Criticism: Social commentator Frank Furedi
The freedoms once enjoyed by students are under threat from universities obsessed with micromanaging students’ personal lives, a top academic has warned.
Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent, says starting university now resembles an induction course ‘into a convent’.
Writing in his book, What’s Happened to the University, Professor Furedi said universities are now infantalising students rather than treating them as adults.
Speaking to MailOnline, Professor Furedi said: ‘University overall is becoming increasingly paternalistic. Increasingly, instead of being treated like young men and young women [students] are being treated like they are in nursery.’
Professor Furedi points to the widespread availability of counselling and support services available to students as part of the problem.
He said: ‘There is an assumption that you have the psychological or moral resources of a youngster.
‘Even before an exam there are all these resources, you can cuddle pets and cuddle soft toys. These are the types of thing I would do with my five-year-old.
He added: ‘The university has become a clinic that assumes they are dealing with emotionally confused youngsters.’
Warning: Professor Furedi said the message is ‘don’t go drinking and dancing because things may go wrong’, rather than encouraging students to explore their environment (file image)
Professor Furedi argues such services encourage students to turn to others when faced with even basic personal challenges such as homesickness.
He also warns such widespread use of these services threatens to trivialise the needs of students struggling with genuine mental health issues.
‘In life, we have bad things happen to us, we are disappointed and those are not issues that need medical care,’ he added.
This fixation on managing and protecting new students is also filtering down to Freshers’ week, once the symbol of the freedom of university life.
Professor Furedi said: ‘A lot of kids are still drinking dancing making new friends but there is a mean spirited culture which assumes that having fun means you are going to have disruptive behaviour in the future.’
He said the message is ‘don’t go drinking and dancing because things may go wrong’, rather than encouraging students to explore their new environment independently.
He added: ‘It’s like coming into a monastery or convent, you almost have to choose not to let loose for that week.’
What’s Happened To The University: A Sociological Exploration of its Infantilisation, by Frank Furedi, published by Routledge on October 17