THE BLOG

Universities Must Listen To The Voices Of Working Class Students

02/02/2017 13:49 GMT | Updated 02/02/2017 13:49 GMT

Northern social change charity RECLAIM has released the latest report regarding the experiences of working class university students in the United Kingdom, and unless the country has been living under a rock, the results are less than surprising, albeit very saddening. The 'Educating All' report is a youth-led research project, commissioned by the social change and leadership development charity RECLAIM. RECLAIM aims to end leadership inequality by enabling working class young people to be heard and lead change.

The research finds that working-class young people are still failing to see Universities as a 'place for them' and lack the same sense of entitlement and belonging as their middle-class peers. The Educating All survey found that over 70% of students who identify as working class, feel that their class is a barrier when integrating at university, compared to only 12.5% of those who did not identify as working class.

RECLAIM activists say that 'Educating All' aims to move away from the status quo and provide a voice to working-class young people, who too often do not have a say in decisions that affect them the most.

Xavier Greenwood, a final year Classics student at Balliol College, Oxford spoke of social exclusion because he could not afford the social activities of his peers. He went on to say that, "The expectation that Oxford is a social leveller is, quite frankly, a myth."

Another working class student Sophie Hannaway, who is a Law graduate from the University of Bristol said, "once we got the letter saying that we'd got into university, that's when we thought that educational and social inequality had ended. When I got into university it was clear within the first three weeks that this wasn't the case." Martha Hilton, an author of the report, who studied physics at Imperial College London, said she was "shocked by the level of privilege at university" and that "for true and lasting change, universities need to act now to make sure that the working classes do not feel like imposters."

Some universities across the country are trying to combat the division seen by working-class students in higher education institutions. Through working RECLAIM and at the recommendation of the Educating All report, the University of Manchester has recently created a position within the students union to recruit 'working class officers' to bridge working and middle-class divide on campus. The University of Manchester's student union has said that the elected officer will "act as a voice for working class students". Applicants for the two posts, one of which was reserved for female, had to "self-identify as working class". In order to be considered, students would need to be in receipt of the Manchester Bursary, a care-leaver or the first in their family to go to university. Russell Group universities have seen a dramatic decline in the applications of working class young people to begin a course at university. Many students unions believe that the creation of these officers will help to directly combat the divide and encourage more working class young people to consider University or further education.

With pioneering reports such as 'Educating All' and the work done by students unions across the country, it is clear that there is an urgent need for change for working class students and young people in the UK. Charities like RECLAIM are refusing to ignore the problems faced by working-class young people and are paving the way for like-minded organisations across the country to combat class division in all its forms.

You can find the 'Educating All' report here http://www.reclaimproject.org.uk/programmes/educating-all/ on RECLAIM's website.