Week in and week out acres of newspaper column inches, hours of conference debate and term after term of staff room gossip are dedicated to the ways in which students learn whilst engaged in tertiary education. Despite the best brains in the land, one crucial area is always overlooked - the development of young minds whilst they are 'down the pub'. Learning resource centres have replaced libraries, smart boards have replaced blackboards and laptops are now used for production of essays, dissertations and projects, but at lunchtime, late afternoon and most evenings students still meet and discuss life 'down the pub'.
In the pursuit of academic achievement and vocational advantage students are reputed to work into the small hours, and this is true, but it is true because they have spent all evening' down the pub'. The pub is where students learn essential social skills, coming face to face, perhaps for the first time, with members of the opposite sex, and discovering that there are people who come, not just from down the road, but come with different accents, different tongues and different ideas about life, politics and religion. The pub is also where students pick up essential educational techniques (plagiarism, speed reading* and false friendship to enable the borrowing of an already completed text).
Going to the student bar is not the same. The eclectic mix of characters is limited to young people, the range of conversation and the advice proliferated much narrower and the choice of music limited. If students want to develop their souls and their self-esteem they need to go 'down the pub'.
['Speed reading' is the grabbing of selected words from the academic's published text immediately before a seminar in an attempt to convince the lecturer that the student has actually carried out the recommended reading!]