why are celebrities so obsessed with going back to uni?
Move on guys. You're rich already!
Ah, the changing of the seasons. Summer gives way to autumn. Temperatures drop. The nights draw in sooner. If you’re at uni, freshers week looms on the horizon: a bacchanalia of foam parties, quad vods and an ill-advised fumble with that boy next door in your halls which necessitates you ignoring his existence for the next three years. Ah, the memories.
Maybe it’s the temptation of those good times that’s driving the rich and famous back to uni in their droves. After all, many people in the public eye became famous as kids, skipping higher education altogether. It’s no surprise some fancy saying ‘fuck it’ and experiencing that lifestyle later down the line. Matthew McConaughey, for example, is the latest mature student to enrol, presumably signing up for pub golf mixers as we speak. It was announced today that the Oscar-winning Beach Bum star will be attending the University of Texas -- not as a lowly student, but as a professor. A full time professor, no less.
So if you’re off to University of Texas this year you can expect the actor to pop up in the hallways, teaching “Advanced Producing: Script to Screen” in the Department of Radio-Television-Film, part of the Moody College of Communication. It makes sense, subject-wise at least. Matthew, who is a UT Austin alumnus himself, first taught the class as a co-lecturer back in 2016. Now he’ll be studying scripts and leading students in “practical instruction on producing their own projects including web series, shorts, commercials and indie features”.
“It’s the class I wish I would have had when I was in film school,” the Wolf of Wall Street actor said in a statement. “Working in the classroom with these students gives me the chance to prepare them. Making movies, turning words on paper into film, is both a science and art -- no matter the time or generation. The elements of truth and genuine joy for the process are timeless. That will always be our classroom focus.”
So that’s all well and good, and if you’re a film student in Texas right now you’re probably buzzing, but let’s be honest. There’s also something inherently strange about the whole situation. I don’t know about you, but if I was internationally renowned film star Matthew McConaughey, my next career move would not be returning to the place I got blackout drunk and pissed myself at an 80s cheese night. But they’re all at it! Well, many of them.
Emma Watson, famously, took time out after finishing a decade long run of Harry Potter to study at Brown University, sparking an endless rumour mill that people kept shouting “10 points to Gryffindor!” at her when she answered questions in class. James Franco, in an extremely James Franco move, has studied at Columbia, NYU, Brooklyn College, Yale and Rhode Island School of Design in the past -- sometimes simultaneously. Even the Olsen twins (pre-The Row but post Two of a Kind) attended NYU, dashing to lectures after staying out all night at the kind of Manhattan parties that Serena Van Der Woodsen would have been proud of.
For the well and truly famous, going back to the books has become a right of passage. To a degree (no pun intended) it’s something we can understand. None of us are immune to a sudden urge to change careers, change our lives completely. You know the vibe -- it’s Thursday afternoon, it’s raining outside, you’re eating leftovers for lunch in a grey canteen and scrolling through Twitter and a little capricious voice inside you goes “Mate, why are you doing this? Are you happy, here, trapped in this endless loop of content? Truly happy? Why not go back to uni? Study Philosophy, or like, try to become a doctor! Try to do something useful with your life for God’s sake.” Sometimes that little urge might be so strong that you even bring up the Oxbridge prospectus on your phone and stare at the little grinning figures, laughing together on the quad, thinking that they could so easily be you. It happens to us all!
But as quickly as the urge seizes us, it usually passes. Here’s why. University lives in our collective thinking as a glorious time, but really it’s not that great! You have to spend hours in the library studying for boring essays while the kid next to you eats Wotsits, sucking that cheesy dust from underneath his fingernails and coughing on the library keyboards. Your flat has a severe mould problem that your slum landlord flat out refuses to address. And you've got an STD. Then at the end of it all, the university charges you a couple of hundred odd quid for the liberty of graduating in a rented gown, from an institution that you’ve sunk thousands into. Here’s the secret nobody tells you: university only seems so great because all of those shitty circumstances converge to create a fierce kinship with the other students you’re stuck in the shitty situation with. You’re all dancing on the deck of the Titanic together, quad-vods in hand, giddy with the certainty that you will never get a job that pays you well enough to justify the money those vampires at Student Loan Company will take off you on a monthly basis for the rest of your life.
All that is perhaps why we scoff at celebrities who announce with a smug sense of self-purpose that they’re going back to uni, studying and taking a gap year to culturally appropriate a country’s practises for IG content, desperately trying to find themselves. Guys, you’re all fucking rich! You don’t need it! Step away from UCAS. If you’re that bored why not start a baking blog instead, or create a charitable foundation or get into a low-level Twitter spat with another celebrity. We already see you beautiful, wealthy and successful people on our screens. We don’t need to see you in halls as well.