There was never any chance that I would be “smitten” by the visual impact of the colleges, the Gothic presence of King’s chapel, the beauty of the Backs. I went on having my hair cut at the same barbers, I bought my shoes at the same shoe shops. Had I seen Cambridge for the first time in 1949, I might have taken more from it. In a sense I was ready to leave as soon as I arrived, not the best arrangement.

On the other hand, I could concentrate on the important aspects of Cambridge — the medical and science faculties — and ignore anything connected with “heritage” Cambridge, which has mesmerised generations of parents, who have sacrificed so much energy and ambition into getting their children between those sacred Gothic walls. This has long been one of the most wasteful forms of English snobbery. I firmly believe that Oxford and Cambridge should be graduate universities only, at one stroke killing off this absurd status race, and at the same time benefiting all other universities.

J.G. Ballard, “Miracles of Life – Shanghai to Shepperton: An Autobiography”.

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