Soft toys and pets have become a staple of university life according to a new book that deplores the infantalisation of students.
The fashion for providing stressed undergraduates with puppies to pet, cats to stroke and Lego to play with has even spread to Oxford, according to Frank Furedi, emeritus professor at the University of Kent and author of What’s Happened to the University: A Sociological Exploration of its Infantilisation to be published next month.
Furedi says Wadham College, Oxford, uses a dog called Maisie as its “welfare cat”. According to the college website, Maisie “proves invaluable, helping students to relax, making them laugh and providing them with unconditional attention”.
Other universities have created a range of rituals for reducing exam stress.
“Such initiatives often involve providing students with opportunities to hold soft toys, pet cuddly animals and mess around in inflatable playgrounds and bubble wrap popping stations,” writes Furedi.
“It seems that the provision of special ‘puppy rooms’ for stressed-out students has become a mandatory feature of campus life.”
Trinity College, Dublin, offers students 15 minutes in a de-stressing puppy room set up before exams. At Nottingham Trent University the students’ union offers a micro-pig room to “relieve revision-related anxiety”.
The University at Buffalo, in New York state, has more than 20 therapy dogs and also offers knitting classes and workshops where students can play with Lego.
Harvard Medical School and Yale Law School both have resident therapy dogs in their libraries. At the University of Canberra in Australia, pre-exam stress relief activities include a petting zoo, bubble wrap popping, balloon bursting and a session called “how can you be stressed when you pat a goat?”