‘On Campus’, then and now.

The sixth former entering university often has difficulty in adjusting to a new academic and social life. Students at the University of Warwick who have experienced the same problem decided to make this film to help…”

This is the opening caption to ‘On Campus’, a short film that offers a brief insight into the life of a student in 1970. Made almost five decades ago, what will be most striking to any current student at the University will be how similar life was then to how it is now.

This is true from the very beginning. The opening scene will be familiar to every first year who lived in halls at Warwick: an irate cleaner shifts unidentifiable foodstuffs from a counter top, exasperatedly identifying “What an untidy lot,” while a sheepish student grins in the background. Shots of Rootes then fill the screen, looking exactly the same; though you can’t get a room for less than £4 a week any more.

Perhaps even more startling is the voice over commentary from 03:11- 04:20, where three students give their opinion on working at university. Any of their lines could have been coming out of the mouth of one of this year’s freshers. One student observes of her lectures that “It’s rather awkward, because the less you go to, you realise the less you need to go to,” before cheerfully finishing with “Yesterday I went to sleep in my lecture”.

Another indicates that procrastination is a time honoured art among students: “One tends to just adopt the mañana principle and everything gets put off and put off… and then you find yourself in the last term of the year and you’ve got three terms work to do in one term”. This is from a time pre-dating common use of the internet (the complete lack of mobile phones and personal computers is one conspicuous difference), so perhaps Facebook is an enabler rather than a cause of postponing work.


It’s easy to find the ancestors of certain societies also; from students selling ball tickets, to a Literature Society poster advertising ‘B.S. Johnson (A nice man) who does funny things with books’, to scuba diving and squash. What may be a predecessor to Warwick’s current student newspaper The Boar or else a fanzine appears at 17:43, being assembled out of sheets and Gloy glue with the air of an intense construction project.campus1

There is also some sound advice to be found within these 25 minutes. Two pieces in particular stand out, the first being from an individual who was regretting his university decisions:

“… I’ve devoted far too much time to work. In that sense I’ve wasted a lot of advantages that possibly are here. I’ve got good academic qualifications at the moment, but most people would say that’s not the be all and end all of a university education, you don’t come here just to get a degree… you come to develop one’s overall personality and character.” (17:15)

It’s a lifestyle suggestion that almost everyone could still stand to hear at some point over the course of their studies; don’t forget to take some of the opportunities university life offers. From participating in societies, doing a little volunteering—and, perhaps, making use of the resources at the MRC!

campus 3

The final word of advice from ‘On Campus’ also holds true in the present day, and is on the advantages of knowing what you’re doing at university:

“If you know what you want to do, be it three years hard work, or three years dossing or three years of political activity: if you know what you’re doing, then university is a fine place to come and do it. But people who suddenly find themselves at university and then think ‘ah, now I’m a student; what do students do?’ are going to have problems coming to grips with it, because there’s nothing that a student does. You just have to work it out for yourself, what you want to do. The freedom to do what you want can be the most glorious thing.” (23:35)

If you found this video interesting, it’s worth looking at the other clips in the moving archives for a further look into the life of historic students at Warwick.

By Laura Primiceri


2 thoughts on “‘On Campus’, then and now.”

  1. This is s fascinating document that chimes with my Warwick years and would make a good primer for any would be student. In my case, three years of relative bliss and soul searching. As a Film-Lit student in 1989 I made a film with fellow colleague, Jacob Barua, that told the tale of an alienated and enigmatic student on campus that was set against the backdrop of the Tiananmen Square protests. This summed up our experience of Warwick. The film is also a document of campus life. Hoping to screen this at Warwick in November as part of the 50th anniversary events organised by the Film department. http://www.grasart.com/blog/this-that-1989

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