The Telegraph | London’s House Prices are Crushing the Hopes of a Generation

Looking through a London estate agent’s front window last week, I had the feeling I was staring down the barrel of a gun.

After three years of study in the north, like many of the 300,000 aspiring graduates churned out by British universities every year, I’m in the capital hunting that elusive career.

While the “Northern Powerhouse” has made some advances, our lopsided economy still screams “London”. The civil service, law, business, banking, tech, film, journalism or advertising – you name it, the vast majority of jobs are here.

It’s an anxiety-fuelling, absurd, and utterly damaging experience. The competition is immense, the cost of living even more so.

Now, I was born and raised in Lewisham, South London. Put simply, it’s never been a particularly attractive area. Lewisham is one of the capital’s poorest boroughs and, when I left for university in 2013, it had the honour of being crowned the “least peaceful” place in the UK.

Three years on, I’m back. The poverty hasn’t gone. There’s still drugs and crime galore. The difference is, in the first three months of 2016, the average property price went up by £2,500 a week.

The pace of change is phenomenal. Want to live here and work in London? How does renting a tiny flat for £300 a week sound? Or what about £400,000 for one bedroom in an old council estate? Anyone who reads the news knows that the picture is the same, if not far worse, right across the capital. Areas which used to be a safe bet for those on starter salaries are quickly becoming unaffordable.

How will scores of my non-London peers cope? If they come from money, their parents can prop them up while they get a foot in the door.  As for graduates from less affluent backgrounds, unless they can grab a rare graduate scheme, it’s difficult to see how they will manage the extortionate rents from day one of the job hunt. Indeed, the majority of my working class friends from university simply don’t see London as an option.

Young people in pursuit of a career have always had to slum it for a few years in big cities. You could argue it’s part of the fun. You suffer today for a better tomorrow. But it’s not fun to live in a badly lit damp cupboard of a room. It’s not character building for your average Londoner to hand over two thirds of their salary straight to their landlord.

In the long term, an unaffordable London might diversify our economy, as companies and graduates are forced elsewhere. But as for now, to rent or buy? It’s a pick your poison situation. The problem is, many young people simply can’t afford either.

Everyone wants to have independence, security, some savings, maybe a marriage and children. But the fact is for many young people, these aspirations have been shot to pieces.

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The Times | Free Speech Campaigners Plot to Give Banned Speakers a Stage

‘Free speech campaigners have secretly evaded a student union ban on two speakers who were deemed to have broken rules on causing offence. The speakers, Milo Yiannopoulos, a self-styled men’s rights activist, and Julie Bindel, a feminist writer, were originally due to address the University of Manchester’s free speech and secular society in October to debate tensions between feminism and free speech until the student union stopped them.’

Click here for the original article.

— With Greg hurst

The Telegraph | Playground Politics have Arrived at University

hree years ago I came to university an enthusiastic, young politico; top of my class in anything Marx related. I dreamt of university as a place of endless debate and discussion. Like many naïve radicals, I pictured myself in a suave polo neck leading a cohort of students to a bright and better world. Cigarette in one hand, a trusty Sartre paperback in the other. It would be 1968 Paris all over again.

My romantic enthusiasm was dashed on Jägerbombs within a month. How wrong I was.

University: a place where Dr Marten wearing kids, prone to hyperventilation, huddle around MacBooks, pontificating about the need for ‘liberation’.

Vegan fingers point out anything that ideologically offends and then attempt to censor it for the sake of a creating a ‘safe space’ – whether Native American head dresses, pop songs, or Hindu bindis.

But more often than not, free speech comes under fire. Charlie Hebdo, Armed Forces recruiters, Kurdish freedom fighters, renowned feminists like Julie Bindel, Maryam Namazie and Germaine Greer, or LGBT activists like Peter Tachell, all get axed for various ideological impurities.

Working as a news editor for my student paper, I’ve had a front row seat to this mayhem.

The moronic politics of the NUSan organisation unable even to condemn ISIS – is sickening enough, but the childish inclination of students to cry out “that offends me” is verging on the sinister.

After writing about such issues for a year, I’ve come to the conclusion that playground politics have arrived at British universities. If you stand out in the school playground, if your views differ from the norm, you’ll be ostracised. Popular bullies will make it their job to tell you, you are a bad person. There’s no difference at university.

May 1968 Paris demonstrations
May 1968: Daniel Cohn-Bendit singing the “Internationale” chant in Paris surrounded by riot police and other students Credit: EPA

A few weeks ago it was my student union’s elections. I interviewed a candidate who had run solely on a free speech agenda. A BME working-class girl, she was a strong libertarian and Eurosceptic. She didn’t believe structural racism existed and didn’t have much time for feminism. She was plucky and unorthodox. But half way through our talk she almost broke down out of exasperation.

