Meaning of success

February 19, 1999

The research into the careers and lives of Girton graduates suggests Cambridge failed to teach its alumni, in John Lennon's words, the "meaning of success" ("These women had so many breaks...", THES, February 12). The researchers seem locked in a very traditional, narrow view of the term.

They say the women "have been successful in a middle range -they are good doctors and teachers - or they are just happy with their lives. But hardly any have achieved a position of power in an area such as politics." This does not represent ultimate failure. It would have been better to listen to what they were saying and challenge conventional notions of "success" rather than impose any fixed concept.

As a Cambridge undergraduate who left before graduation (and never regretted it), I suggest happiness and "success" begin beyond the confines of a Cambridge college. As a father, I also feel uncomfortable with the statement that "the responsibility for family and children still lies with women". Strangely, I do feel responsible for my children, despite being a man.

Simon Newton. Milton Keynes

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