• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

“It’s a separate world” – Class based inequality in Higher Education still prevalent, argues letter to the Guardian 

ByLara van Vorst

Mar 3, 2024
Old college

In a letter to the Guardian, Dr Siân Lawrence addressed the continued inequality in the UK’s higher education, which she argues was “never left behind.” 

Only 20 per cent of undergraduate students in Russell Group universities come from a working-class background. 

For postgraduate degrees, the percentage is even lower.

A recent government report shows that the attainability of higher education is “much lower among those who were eligible for free school meals.” 

It also reveals that those who were eligible for free school meals are among the groups with the highest-non continuation rates, alongside male, black, or mature students, and those who fall in the lowest ‘Index of Multiple Deprivation’ (IMD) groups.

Students with the highest progression rates after finishing their studies are shown to be predominantly male, white, non-disabled, and those from the highest IMD. 

Read More: The state school experience at the University of Edinburgh

According to Lawrence, other reports revealed that 20 to 65 per cent of people working as MP’S or in fields such as law, journalism, sports and the arts, come from a fee-paying secondary school and/or were educated in Oxbridge. 

However, only around 7 per cent of the country’s population attend fee-paying secondary schools and only 1 per cent attend Oxbridge. 

But the inequality continues beyond the application rates.

In her letter Lawrence writes: 

“Even when they do enter such elite institutions, working-class students often report feelings of social isolation and class-based microaggressions.” 

One reason for this is the lack of support and information for those entering higher education as the first in their families. 

Read More: Concerns raised that A-level overhaul could widen attainment inequality

In an earlier statement the Russell Group says:

“Lack of knowledge about higher education and a lack of practical support in decision-making can impact negatively on the confidence of under-represented students and undermine their expectations that they can fulfil their ambitions.”

“Without good quality careers advice and guidance, students who are the first in their family to go to university can find it difficult to navigate the choices available to them.” 

Another thing less privileged students often face is social isolation because they cannot relate to their peers. 

In an interview for a study conducted by sociologist Diane Reay one student states:

“I’m aware of the fact constantly that it’s pretend, that it’s a separate world.

“I feel more relaxed when I’m at home because I feel like I’m back in the real world again whereas in this, it’s like incubation almost […], it’s an extended adolescence and some people love that […] but for me it’s a bit of a trial.” 

The Old College – University of Edinburgh” by jambox998 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.