Before moving to pretty much any university in the United Kingdom, you’ll have heard about the pre-existing rivalry that exists within our higher education system. Whether you’re down south and its Bristol vs. UWE (University of the West of England), or up north and you’re greeted with Manchester vs. Metropolitan, the chances of your university having a rival is pretty high. Since moving to Newcastle, whether you’ve been here six months of five years, the rivalry between Newcastle and Northumbria is very prominent.
Some claim in to be unhealthy and toxic towards students’ university experiences, whereas some say it provides students with healthy competition between fellow universities for both academic and sporting competitions. Whilst the rivalry could be seen as detrimental towards the student body and negatively affecting their time at university, I think it gives students a reason to put more effort into things. For example, the Stan Calvert is a competition for student at Northumbria against students at Newcastle. Not only does this competition give students a chance to compete against students from our ‘rival’ university, it gives students a chance to meet other students from Northumbria. The competition between universities encourages students to do the best they can in order to show their university is best, so students’ grades and experiences benefit from the competition.
“Whilst the rivalry could be seen as detrimental towards students, I think it gives them a reason to put more effort into things”
The results from rivalry can be a basis for students to want to do better the following year or semester, for example when Newcastle lost the Stan Calvert cup last year, they became even more focussed on winning and getting their trophy back! Away from the competition, a lot of students (from both universities) claim that their institution offers better academic teaching and facilities. Whilst this may be true for certain courses, both universities continue to do well and are getting better every year, despite the rivalry remaining. The rivalry between Northumbria and ourselves is nothing more than a bit of fun between the two universities, that some students decide to take more seriously than others. It’s your choice whether you go on the ‘Poly vs Posh’ bar crawls, or chant sayings like “I’d rather be a poly than a c***”. The rivalry is there, it probably always will be, and you might as well embrace it fully instead of opposing it like it really affects you that much.
After all, their dads do work for ours.
What would sport be without rivalry? We’ve got the boat race against Durham, but then they refused to take part for four years because they got annoyed that we kept winning. And that’s just one event. Stan Calvert involves people from loads of different sports (although not as many as we’d like... care to explain that, Northumbria?). And we get to see Northumbria Uni on a daily basis, whereas Durham are opponents from way over yonder.
Hating the Poly brings us closer together; it gives us a common enemy. It means anyone can go along and watch a sport they may know nothing about and still get involved, because it’s been given meaning by being part of the bigger Newcastle-Northumbria rivalry. When Poly-bashing turns into generic insults about the occupations of their parents, then that’s less cool, but it’s not as if they can’t hold their own in this epic battle. The chants and the slogans aren’t personal insults, they’re just part of the (fairly) friendly rivalry that gives both unis a greater sense of identity.
The Poly v Posh bar crawls don’t descend into all-out civil war – most people don’t take the rivalry too seriously, and events like Stan Calvert and Clash of the Titans are the exception, rather than the rule. Ok, so Newcastle students might snigger at the quality of Northumbria’s degrees, and we in turn may have a certain, uh, reputation, but at the end of the day we’re all students who invade this city for much of the year. Poly or Posh, we’re all in the same queue for Digital.
“come Stan Calvert they are the enemy”
As proof of this, the sporting rivalry doesn’t seem to have translated into societies. Several of Newcastle’s societies have close contacts with their Poly counterparts, while others such as the first aid LINKS society and the Young Greens operate as joint Newcastle-Northumbria societies.
As the secretary of the Newcastle Young Greens I have worked with several Northumbria students and spent time on their campus. This cooperation, rather than competition, has helped us to achieve a lot more – if nothing else, we’ve been able to invite twice as many people to events. Even Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, was impressed by our collaboration.
Now that I’m actually friends with Northumbria students, Stan Calvert’s taken on a new dimension. It turns out, surprisingly enough, that Northumbria students are real people too. That said, come Stan Calvert, they are the enemy – sporting excellence is a wonderful thing, but let’s face it, if we didn’t care about beating the Poly then Stan Calvert would just be sporty people showing off, and no one wants to watch that.
It would be utterly impossible for a student of Northumbria University or Newcastle University to be oblivious to the fierce rivalry between the two institutions and this local rivalry is undoubtedly fantastic for sport - it is healthy and encouraging and most of the time is perfectly good natured. We are not alone in the city of Newcastle by having a university rivalry; there are for example, the Oxford vs Cambridge and the Leeds vs Leeds Beckett rivalries. Despite this being a beneficial bit of competition in the arena of sport, there still exists a genuine hostility between students from the different universities. When it reaches the point of true animosity, surely it is time to question the necessity and relevance of this rivalry.
The entire rivalry is based on comparisons, yet it is so difficult to compare two universities that are so different. Whilst some people perceive the difference between Northumbria and Newcastle students to be academic ability due to Northumbria’s lurking ex-poly status - despite its inauguration to university status in 1992 - in many cases it isn’t even a question of choice; there are a myriad of courses that Northumbria offer that Newcastle simply don’t, for example nursing, just as Newcastle offers courses like medicine whereas Northumbria doesn’t. So, on these grounds, it is impossible to draw a comparison.
“If we base it on the comparison of solid facts and figures, surely we can deduce that this clash comes down to a severe case of pure snobbery”
The two universities are also markedly different in facilities and areas of excellence. Newcastle may be top in the overall league tables and in certain areas of research but Northumbria sits in the top 5% of business schools in the world due to its AACSB accreditation, has the joint 3rd best library facilities in the country and joint 5th best sports facilities. So, we can’t really make a comparison there either.
So what are we really basing this rivalry on? If we can’t base it on the comparison of solid facts and figures, surely we can deduce that this clash comes down to a severe case of pure snobbery. Let’s take Poly vs Posh example, isn’t throwing around “your dad works for my dad” or “I’d rather be poly than a c…” a bit tacky? And before somebody starts the whole “well I’m at a red brick”… since when in 2016 did we qualify the superiority of an institution by the colour of its construction materials? Who is feeling threatened here and why are so many on a mission to authenticate their choice of university? If we are all so clever, why don’t we become a little bit more articulate and original and move away from the seedy behaviour and find something else a little more interesting to get passionate about.