Every year in late autumn, all universities prepare to welcome new students onto their campuses. In the media, we know this as “Freshers week”, a period when new students become familiar with university life. Throughout the years this particular week has grown in importance for the students’ social life, activities and other out of classroom activities. Students can taste the nightlife of the campus and that of the nearby town, engage in group activities, join a society and of course have, in many cases, their first taste of independence away from home. For the University, it is the first opportunity to engage students and get them involved in societies, volunteering and other after hours activities.
Year by year, this week is becoming increasingly important for the student calendar.
Returning students participate and graduating students remember when they were involved. A clear watershed moment in the student diary, so much so that special wristbands are produced and different special events are organised, only for this week. There is clearly some attraction, into being part of “freshers” so strong, that is now recorded into our collective vernacular. Finally, the freshers apart from the commercial, cultural attractions, is even connected with health, the infamous “freshers flu” is presented as the scourge for many students who will suffer some ill-health in their first term at Uni/life.
For an academic welcome week is interpreted differently. It is definitely an important week because it signifies the start to another form of education. It is transitional in terms of age for those who just crossed the 18 year old threshold marking the first part of adult education. It is a declaration of independence for many students and the time to make one of the many transitions into the world of academia.
This is why, instead of wristbands, I was frantically preparing my plenary lecture last week. Every year, I dig deep inside to find something that will signal to our newest cohort why I feel so passionate about criminology. This year, using the 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality, I considered the importance of criminology, as a discipline. The main points focused on the multidisciplinary nature of criminology, the ability of criminology to holistically explore complex phenomena and the immense service, criminology offers to understanding crime from a dynamic/ever changing standpoint. The reason for going through the “pains” of delivering a plenary is clear to me: welcome week is the first week of the next three years of academic study. The start of a wider conversation that allows lay people to embrace those skills that will allow them to understand, evaluate, critique and argue with evidence and knowledge. Unfortunately there is no wristband for that, only a certificate at the end of the road, that will just about quell the thirst for knowledge. For many, this thirst will grow further and whilst the wristband may fade and the band attended may break-up, the knowledge that our students will acquire will be with them forever. This is the tool we offer and this is the beginning of how we do it.
To all of our new students, Welcome!