The Secret Life of Students isn't an accurate portrayal of student life

Every fly-on-the-wall documentary or dramatic representation of British students casts the same collection of characters; "the lad", "the slut", "the introvert" and "the geek".

Shows like ITV2's Freshers, Fresh Meat, Skins and Channel 4's latest documentary The Secret Life of Students continually over represent the same image of students; as drunken, rowdy and irresponsible in their sex lives. But the students who don't fulfill this stereotype are rarely seen on our screens, along with their achievements and contributions to society.

The Secret Life of Students claims to be shining a light on the mysterious lives of students at the University of Leicester, and it records their every text message, tweet and internet search. The show documents the highs and lows of a group of first years, from dealing with homesickness, new found freedom and trying to fit in.

In an attempt to show a stereotypical collection of freshers the show has created an exaggerated reality, including the lad who thinks it's "banter" to catch an STI, the girl who sleeps around to fit in and the introvert who is seen as clingy and a loser for experiencing loneliness. But watching the show as a fellow student I was left feeling unrepresented, irritated and quite frankly bored of the same old clich├ęs.

Charlotte Gower from the University of Portsmouth agrees: "I only saw a bit of it and turned off, it was such a bad representation of the majority of uni students. The portrayal to the non-student population is embarrassing."

Though some, like Sophie Conner from Lancaster University, thought it was good entertainment: "It was light-hearted fun, but not an accurate portrayal and massively cringeworthy at times."

Heavy drinking and promiscuous activity does obviously play a large part of university life, but it's not the norm for every undergraduate. Unfortunately the articles about constructive student action are rarely given the same coverage as the negative ones.

For instance the incredible story of 21-year-old student Jo Armstead, who made a breakthrough in Cystic Fibrosis research while on work experience. Jo is just one example of how students are contributing to today's and tomorrow's society, and it's time the media focused more on the positives of our collective.

Students today are young leaders, charity workers, volunteers, carers and entrepreneurs. Student unions are no longer just cheesy discos you visit on a Friday night; they provide community outreach programmes, societies, volunteering opportunities and student jobs. Through my own union for example, you can volunteer overseas, get help starting a business and play nearly every kind of sport.

According to the Student Volunteering Landscape, a report conducted by the National Union of Students into student volunteering, 31% of university students give a significant amount of their time to volunteering. Over 700,000 students volunteer for an average of 44 hours per year and student volunteering as a whole contributes the equivalent of £175 million to the UK economy.

Numerous students dedicate their time for great causes at my own university, Lancaster. For example, the charity Making Memories was set up by a group of students to support terminally ill parents with young children.

One of the founders of Making Memories, Mathew Gillings, told me he volunteers because of "the feeling of pride at the end of each day. You work so closely with like-minded people. We're able to really transform someone's life. It feels awesome."

Hopefully the next documentary aiming to show the secret lives of students could really demonstrate the hidden life the media doesn't portray, like the charity workers or young leaders, rather than focusing on the binge drinkers or sexually irresponsible lads who continue to give British students their bad image.

(Source: TheGuardian)


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