Is University a toxic environment?

One of our sub-editors discusses the toxicity of university life.

Amana Khan
24th May 2022
Image Credit: Flickr
The level of toxicity within university education has been long debated, with arguments against this idea of university toxicity because of this idea that younger generations have become snowflakes or need to thicken their skin or are being over dramatic. However, is this the right way to look at why students have become increasingly stressed within university or have continuously argued for universities becoming a toxic place. I would argue not.

After being at university for almost two years, I have realised that there is a very competitive nature within university life and the increased use of social media has not hindered this but has indeed helped this competitive nature grow. I have witnessed the competing nature between students to be the best dressed, best educated, get the best grades, and have the most friends, and this has led to this idea of increased university toxicity because students seem to undervalue themselves after comparing themselves to others who look like they are doing ‘better’ than themselves.

Furthermore, when looking directly at university life there are arguments to be made that the differences in people and accommodation, for example, the idea of Park View vs Castle Leazes, rahs vs the rest of Newcastle University, has added to this competitive nature within uni life, as well as a divide between students due to the assumptions made about their lifestyle and behaviour.

Not only this there is an assumption that students need to be going out all the time because university is meant to be the best time of their lives and the only time they will enjoy this amount of freedom but it is hard to fulfil this when there are a multitude of other aspects of university life that students need to or want to partake, but there is a sense of FOMO that comes with missing out on going out to pub gardens or clubs. Therefore, I would not argue that students have become more superficial or need to learn to thicken their skin, but I would argue that we are living in a time where looking like you are doing better than others is what we aspire to be, and if not there seems to be a level of disappointment with ourselves and a feeling of missing out on the ‘university experience’.

Not only has there been a competitive nature within university life about needing to look like you are doing the best but there is also added stress to do the most within university, take the most extra-curricular activities to ensure that you have leverage over the rest of your peers. I would argue that this has come about because of the uncertainty of gaining a job after university, so there is added pressure on students to pursue as much as one can in order to gain a better future after university life.

When looking at all of this, there is a clear level of toxicity within university life and student life has indeed gotten a lot more difficult and this does not seem like it will be dissipating anytime soon, rather I would argue that it is the job of university higher-ups to try and help its students and reduce this toxicity.

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