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Voices meet The 93% Club Edinburgh

The 93% Club Edinburgh strives to represent the interests of the state-educated population in Edinburgh, addressing the imbalance that comes when further education is disproportionately preferential towards privately educated students from privileged backgrounds. The 93% Club Edinburgh hope to provide support and educate along the way, back in January we spoke to Lucie Greaves (President) and Levi Mitchell (Secretary) about their own personal association to the Club and how we can get involved to show our support. 

Maisy:  Hey Lucie and Levi, we should start with how did you both get involved with 93% Club Edinburgh? 

Lucie:  So, obviously we’re new to the position this year but I was essentially asked last year by my friend from school, Sheela, the Edinburgh Founder, to help her set up 93% Club in Edinburgh. I knew I wanted to be involved in creating a safe space for state educated students, or anyone who wants to be involved, and hopefully have these conversations at Edinburgh that are specific to Edinburgh.

Levi:  I was just one of the people who filled out the online form after finding it, thinking wow that sounds fantastic. I thought it sounded great, a really valuable thing that Edinburgh really needs and now I’m their secretary! [Laughs] 

M: Would you say then Edinburgh in particular has a need for a group like this? Considering they do have a reputation as a predominantly privately educated student population. 

Lucie: Yeah, I think it’s representative of a wider national issue both at University but also in jobs and just all walks of life really. I do think though that it is specific to Edinburgh because Edinburgh state educated population is so low. I mean, it’s currently about 65%, which is one of the lowest in the UK, and it has fallen for the past few years, which makes it unique as most universities have seen a rise in state education population whereas Edinburgh has not. Not only is Edinburgh incredibly privately educated, it is mostly white, so it is really important to have these conversations in Edinburgh otherwise we’re not going to move forward, in terms of state school and private school issues but also issues of intersectionality and inclusivity that need to be addressed. 

Levi: Yeah, I definitely was surprised when I came to Edinburgh. I’m a Scottish state educated student from the Highlands where there aren’t many schools anyway; coming to Edinburgh and suddenly only meeting people who are privately educated, who all know each other and all know which schools they are referring to, I didn’t even know that single gender schools were still a thing. [Laughs] I was very shocked; we were also mentioning earlier about the amount of people who tried to get into Oxbridge who are now at Edinburgh. For a lot of people from state schools Oxbridge wasn’t even a consideration, and that’s certainly another very strange culture shock of sorts to come into. 

Lucie: Yeah, most people you speak to on the committee definitely found it. I found it a shock because I was aware of the reputation that Edinburgh did have – that it was quite privately educated – but I didn’t quite realise to the extent in which it is, and I think impostor syndrome is a big issue because of that. You get to university and there’s these people talking, like Levi said, about these schools that everyone’s aware of and you don’t. You start thinking should I be here?

Levi: Yeah, it’s like I can’t mention what school I went to because no one’s heard of it [Laughs]  

Lucie: Exactly! So, a lot of people feel like this, so I think it’s important to have this community to say there are state educated people here, you have a right to be here, and you don’t need to feel left out or isolated at all.  

M: Would you say there is a divide that you have felt? 

Levi: I feel it slowly gets to you as you progress, when you keep meeting people who don’t have an accent like you, they sound the same, or they all live in London, it feels like why am I the only person not from London in this room? It wasn’t until second or third year that I realized that the majority of people I met at uni were like that. Or the fact I was the only person paying my own rent, everyone else seemed to have parents able to do it and I realized I’ve just been extra stressed about so many different things that other people just aren’t stressed about. 

Lucie: Yeah, and I think especially in terms of internships and work experience, all of my friends from home who work during the summer, that’s to earn money, whereas a lot of the time it’s unpaid internships. So, that is not accessible, it’s a massive stress where you think here “oh god everyone seems to have some kind of career path, networks and extra support” and you just don’t. It’s a big pressure that I think is very much felt by the state educated population. 

M: That pressure, especially with the pandemic, is definitely still felt this year with students still graduating, have you noticed more people reaching out to you or felt yourself needing to reach out more? 