Her character had been relentlessly criticised online and even on the way to meet me a student had yelled abuse at her. Rumours had spread that she was secretly ‘fascist’ and ‘pro-rape’. Two of her election banners had been torn down and had been defaced with a swastika.


Put simply, she didn’t fit the mould of ‘enlightened’ student politics and she was being punished for it. This is what the ‘safe space’ mentality is all about. It’s about validating yourself socially and never straying far from the herd.

In political terms, she and I disagreed on practically everything, but that was just the point. I’m a Lefty, but I realised I had more in common with her than I did with any student union activist. We both held the importance of open debate above anything else.

Recently I read that many of those 1968 Parisian students, whom I had once idealised, were in fact spoilt, middle-class Maoists. They hadn’t intended to debate and reason with the mind. They had wanted to cleanse it. The essence of the current student culture and its ‘safe space’ argument is still the same.

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The Times | You’re the oppressors now, gay men are told

‘They have been campaigning for equality for decades and still face discrimination and alienation in many countries. But according to the National Union of Students gay men no longer count as being sufficiently oppressed. The NUS has decreed that homosexual men are not downtrodden enough to merit their own place on the representative student body and has, instead, accused them of exhibiting “oppressive behaviour”.’

Click here for original article.

With Greg Hurst

Photo taken from original piece: Photocredit:Chris Radburn/PA

The Telegraph | Smart Drugs are becoming a staple of student life, why aren’t universities doing anything?

It’s just gone 7pm. My brain’s addled. My deadline is tomorrow and I’ve been staring at my essay for hours, nothing’s getting done and the pressure is getting to me.

I glance over my table at another student. He looks around. He dips one hand into his bag and brings up a sleeve of pills. Casually he pops one and returns to work.

Study drugs. Ritalin, adderal, modafinil, and noopept. They enhance the user’s cognitive capacity to process information and they’re endemic at universities across the UK.

New research conducted by The Student Room, an online community forum, found that as many as one in ten students from all age groups have tried them. Strikingly, a quarter of the students surveyed say that they plan to use a ‘smart drug’ at some point.

Previously The Tab reported that, at some universities, as many as one in four students have taken them.

Originally designed to treat conditions like Narcolepsy and Attention Deficit Disorder, these drugs make students work till they drop. It’s not uncommon to find empty packets around study areas. Seasoned users crush, then snort for added effect.

They’re the perfect capitalist drug. City bankers used to take cocaine to crunch numbers through the night. Now, like students, they’re on the concentration-enhancing white tablets shipped in from India in discrete packaging.

It is easy to understand why so many students use study drugs. With the prospect of unemployment and crushing debt, students are desperate to get ahead of their peers.

Often a first class degree simply is not enough. Students are told they need to have a strong range of extra-curricular activities to secure a decent job – there simply are not enough hours in the day.

It is easy to understand why so many students use study drugs. With the prospect of unemployment and crushing debt, students are desperate to get ahead of their peers

 In America, where fees are sky high, study drugs have been all the rage for years. CNN and the New York Times have published reports on their widespread use and damaging effects. Running throughout the interviews with American students there’s a common theme – too much pressure.

At university, it seems to be mainly science based students who take them. Like the bankers, they need to stay sharp with endless calculations and decimals. But with endless reading lists – esoteric and dense enough to drive many a student to tears – humanities students are hitting them hard as well.

Arts students get notoriously few contact hours with their lecturers. If they’re lucky, ten a week. With £9,000 fees, that works out at around £100 per hour. Enough to pay for a psychotherapist. Put simply, they need to make every minute count.

One regular user told me: “Heavy theory writers like Marx, Judith Butler, Hegel, or Foucault make a lot more sense if you use study drugs. Normally I wouldn’t get one fifth of what they’re on about, but on modafinil, it’s a lot clearer in my head.”

Like caffeine, after too many doses the ‘smart drugs’ become a necessity. I know several students who’ve become hooked.

In order to get work to a standard they’re happy with they’ve felt the need to take several pills of the stuff. Unable to concentrate on simple pieces of work normally – some have had to take time out to detox, with their grades suffering in the process.

With regular use students can develop sleep deprivation, insomnia, anxiety, and even depression, and next to no research has been done on their potentially damaging long term effects.

Another student, a friend who struggled with study drug dependence told me: “Doing my dissertation, I would take Modafinil two or three times a week to avoid any procrastination. But after a while I couldn’t keep a hold of my emotions. I just felt numb.

“My sleep quality was awful, and I stopped feeling like a functional human being. But I couldn’t work without it.”

Reports continually show that study drugs are now a reality of everyday student life at university. But universities are still doing woefully little to address the blatant drug use on their premises and little if any information is given to students explaining the risks of these drugs.

Instead, the issue is casually brushed under the carpet and students under enormous pressure to perform well pay the price. Drugs have always been used recreationally by students, but unless the issue is addressed with the maturity and severity it deserves, this trend towards study drugs is potentially far more damaging.—why-arent-un/