ARU is often treated as another world – to our shameMohammed Tawsif Salam

For those who don’t know it, there is a perceived contention between the two universities of Cambridge, one apparently being a slightly better establishment than the other. Yes, beyond the exclusivity and self-importance of intercollegiate arrogance, we have just enough pomp reserved for looking down our noses at the Mudbloods of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).

Before I start, I should probably say that while I go to Cambridge, my partner goes to ARU. Now, some may feel this instantly makes me biased, that I am sticking up for the little guy, or she is currently breathing down the back of my neck, analysing every word I write with something sharp and metallic pressed between my ribs. Perhaps, but hopefully some of the things I say will be true regardless of whether or not you spend your weekends bumming around CB1.

Coming from a diverse city like London, I love the feeling of there being a multiplicity of universities, colleges and campuses in one town. Not only does it mean that there is a grand mixture of different people who are passionate about a cornucopia of subjects (including, and I dare to say it, non-academic ones), but it means that, through my partner, I have a wider social circle than I would have only going to Cambridge.

Surely that’s something that everyone wants? Apparently not. As soon as you sneer at an individual or a group, you preclude yourself from being friends with them. At the heart of it, snobbishness simply means you have fewer kids to play with. Sounds a lot like something your mum would tell you, right? Well, it applied to the swings in the park and it still applies now.

I think in part this snobbery has something to do with the well-oiled stereotype of Cambridge being home to the wealthy and self-entitled. But I think it’s more than that; it’s about the fact that Cambridge is populated by the types of people that were, themselves, sneered at. To get to Cambridge, you have to be at least a little bit clever, and we all know that the cleverest ones at school were ostracised for it. Now, in a position of power, they can get their own back on the little people.

To get to Cambridge, you convince yourself that academic prowess and achievement are the one true sign of intelligence. You can only be considered clever if you do well at mathematics, not drama, principally because Cambridge only ‘deals’ with the academic subjects. I don’t think a measure of a person’s ability is that easy; growing up with a silversmith mother and a father who refused to ‘call the man in’ on manual labour tasks, I am a firm believer that genius is not only judged by academic work. Our papers and TV screens are full of people who are judged masterful not by how good they are as biologists or theoretical physicists but rather how convincingly they can act or whether their latest album is up to much.

My point is that society doesn’t hold academia as the greatest good one can achieve, and so sneering at students from ARU who do non-academic subjects is simply kidding yourself. They are good enough at what they do and they are going to the right place to do it.

I also think a lot of the snobbishness comes from a disassociation in the first place. Neuroscientific studies have shown people tend to care a lot less about an individual’s situation if they can’t see and therefore empathise with them. My partner has been accepted by all my Cambridge friends because they got to know her as an actual person rather than a faceless ARU student.

When I went to watch a debate at the Union, however, one of the senior members publicly likened sleeping with an ARU student to putting his little man in a dead pig’s head. While I fear that he was the type of gentleman who would have only done one of those acts and not the other (if you catch my drift), and so could not compare the two, had he actually taken the time to know some of the ARU students he probably would have thought twice about saying what he did, and would realise that he was preventing himself from befriending some people much nicer and better-looking.

Perhaps some, if not most, of the sneering wouldn’t exist if ARU didn’t have a campus in Cambridge. Some feel that, in existing in the same city, ARU is attempting to take on some of the grandeur of the university for which this city is better known, like the kid who buys the fake Armani belt to try and cosy up to the cool kids with the real ones. But it seems to be the university and not the students perpetuating this – we’ve all seen the ‘Home of Anglia Ruskin’ signs at the train station. It is something that ARU definitely shouldn’t do; they should be proud to be their own university rather than a pale imitation of another.

At the end of the day, we all utimately got into the institution that best suited us. Because Cambridge is not necessarily the right place for everyone. It’s not always best to try for a rigorously academic institution, otherwise this country wouldn’t be home to such amazing drama schools, art colleges and conservatoires. Everyone tends to go to the place that best suits them. If you sneer at those at ARU because they didn’t get into Cambridge then you have to sneer at everyone from every university who didn’t get into Cambridge, only perpetuating the view that we are, in fact, an elitist bunch.