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From cracking jokes to acting, to his current activism (all arguably self-proclaimed), is there anything Russell Brand can’t do?
Now the Englishman can add producing the documentary The Emperor’s New Clothes to his list. Working alongside Michael Winterbottom, known for his cult fiction and social commentary such as The Shock Doctrine, the duo presents a witty and approachable attack on the divide between the wealthiest few and everyone else.
Brand makes it clear that none of the information he provides is new. Instead he reinforces the idea that #ThingsCanChange through revolution. Starting from his home town of Grays in Essex and moving into the City of London, Brand interviews families living on pensions, climbs over Lord Rothermere’s gate, and attempts to get into bank buildings in his true fashion.
It was clear that the documentary was well researched, with segments such as support of social housing, thoughtful conversations with Tesco workers, and discussions of the Fire Brigades Union. The film also includes a brief minute focusing on student debt, interviewing a group of UCLSU students on how they’ve been affected by a rise in tuition fees.
Repeated cries of “It doesn’t have to be like this” interjected with “The Creme Eggs are sh*t now [after Cadbury’s American takeover]” remind us that Brand’s comedic streak is not long gone. Strangely-entertaining snippets of the public shoving to take selfies with the celebrity and descriptions of Thatcher as “Jesus with a hair helmet” pull the film together.
However, some parts left me feeling puzzled: primary school children on inequality, and people wearing paper face-masks of the top 1% driving around London on a single coach plastered with ‘Shop A Banker’ in an attempt to satirise the 2011 England riots…
Given the politically-sensitive timing of the film’s release and the Cameron Osborne Rap, it is clear who Winterbottom will not be voting for in May. Whether you agree with Brand’s plea not to vote or his motives for making the documentary, The Emperor’s New Clothes provides an easy to access, entertaining showcase on the inequality that is tearing us apart.
- Janis Wong
This year’s General Election will be one of closest and most decisive in a generation.
According to the Higher Education Policy Institute, the student vote could swing it.
In 2010, students overwhelmingly said “I agree with Nick” and backed the Liberal Democrats for their policy on free education. But since then the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition trebled fees to £9k a year for home students.
The electoral landscape has changed immeasurably since 2010. So where do the three main parties stand on Higher Education this time?
1. The Conservatives
The Tories’ official party policy on tuition fees has yet to be announced, but there has been considerable discussion within the Tory Party about whether £9k fees is enough.
Before he lost his job last July, David Willetts, the Tory’s Universities Minister, was said to be in favour of lifting the cap of £9k fees and allowing universities to charge whatever they like. This would be on the condition of universities underwriting student debt.
Greg Clark, his successor and LSE alumnus, has been notably more reticent to adopt such a radical approach – and has expressed scepticism about the case to raise fees beyond £9k.
What is clear is that the Tories are unlikely to pledge a cut in tuition fees. Despite previously supporting free education during the early 2000s, the Tories now seem settled to support £9k or above as the norm.
2. The Liberal Democrats
At the last general election, the Liberal Democrats’ policy to abolish tuition fees and introduce free education was one of the main reasons for the surge in support amongst students.
Since then however, the Liberal Democrats have supported their Conservative coalition partners in trebling tuition fees – and according to party policy, this is unlikely to change.
Like all of the major parties, the Lib Dem manifesto is yet to be published, but unlike the other two parties, Lib Dem policy is decided democratically at their party conference.
In 2013, the Lib Dems passed policy at their conference to support the current fees arrangement, while also promising a review of the current system after the General Election.
The Liberal Democrats have also pledged to block any proposed cut to tuition fees by other parties if in a Coalition.
During his campaign to become leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband was believed to support replacing tuition fees with a graduate tax, a proposed levy on graduate students for 20 years progressively ranging from 0.3% to 2.5% of their income.
Although no firm manifesto commitment has been released, it appears Labour have decided against a graduate tax, and prefer a cut in tuition fees.
Labour announced they would support cutting tuition fees from £9k to £6k and increasing student maintenance grants by £400. This would be coupled with an increase in the teaching grants universities would get, to make up for the fall in revenue from cut tuition fees.
Labour have made quite a lot of noise about this pledge, so it would appear this will be in their manifesto.
This is information is relevant for all students, and especially international students from Ireland and Commonwealth countries, who are eligible to vote in the UK. You need to register first (the deadline is 20th April), which only takes about 5 minutes. Go to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.
Alright, this is going to sound a bit crazy. I’ve survived 6 years in higher education without one key rite of passage: I have never, ever pulled an all-nighter. What?!
Don’t get me wrong, I have certainly tried. I remember vividly the night before my last essay was due during my second year at uni. I was, as we all too often do, attempting to write a ten page essay in one day and I was nearly done at 4am. I was chugging tea like it was my job and blasting 90s pop music to keep me going, but I just couldn’t stay awake to do my last two hours of work. I slept about three hours and then absolutely scrambled to finish in the morning. I even rounded out the saga with a full-blown sprint to my professor’s office to hand it in at the exact deadline. Sound familiar?
Whether it’s for school or for fun, I have never been in a community where all-nighters are completely commonplace and acceptable. I feel like many of my friends in our Masters programme actually pull all-nighters more than they have a normal 8 hour rest. You can keep justifying it and telling yourself that you’re young, invincible, or even a vampire, but it is going to catch up to you. Not to sound too much like your mum, but here are my reasons I’ll never pull an all-nighter (and you shouldn’t either!):
A study from St. Lawrence University found that all-nighters do in fact result in lower marks as a result of sleep deprivation and procrastination. The authors found that the biggest contributors to the lower marks were from students being more likely to make mistakes as well as having slower reaction times.
Decreased memory capacity
How exactly did this myth get started that a 24-hour cram session is an effective study strategy? Bad news, it’s just the opposite! Going into an exam after an all-nighter leads to decreased information recall. A study from Harvard Medical School asserts that short-term memories are only converted into long-term ones during sleep. Basically, if you want to spit out a bunch of facts on the exam, you’re going to have to revise and then sleep on it.
Even worse than forgetting some material, you may actually create false memories from sleep deprivation. Researchers from University of California, Irvine found that students getting less than 5 hours of sleep in a night were more likely to incorporate misinformation into their memories. This is especially bad if you’re pulling an all-nighter to write an essay – you’re just going to end up confusing your marker even more!
Exams and essays are already panic-inducing enough, but throwing in an all-nighter may make you even more prone to an emotional breakdown. A University of California, Berkeley study found that sleep deprivation makes you more irrational and less able to regulate your emotions. This definitely sounds like a recipe for disaster that you want to avoid at all costs.
Ever notice that you happen to frequently catch a cold after a stressful academic period? It’s been proven by science too, including a recent study from the University of Helsinki. Sleep deprivation causes your body to remain in an inflammatory state, which makes you unable to fight off viruses. Even worse, making all-nighters a routine can increase your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes in the future. No thank you!
So, let’s stop wearing our all-nighters like badges of honour. It’s time to take care of ourselves, and even perform better as students by doing so. Happy sleeping!
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