Student survival guide: Wise words on university life

By Stephen Sumner

Now that Manchester’s population has blossomed by an estimated 90,000 with the return of students and the arrival of freshers, we think the city needs some wise words on university life.

We’ve searched far and wide to collect the thoughts of everyone from university professors to musicians, from comedians to presidents. We spoke to a fair few famous Mancunians and alumni from Manchester universities for good measure too.


Johnny Marr, musician, The Smiths, Modest Mouse, The Cribs, The Healers: “Once upon a time in a land not so far away some people had a cool job to go to when they left school.”

An English Professor: “I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.”

On sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll

Steve Martin, comedian: “Don’t have sex man. It leads to kissing and pretty soon you have to start talking to them.”

Hunter S. Thompson, writer, journalist: “I wouldn’t recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

Salvador Dali, artist: “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.”          

Kurt Cobain, musician, Nirvana: “Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your self esteem.”

Beverly Mickens: “Conservatives say teaching sex education in the public schools will promote promiscuity. With our education system? If we promote promiscuity the same way we promote math or science, they’ve got nothing to worry about.

Mark E. Smith, musician, The Fall: “Blue cheese contains natural amphetamines. Why are students not informed about this?”

On hangovers

Darren Campbell (@campbelldarren), athlete: “A can of V and loads of water followed by an egg and bacon sandwich #needonenow”

Mr Scruff: “Is there a hangover cure that I swear by? Now you know there is only going to be one answer. Tea”

Debra Stephenson, impressionist: “It’s so long ago I hardly remember – OMG I’m so old! I say eggs are good scrambled and buttery or tinned mackerel on toast.”

Robert Benchley, humorist: “A real hangover is nothing to try out family remedies on. The only cure for a real hangover is death.”

Margaret Cho, comedian: “I love drugs, but I hate hangovers, and the hatred of the hangover wins by a landslide every time”

Cameron Diaz, actress: “Grease is the only cure for a hangover.” 

Wise words

George W. Bush, US President: “To those of you who received honours, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States.” 

Jesse Jackson, civil rights activist, Baptist minister: “Today’s students can put dope in their veins or hope in their brains. If they can conceive it and believe it, they can achieve it. They must know it is not their aptitude but their attitude that will determine their altitude.” 

Malcolm Forbes, publisher of Forbes magazine: “Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.”

Thomas Jefferson, US President: “A Nation’s best defense is an educated citizenry.”

Finley Peter Dunne: “Ye can lead a man up to the university, but you can’t make him think.”

On time management

Robin Williams, comedian, actor: “Time is the best teacher, but unfortunately, it kills all of its students.”

Doug Naylor, writer of Red Dwarf: “My Fresher’s week lasted two years. I’ve always been a lousy time-keeper.”

On money

William Hamilton, diplomat:”It strikes me as singularly inappropriate for a school to use its students for fund-raising. It reminded me of the first time I saw a gypsy mother send her baby out to beg.”

Hanna Gray, current president of the University of Chicago: “Knowledge is expensive.”

Barack Obama, US President: “We have an obligation and a responsibility to be investing in our students and our schools. We must make sure that people who have the grades, the desire and the will, but not the money, can still get the best education possible.”

Jesse Ventura, US politician: “Students often approached me about state-paid tuition while I was out campaigning. After I explained to them that if the state pays their tuition now, they will pay higher taxes to pay other people’s tuition for the rest of their lives, most of them ended up agreeing with me.” 

On admin

John Ciardi, poet: “A university is what a college becomes when the faculty loses interest in students.”

Clark Kerr, economics professor and academic administrator: “I find that the three major administrative problems on a campus are sex for the students, athletics for the alumni and parking for the faculty.”

On things to look forward to

Patrick Stewart, actor, Trekkie: “We’ve heard from many teachers that they used episodes of Star Trek and concepts of Star Trek in their science classrooms in order to engage the students.”

Audre Lorde, Caribbean-American writer, poet and activist: “The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.”

On leaving

David Horowitz, US policy writer: “When schools produce students who learned to think on the left or on the right, they’re not thinking for themselves.”

Cesar Chavez, civil right activist: “Students must have initiative; they should not be mere imitators. They must learn to think and act for themselves – and be free.” 

Robert Orben, writer: “A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success.”

And finally, on Law students

H. L. Mencken, journalist: “A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.”


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