Thursday, 28 October 2010

Bored senseless

Currently listening to: Sunday Morning Call - Oasis

Apologies in advance for the grumbling...

Regular readers of this blog (i.e. all three of you) will smirk as they recall that three months ago I wrote that "I know in about two months time I'll be cursing my life and course". Well lo and behold, it came to pass, except it took three months instead of two, so much so that I think it would be more accurate to rename this blog The Bored, Demotivated, Thoroughly Grumpy Biomed. But that's a bit too long, isn't it?

I thought that third year is when all the interesting stuff would finally be covered. In actual fact, after nearly five weeks of classes I've realised I really dislike my modules. Genetics is so-so (the references don't always match up to the lectures which makes reading up on it a pain), endocrinology is okay and molecular microbiology is desperately dull. Some of you may feel that I'm just "acting out" and throwing a tantrum, but the fact of the matter is that I truly feel all the interesting aspects of the biomedical sciences degree have been covered. Whilst I've never been fanatical about any part of my degree, there are definitely more interesting aspects to it...cardiac physiology, nutrition & metabolism, pharmacology, immunology, anatomy, etc. Which are all sadly in the past.

I suppose acting like a petulant child and bitching about my degree isn't a particularly good advertisment for the university, so let me just clarify right now that my issue isn't with QMUL. I love it here, the staff are approachable and definitely know their stuff. My problem is the same problem that I've had for over two years now, that I'm doing a degree I have no interest in. And that's totally my own fault.

What happens when you continually subject yourself to something you're not interested in? Well, to put it simply, you become BORED. And I don't mean bored the same way some people get bored on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I mean truly and utterly bored in a way that waking up in the morning and turning up to lectures becomes a chore. Where you can't bear to look at your textbooks. Where you feel immensely envious of anyone who's actually doing something they enjoy in life, and then you remember it was totally your choice, and you could have been that person. And in my case where I realise that it's all been totally pointless, since after two years, I still can't apply for medicine.

So here's some free advice for any of you would-be biomed students. If you've failed to get into medical school, do NOT start a biomedical sciences degree. Take a gap year, get more work experience, do resits, write a better personal statement, and re-apply. Because a biomedical sciences degree is not a medical degree. You will never meet any patients, witness surgery or practice suturing. All those cool things which attracted you to medicine? Yeah, 99% of them won't be covered in a biomed degree. Biomedical sciences is a theoretical science degree with medical aspects, but also a lot of non-medical content which can be unbearably boring, especially when your heart's not in it. It is also a huge waste of time and money if you don't enjoy what you're learning. Life is seriously too short: go and do something you actually enjoy.

Perhaps I've just hit a low point, but I'm finding it pretty hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm feeling totally bored and demotivated, and this is not the right time to feel that. It's final year, I should be completely focused, but right now all I'm feeling is an immense amount of resentment towards all the work I have yet to do. I'd honestly rather watch paint dry.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Spending cuts

Currently listening to: (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay - Otis Redding

The Grumpy Biomed doesn't really enjoy politics, and is quite suspicious of most politicians. It may be a cliché but I really do believe that you can tell a politician is lying when his/her lips are moving. So in a break from the traditional subjects covered by this blog (coursework, my bad exam results and hangovers), I'd like to give my opinion on the government's proposed assault on students, academics and universities.

The recently released Browne Report urges the government to totally free market-ise higher education in England and lumber the common student with unlimited tuition fees. In addition to this, the government plans to cut £4.2 billion, yes, that's billion with a b, from the budget of English universities. That includes a £1 billion cut in research.

What does this mean? Well, some may argue that lifting the cap on tuition fees allows the market to "take its course", increases efficiency and allows the forces of supply/demand to set prices rather than an arbitrary government diktat. That's all very well in theory and there's no denying that in certain areas, competition does work (e.g. supermarkets). But as Tony Blair himself admitted about US universities (which is where this report will take us) "Those who paid top dollar got the best."

How sad that in this day and age, only the rich will be able to access the best higher education. As the article I have linked says: "The result [in the US] is that the gap between the richer and the poorer universities has widened and low-income students have been increasingly clustered around the cheaper universities." Is this really desirable in our so called "Big Society"? Shouldn't everyone have an equal footing and gain a place based on merit rather than the contents of their wallet?

Lord Browne, Tony Blair and David Cameron all went to university back in the days when it was free and furthermore generous grants were available. Tony Blair, having had his Oxford education compliments of the state, then came to power and charged students £1000 a year to go to university. He then lied through his teeth in the 2001 Labour manifesto, promising not to institute top up fees, but pretty soon New Labour forgot the very students that helped re-elect them, and brought in fees of £3000~ per annum in 2004.

Fast forward six years and David Cameron and Nick Clegg plan to slash the university's budget by 79% and then lumber students fresh out of secondary school with tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt. Forget paying off your mortgage, the Grumpy Biomed's children will probably be paying off their tuition fees well into their 60s!

Do I believe education should be free as a matter of principle? Of course I do, Scotland do it just fine. Do I believe the government has foisted extraordinary costs on the common man/woman so as to keep the richest sectors of society rich? You bet.

The Grumpy Biomed is not under any delusions. I know at best I am a fairly average student, trying to make my way through my BSc. I know I won't ever conduct any groundbreaking research. But I look at my incredibly intelligent lecturers and see that they do. Is cutting their funding the right thing to do? Should my fellow students be penalised £100,000 simply for wanting to study medicine? (A very real possibility under this report).

Every day, academics all around the country, whether in the science sector or not, are putting Britain at the forefront of research and academic advacement. I think that cutting this immense amount of money from teaching will blight the training of the academics of tomorrow. Our universities will be segregated, diminished and worse off due to this report and this of course, will impact wider society in the worst possible way.

Message to Nick Clegg: We haven't forgotten and nor will we forgive:

Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox now. I didn't mean to come across as moany, but it's a very real and important issue and I felt like discussing something other than how badly I do at exams or whatever.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Things that don't help when you have a hangover

Currently listening to: Hey Julie - Fountains of Wayne

Four hours of sleep
Waking up at 7 AM
8AM badminton matches
9AM genetics lectures
Three further hours of lectures

List in progress...all suggestions welcome...

EDIT: Two hour workshop cancelled. Maybe there is a benevolent god out there?