Levi: I think definitely since our conception we have really focused on putting out resources for people and putting together research that we’ve done. Everyone is a bit tired of doing things online, especially when Uni online is so much harder than it was before. We want our resources to be accessible, and we’ve got some really good feedback from it especially the educational material regarding job applications, or how to write about part-time jobs on CVs. I know for myself I have been freaking out a lot as it gets closer and closer to graduation, I don’t know how to write about working in a café very well, but now we’re putting these things together I actually can and it’s fine. I’ll be able to big myself up.

Lucie: Yeah, I think it is a huge thing that there isn’t the confidence there for a lot of people to sort of big yourself up in these situations. If you don’t know how to speak about yourself, it’s difficult to make you sound as impressive as you are. When I’ve worked in customer service it is definitely difficult, but it teaches you so much more than you could possibly think it does and it’s just a way of being able to speak about that. We have put out resources on how to write about these jobs, because it’s so important to be able to sell yourself. 

Levi: And to be confident in your own skills as well. 

M: How have you felt about the support the University has offered, in the form of “mitigating the impact” of Covid-19? 

Lucie: Our opinion throughout is that the uni has not been doing enough in providing support for students. We have anonymous submissions where you submit a photo of your workspace at home if you’ve been forced to stay where you are, really highlighting the difficulties that a lot of students are facing during these times. If you’re in more precarious circumstance, obviously it’s going to affect you more and uni has not been telling you how you can get back or providing any reassurance. 

Levi: I remember being quite surprised from one of the uni emails, about maintaining the value of the degree, which is why they didn’t have the no-detriment policy. For Scottish students although we’re not paying that still means the value of the degree is in the teaching, the socialization, and none of that is being catered to. It’s really indicative of how universities are becoming more and more for profit and less for students. Such a strange situation to be in, especially right now when none of us have any money! 

Lucie: I’ve been told so often that the standard of teaching is exactly the same and more often than not when I’m online or watching a recording, or not getting the same amount of teaching hours that I should, I just have a little voice at the back of my head going “This is £9000.” I think the difficulty is there’s not as many online resources, you can’t get to the library and it’s really difficult at the moment. 

M: Yeah, it’s really difficult this management of what is working and what isn’t because so much isn’t. What advice would you say to people who are feeling alienated or isolated right now and how can they get involved? 

Lucie: My initial advice would be to reach out to us at any of the social medias that are constantly manned and quite a lot of our community have access to them at any given point, so I think it’s really important that you do reach out. Obviously, we appreciate that online events are a lot harder, harder to meet people and feel that social interaction you would in any in-person event. But if you are feeling stuck at University, or other situations, or if you just feel like you want to get to know like-minded people, I would definitely reach out on our social medias because I can guarantee that someone on the committee has either had a similar situation or feels exactly the same and would be more than happy to chat to you. We’re from a wide range of degrees, and varying years, so there is always someone there that is probably feeling or who has experienced the same. I know for myself it makes me feel so much better when other people have said that they feel the same, or when someone reaches out to us and says thank you this is something that really needs doing at the uni it makes me feel very happy. So definitely get in touch. 

Levi: Yeah definitely, it makes me very pleased when people respond to what we put out, I think a lot of us on our own don’t feel we have enough information or enough knowledge to back ourselves up – the whole sort of imposter syndrome – but we’ve come together now, we are a committee, and we all add our little bit in and it’s enough. It really helps people apparently and it just warms my heart [laughs]. I just feel so pleased. 

If you are experiencing any of the issues that have been brought up in this interview or would like to get involved with the 93% Club Edinburgh, you can find them at any of the following links:  

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/93clubedinburgh/?hl=en

Linktree: https://linktr.ee/93clubedinburgh

Thank you to Lucie and Levi!

Image: 93% Club Logo 

(Image description: The 93 Club written in red above a white background, with the 93 larger than the rest and graduation cap on top of the 93, and a small percentage sign top right of the 3)