Film ID:
NEFA 11388



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This Tyne Tees Television documentary was originally broadcast on 14 October 1963, the first year of the newly formed Newcastle University.  The production follows two students, Christine Hughes and Derek Sutton, as they throw themselves into student life: academic life in the lecture room and laboratories, examinations, graduation ceremony and leisure time. The film contrasts traditional elements of student life such as buying academic gowns, residential halls and dining etiquette, along with student clubs and recreation - Morris dancing, sailing, sports, the student newspaper, the Courier. Includes footage of the Fine Art, Naval Architecture, and Physics departments, along with shots of the new Herschel physics building, designed by Sir Basil Spence and opened in March 1962.

The film opens with aerial and general views of Durham Cathedral and the Durham University buildings on Palace Green. A view of the Palace Green quadrangle through an open university window follows. Students enter the university through the main door.

General views of demolition in central Newcastle to make room for expansion within the university campus. General views of modern university blocks including the new Herschel physics building.

Two students at the newly formed Newcastle University, Christine Hughes and Derek Sutton, walk along Percy Street. The commentary states: “This is the story of the university as seen through their eyes.”

Credit: Tyne Tees Television Presents [over freeze frame of two student subjects.]

Title: A Matter of Degrees

Young fresher (first year) students, men and women, begin to arrive at Newcastle University, chatting in groups.

New female students walk through their halls of residence. Two women enter their study and bedroom, another settling into another room. A male and female student browse in a bookshop. Two male students buy their academic gowns. The commentary states: “[…] relics from mediaeval dress of a scholar, setting them aside from other mortals. Although gowns are derided by so-called progressives, the universities cling to them.” One of the students tries on a gown and says: “If only m’ mother could see me now.”

New female students file into the dining room, say Latin grace, begin the meal and chat.

General exterior views of the Quadrangle and the Medical School buildings, and close-up of the Medical School coat of arms above the entrance.

Students (male, female and one Indian man) carry out scientific research in the microbiology laboratory. Some close-ups of experiments and equipment are included. Derek Sutton walks into a lab in the physics department. General views of students and staff in the lab and research room, discussing work and carrying out experiments. “The new physics building […] contains some of the newest equipment in the country.”

The university Morris dancing team are performing in Newcastle University quadrangle, a large crowd, including Christine Sutton, watching.

General views inside the Naval Architecture Department, where model tank tests are in progress. The commentary states that the department is one of only two in the country. Many students in the department go on to work in shipyards and design ships. “One student, John West, recently received a Duke of Edinburgh Award for his design of the “Canberra” cruise liner.”

Two students (one, Christine Sutton) practise sailing skills on a sailing boat in Tynemouth harbour.

Back at the university, second year students attend an English Literature lecture at Newcastle University. The lecturer discusses Gulliver’s Travels, Portrait shots of individual students and of students seated in the lecture room.

A group of students head into the Fine Art Department. Students move a painting into their annual exhibition. General views of students’ contemporary work (modern and abstract styles) displayed on the walls of the university’s Hatton Gallery. Students discuss and criticise each other’s work in the gallery spaces, one woman wearing a dark duffel coat (a fashion of the times).

Various shots follow inside the offices of Newcastle University’s student newspaper, the Courier. As Assistant Editor of the Courier, Christine Hughes discusses her article on the alarming condition of lodgings in the city with the student Editor. She says: “There’s been a tremendous amount of trouble with lodgings, especially with coloured students.” Christine types up her article on a typewriter. A student walks in with the latest edition of the Courier, Christine’s article on the front page with the headline “Lodgings Chaos Worsens”.

Next, a rapid montage of shots illustrate the sports catered for at the university, with student competitors playing tennis, throwing javelin and discus, and running.

A man pins information about the university examinations to the student notice board. A clock inside the university reads 4:05pm. Christine Hughes and Derek Sutton walk through the corridors of the university chatting. She reminds him about the Students Representative Council (SRC) meeting. Scenes at the very formal SRC meeting follow around the board room table. Students propose motions and discuss them.

General views of the exterior and interior of the university library, the shelves stacked with well-thumbed books. Derek Sutton revises (“swots”) in the library. Close-ups of students revising. Derek continues to revise at home. He takes a swig from a bottle of beer, but continues to work into the early hours of the morning. He then falls asleep over his books in an armchair, his Anglepoise light still on, and his shoes placed in front of the roaring fire. He wakes up and checks the time on his watch. Opening the curtains, he discovers it’s daylight outside. His mantelpiece clock strikes 5.

Derek meets with the Appointments Officer to talk over his career options.

Students check the exam timetable for their finals posted on the noticeboard. Portrait shots of individual students in profile as they look at the notice board. In the Quadrangle, students are wandering around and seated, all holding text books to swot for exams.

General view of the chemistry department where students are completing essential experiments. Three male students pour chemicals into a long flask, which smokes alarmingly, to their delight.

The feverish activity of revising on the campus is contrasted with the deserted laboratories, stairwells, and lecture rooms during examinations.

After the exams, the students celebrate, a bunch of men down pints, play kazoos, and sing uproariously. Derek and Christine are also seated in the bar with pints of beer, along with many other male and female students.

General views follow of a street near the Newcastle University campus, night and day.

Various shots record a Newcastle University graduation ceremony. Derek Sutton receives his Bachelor science degree from the Vice-Chancellor. There are shots of some of the parents in the audience.

The closing sequence features Derek and Christine as they walk out of Newcastle University together.

Credits appear with shots of students and parents celebrating after the graduation ceremony, students taking photographs.

End Credit: The Students were Christine Hughes and Derek Sutton BSc

End Credit: Narrated by Micheal Neville

End Credit: Written by David Dougan

End Credit: Cameraman Eric Coop

End Credit: Sound recordist Gerry Barnes

End Credit: Directed by Peter Dunbar

End Credit: Produced by Leslie Barrett

End Credit: A Tyne Tees Television Production