Books about non-US universities
January 28, 2009 6:24 AM   Subscribe

Have you read good books (fiction or non-fiction) which accurately depict/explain life at universities in countries other than the US?

I will be finishing grad school soon. In my life I have attended a small liberal arts college, two large state universities, and now a pseudo-ivy league private university. I'm realizing that although I know a lot about the different university experiences in the US, I know next to nothing about how undergraduate and graduate education works elsewhere.

Also, I love fiction and non-fiction set in US universities, things like The Secret History, The Big U, and The Idea Factory.

I figure there must be books like these that are fun to read and will help me learn more about higher education in other countries. About the closest I have come is Gaudy Night. Googling something like this is useless, so I'm looking for suggestions.
posted by hydropsyche to Education (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Here are the books on LibraryThing results for "University Novel":
posted by arco at 7:16 AM on January 28, 2009

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis comes to mind
posted by canoehead at 7:23 AM on January 28, 2009

Sorry I didn't form that link correctly. There are also links to specific titles on the Wikipedia page for "Campus novel." The first book I thought of when I read your question was Lucky Jim.

I know it's set at an American college, but you might enjoy Francine Prose's Blue Angel.
posted by arco at 7:24 AM on January 28, 2009

David Lodge's comic novels take place at a variety of British universities. They are hilarious and well written.
posted by rabbitsnake at 7:32 AM on January 28, 2009

University life isn't the main them of Possession, but it does give a nice glimpse into British academia.
posted by motherly corn at 7:51 AM on January 28, 2009

Maybe try the Inspector Morse novels/TV shows. Plots often involved people at Oxford University.
posted by jhighmore at 8:11 AM on January 28, 2009

Kevin Sampson's Freshers is about a freshman year in an English university.
posted by minifigs at 8:13 AM on January 28, 2009

Starter for Ten springs to mind.
posted by essexjan at 8:18 AM on January 28, 2009

A horrible horrible book but I suppose it does fit your criteria: Five Point Someone, a rather melodramatic and poorly written depiction of life at an IIT in India.
posted by peacheater at 9:01 AM on January 28, 2009

Robertson Davies' The Rebel Angels is set at a thinly-disguised University of Toronto.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 9:12 AM on January 28, 2009

Jill by Philip Larkin vividly depicts Oxford University in the 1940s. It's also an underrated masterpiece of miserabilism.
posted by Conductor71 at 9:50 AM on January 28, 2009

Tom Sharpe's Porterhouse Blue is amusing.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:59 AM on January 28, 2009

Ph.D. comics deserves to be read by anyone who's done grad studies.
posted by lizbunny at 11:08 AM on January 28, 2009

Not a whole book, but the first thing that sprung to mind was the prologue to Pankaj Mishra's Temptations of the West: How to be modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and beyond, which describes the strange scene at Benares Hindu University in Benares (Varanasi), India in the 1980s. Provincial, political, violent, torn up along class and caste lines... it's pretty interesting to read about and quite different from my experience at college in the US. I think you can read the whole thing in the Google Books preview, if you're inclined.

I think his novel The Romantics takes place in Benares around the same time, but I haven't read it and so can't vouch for university-related details.
posted by bookish at 11:42 AM on January 28, 2009

Perhaps Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy. YMMV
posted by jgirl at 12:09 PM on January 28, 2009

Gaudy Night, by Dorothy L. Sayers. Takes place at Oxford, in the 1930s. Absolutely brilliant.
posted by rtha at 7:20 PM on January 28, 2009

This is a movie, but L'Auberge Espagnole is about a bunch of European students in Barcelona.

The University of Oxford in popular culture

Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get A Life: three girls move to Melbourne from the country for uni.
posted by jacalata at 3:03 AM on January 29, 2009

Thanks for all the great answers. Looks like I have some fun reading ahead. The "mark best answer" function doesn't seem to be working so great right now, but I'll come back later and give y'all some love.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:21 AM on January 29, 2009

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