (this will be the last one as far as I know), and I’m determined to have a good time. Whilst this does not mean reckless spending on gadgets and items that I don’t need, it does mean that I will go out for a drink or meal with friends and not worry too much about the cost. This concept of a “luxurious lifestyle” lived by students - according to Professor Sharpe - simply doesn’t exist, and the majority of people I know at university are very careful with their money.

The bottom line is that getting a degree will cost you money and the living & entertainment costs on top of that are not going to be cheap. However, university is such a wonderful experience - and you can get so much financial support anyway from the government and your institution nowadays - that money should not be a concern, as much as you should watch your spending. Very few students do go out and buy M&S sandwiches and live a “luxurious lifestyle” from my experience, so it seems Professor Sharpe needs to go and research a wider sample on my evidence. However it’s certainly interesting research that’s worthy of further study.

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Sky are launching a rival subscription download service to iTunes, where they will get users to pay £7.99 for the download of one album (or 10 songs) per month then unlimited streaming. However there seems to be a better alternative for the consumer. On Spotify, you have a free streaming service with a few adverts inserted here and there - although there are fewer than on the radio. On iTunes you can download an album or 10 songs for a similar price. So far, an equal service when comparing Sky Songs to iTunes and Spotify. But - and here’s the important bit - iTunes is not subscription based so you can buy as little or as much as you like. This makes it a better alternative as you get more choice and purchasing power than with Sky.

I don’t quite know what it is about downloaded music, but I’ve rarely paid money for songs online. I’ve also never downloaded any tunes on sites like Limewire or Kazaa, but do stream them on Spotify and YouTube occasionally. In fact, I have only ever bought one album to download - Insides by Jon Hopkins - and a couple of singles here and there. I hope that I’m not being too old skool by mostly purchasing CDs from HMV, Play, CD Wow and Amazon.

Last week I wanted to buy The Cut-Up Boys’ latest mix album, and although it was cheaper to download I popped down to HMV to pick up a hard copy and then put it into my mp3 player. The experts among you will point out that it would have been easier - and cheaper - to download it straight onto my mp3 player from online, rather than gone out to buy the CD, rip it onto the computer and then download. But there’s something about CDs that makes me still enjoy buying one in a shop, looking at the artwork and putting it on the shelf. I suppose it’s somewhat like buying a hard copy of a newspaper rather than reading it online - I’ve grown up with news and music in tangible forms, and that’s how I most enjoy to consume them both.

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Every true football fan pays good money to see a good game and it’s such a shame when the referee spoils it. There are often matches when some decisions made are so blatantly wrong that everyone in the ground knows it - such as the phantom goal at Watford last season, or the goal that wasn’t at Bristol City recently. It couldn’t have happened to a funnier person than Crystal Palace’s Neil Warnock - what a legend. Anyway, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has landed himself in hot water over the last seven days for suggesting referee Alan Wiley was unfit and “needed a rest” in their 2-2 draw with Sunderland. This personally upset Wiley to the extent where he considered quitting the game, according to The Independent today.

I feel managers should have the right to criticise the referee for their performance - although not personally - as long as they get a right of reply. Exactly this situation happened after Swindon Town v Southend United two months ago: Blues manager Steve Tilson said the referee had made a mistake, and he then apologised to the football club for a bad performance after realising that he had indeed made a mistake. This is good professionalism and should be encouraged. It might not change the score but at least the referee was honest - he certainly earned my respect for this. Referees always try their best in football matches, I’ve no doubt about this, but they will make mistakes - and hopefully these even out over a season. Debate between managers and referees should be encouraged after a game, so maybe we could have a few more interviews with officials. I bet it would make post-match reports a lot more fun...