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Who Feeds the »Fat Cat«?

Clara Herrmann fühlt sich in London plötzlich reich. Darüber freuen kann sie sich nicht richtig. Die Wirtschaftskrise hat London durcheinander gebracht.

On this sunny first of April the image of the financial centre of London has changed. On Bishopsgate the usual secenery with men in suits standing outside the mighty buildings smoking cigarettes or rushing through the congested traffic is replaced by a colourful hustle and bustle of music, dance and Speakers-Corner-like happenings. Tents and bicycles block the street and a bright banner stretched between some banking houses shows what it`s all about: “Nature doesn`t do bail outs”. It is the day before the G20 are descending on the city in a summit to address the current global crisis and protesters give vent to their anger.

Listening to the speeches I feel slightly ashamed. I know full well that the money misery makes my student life in London a lot easier. The weak pound brought me unexpected financial relief. It is in fact the perfect time to study in London. One man`s meat is another man`s poison.

First comes a full stomach …

At the University College of London, where I study as an Erasmus affiliate the anger one could feel on the streets turns into anxiety. The financial crisis is also a graduate job crisis. “Recession-proof your career” says an advert on the university`s pinboards. But the 180 year old institution itself, which was founded to provide a progressive alternative to other institutions` social exclusivity, seems to have forgotton their own responsibility. It is an open secret that the leaders of the UCL plan to increase tuition fees. Students at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities for instance already pay £3,145 per annum for studying a Bachelor of Arts. This could be doubled in a few years as some concerned university lecturers tell me. Former ideals are munched by the “fat-cat”. Jeremy Bentham, the spiritual father of the university, who`s preserved skeleton sits watching in a wooden cabinet in the main building, must be little amused.

And the students? Their hunt for credit points keeps them busy. £20 000 debts after graduation is no curiosity so studying has to be effective. But some start to feel like they have been cheated. The fees were mainly accepted because of the good jobs and high salaries a degree promises, but the future seems to be very uncertain now.

Poor but sexy

But the Brits‘ famous sense of humour is not gone with the crisis. They make the credit crunch a fashion. Robin Hood dresses and seedy bankeroutfits can be seen at “Low life parties”. Altough pomp and glamour isn`t in vogue these days, the show must go on. Defiantly holding a drink in the hand the recession can be beaten with a smile. With astonishing naturalness the slogans of every day life have changed. The business lunch is replaced by the “credit crunch meal deal” and the newspapers now elect the best looking “broken broker” instead of the hottest business man. Berlin`s mayor Klaus Wowereit, who knows about the glamour of poverty could supply his London counterpart Boris Johnson with the perfect slogan to promote the city at the moment: “London is poor but sexy?”

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