A bit like in Crimea, things may be about to escalate, thanks to Nick Hilton

The elder statesmen of this column have, of late, been taking against undergraduates. First, Alexander Ewing (in his first piece) described an Oxonian foodchain in which undergraduates are the bottom-feeders that the MCR sups off.

Then, to compound matters, William Poole railed against his own students, calling one of them a ‘brat’ (which made me tear up a little, if only because of his dated lexical choice). As an undergraduate (for the next couple of months at least) I feel a sense of duty to defend my kind.

Because, let’s face it guys, Oxford is a city of, and for, undergraduates. The MCR (middle common room) is a bizarre eco-system inhabited by a combination of gawky 21-year-olds whose parents are paying for them to do a masters in Russian literature, and serious wannabe academics who dream of having a desk in college.

They are surprisingly large in number, but are entirely unengaged with the city, save for the occasional group visit to the Phoenix Picturehouse, or a ‘raucous’ pub quiz. Suggesting that they are above undergraduates in the Oxford hierarchy is a bit like a cheese-maker prizing goats above cows — tempting, but fundamentally incorrect. The SCR (senior common room), to stretch my point further, is even more distantly removed from reality.

Sometimes I like to watch dons paying for their food in hall, as though they’ve never conducted a financial transaction before in their lives. It’s amazing that someone could recite the periodic table backwards, but is apparently unable to remember their PIN code.

Perhaps, if I were a member of the MCR, I would revere the SCR more. After all, for them it’s just another step up the ladder; a goal to strive towards.

But I’m an undergraduate who hasn’t applied for any masters course, isn’t expecting anything more than a low 2:1, and, frankly, I find any hierarchy based on academic achievement hard to get behind.

People talk about getting starstruck when they find out that their tutor wrote the book on ‘Shakespeare and bigamy’ or ‘the life-cycle of molluscs’, but that’s not something I’ve ever experienced. So this antipathy towards undergraduates seems to rest on a couple of false premises. A: That I (which is to say, we) remotely care about academic structures. And B: That they’re not living in a city which is perfectly tailored to undergraduate needs.

If I were to rewrite Alexander Ewing’s hierarchy, I might do it thus: Undergraduates at central colleges, professors, undergraduates at Catz/Hugh’s/Anne’s/ Hilda’s, tutors, the master, grad students, DPhil students who have to teach first years, and, finally, junior deans.

To my mind, that more accurately reflects what life at an Oxford college is actually like.

Sure, a junior dean could fine me £50 for being sick on the pavement outside my room, but is that really power?

Within the college, it’s the parking warden role — unwanted, unneeded, unnoticed — and, amidst the traffic jam of undergraduate noise and mess, that’s something of a fake pedestal.