When I was working on my dissertation I spent a week at Exeter University. It’s a lovely place, I think– I really saw nothing other than the library, though I did briefly visit the cathedral (I was still jet-lagged and so have almost no memory of it). But according to vice-chancellor Steve Smith, for undergraduates today, email is dead:

“There is no point in emailing students any more,” he told The Times. “They get in touch with us by social media, especially Twitter, and we’ve had to employ people to reply that way.

“We have a round-the-clock team of press officers and graduates savvy with social media.

“Students will tweet for help if something has gone wrong, or a prospective student will tweet a question about the requirements for a course and expect an immediate response.”

Though I understand the consumerist logic behind this policy, I think this is the wrong way to respond. For all its having become less like a landscaped library and more like a mall with a really big bookstore, the university should still be a place where, among other things, you step outside your previous boundaries, and become a more sophisticated reader. Email isn’t that hard; but catering to the idea that it is, or that an institution should bend to suit your preferences and impatience, probably won’t teach good things in the long run.