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Classism and accent prejudice in our universities

(69 Posts)
janeainsworth Sat 24-Oct-20 08:20:25

www.theguardian.com/education/2020/oct/24/uk-top-universities-urged-act-classism-accent-prejudice?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Why is this happening? It comes from other students, not from lecturers and academics.

When I was at university in the late 60’s (Manchester) there was a wide range of backgrounds & accents.
No one cared.
We just got on with meeting new & different people, joining the various societies that were on offer, & squeezing in our work somewhere along the line.
What’s happened to our young people that this tribalism seems to have taken over?

Iam64 Sat 24-Oct-20 09:19:07

Maybe you were lucky at Manchester. I was always referred to as Trouble at't'mill when working in a large company in Devon in 1968. Many of the head office staff, where I was based, were from London. My northern accent wasn't particularly strong. We moved around the northwest when I was a child and my mother strongly discouraged us picking up the local accent, which we did to fit in. Her message was if you have a broad Lancashire accent, people won't think you're clever and you are.
I often wonder if Johnson delivered his rambling ummm ahhh speeches in Manc or Wigan, whether he'd be dismissed as thick

M0nica Sat 24-Oct-20 09:27:42

DS is an academic in one of the universities named. He said that the whole thing is wildly exagerated. There is a small group of posh students who did this, may be a couple of dozen in a university with nearly 20,000 students. It just makes a succulent story for those who indulge in this kind of class prejudice - it can go both ways.

Back in my student days in the 1960s, in a good solid predominantly technically based northern university, we had a similar small coterie of public school boys, all too thick to get into Oxbridge, despite their impeccable education. We had a guy from Eton on our course. Nobody took much notice of them, they weren't relevant even then, they certainly not relevant now, they should be put in a museum.

Chewbacca Sat 24-Oct-20 09:44:13

The class/accent prejudice at Durham university is severe enough for their Vice Chancellor to treat student complaints seriously. Students who are from the North East are complaining that their accents, and the fact that they are from working class families, are treated with derision and insults by students from more affluent areas of the country. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds come in for a particularly hard time, they felt like an outcast because of their background; were told their families must be on benefits; were accused of being common, vulgar and uneducated.

MissAdventure Sat 24-Oct-20 09:49:05

Can't say I'm at all surprised.
This kind of behaviour is played out everywhere, unless it's dealt with.

lemongrove Sat 24-Oct-20 09:58:51

Is this really a big thing or an exaggeration ( as are so many tales out there)?
I would have thought there is nothing like the class prejudice today in Universities that existed say, in the 1950’s or even 60’s.Since so many now to go University from state schools they vastly outnumber those privately educated.
Learning to deal with what the world throws at you is part of the learning process and students can’t be wrapped in cotton wool. Back in the day at Uni, DH would have decked anyone who objected to his accent.😄

Davidhs Sat 24-Oct-20 10:03:51

Be realistic, a broad Geordie, Scouse, Brummie or West Country accent is not going to help any student in their working career. There is nothing wrong with regional influence but you do need to be understandable if you are going to need to communicate effectively.
I get really frustrated with having to deal with Indian call centers that are speaking English in a completely different way, many broad British accents are not much better.

MissAdventure Sat 24-Oct-20 10:05:33

Being realistic, having to fight prejudice won't help anyone, either.

paddyanne Sat 24-Oct-20 11:04:33

I disagree Davidhs some regional accents are in high demand in call centres as they are more "trusted" .To be honest I never heard the word Class when I was growing up in post war Glasgow ,we were all weegies and some may have had a slightly different accent or a bigger house but we were all friends .The only person I remember being prejudiced against any of us was our French teacher and old nun ,who toadied to the daughters of Doctors and Lawyers and talked down to the rest of us.It taught me a lesson early in life.I have never treated anyone differently regardless of background or accent .I dont toady to anyone,have done weddings for the children of Dukes and Earls and they sat in my reception area the same as wee Joe who worked in a local factory .I cannot abode snobbery or classism .The world would be better off without it,the system in the UK ofeeds it with handing out "honours" which are nothing of the sort just a way to enable people to feel they are somehow superior to the rest of us .

Illte Sat 24-Oct-20 12:03:41

It was frustrating at University to begin with when any comment I made in lectures or tutorials was met with a chorus of "Ooh Argh" on account of my rural accent.
One lecturer said to be "Where do you think you'll get a job with an accent like that?" to which I replied "Norfolk".

I don't think it ever hindered me in getti g a job I really wanted though. Even though I never went back to work in Norfolk🙁

Davidhs Sat 24-Oct-20 12:07:32

It’s not a question of trust or class it’s being understood, in fact having a “plummy” upper class accent is likely to cause bias against you.
Just as much in the schoolyard, socially or at work, we all remember Moira Stewart, she had to work really hard to improve her accent and got the job as a top news presenter for the BBC in the days where there was open prejudice.

EllanVannin Sat 24-Oct-20 12:27:06

Don't be fooled, it's not always the " Tarquin's " who are brainy, in fact when it comes to down to earth common sense they're as thick as two short planks.

It matters not to me what sort of an accent anyone has.

Callistemon Sat 24-Oct-20 12:33:47

Maybe you were lucky at Manchester. I was always referred to as Trouble at't'mill when working in a large company in Devon in 1968. Many of the head office staff, where I was based, were from London.
You wuz lucky to get a job in Devon, me lover!
I was told I'd never get a job down there because I wuz a furriner, being from up North! That was from the man in charge of recruitment for Plymouth County Council.
So I bypassed him and did get a job with the Council anyway.

Callistemon Sat 24-Oct-20 12:34:31

Sorry, Plymouth City Council!

Iam64 Sat 24-Oct-20 12:49:05

Some truth in that Callistemon but, this was a large American company. They had staff from a 30 mile area and we had work busses(free) to take us to and from

janeainsworth Sat 24-Oct-20 12:50:06

Iam Maybe you were lucky at Manchester. I was always referred to as Trouble at't'mill when working in a large company in Devon in 1968. Many of the head office staff, where I was based, were from London. My northern accent wasn't particularly strong

I don’t think I was lucky - I think everyone just accepted the fact that students had come to Manchester from all over the country and indeed from overseas, we were more interested in our new-found freedom and what was going on in the world. There was a sense of solidarity with other people of our own age & rebelling against the generation who had gone before us, rather than picking on people who seemed different.
Can I ask how you felt about being referred to as Trouble at t’Mill? Did it upset you or did you shrug it off? I think a work environment is a bit different from a university one - in a student community there shouldn’t be a power thing as there might be in a large organisation.

I’m just interested in why this generation of students behaves like this.

Iam64 Sat 24-Oct-20 13:07:20

We were a mixed group of Londoners, Birmingham and largely Devonians (Londoners in the management positions). We were a happy team in the late 60's, when anything seemed possible. I was one of many young hippies who decided south Devon was the place to be. I was the only on in our team who was born and lived in a northern mill town. No one seemed to have been north of Birmingham so my origins were a curiosity. The name was affectionate, not excluding. It certainly was not a power thing. When I moved back to the north west, several people from the team kept in touch. It was lovely to open one gift,to find an early Devon primrose had been lovingly packed for me.

I

Elegran Sat 24-Oct-20 13:07:39

Divide and conquer, that is the game. Thousands of students are ignored while they just get on with attending lectures and tutorials with whoever else is on the course, and spend their leisure time socialising with whover they have made friends with without wasting it criticising those from other backgrounds. A privileged few without the brains to get into a "classy" uni, who make fun of the students in their college with more intelligence and varied normal "inferior" accents, get the publicity. Result - the media makes us believe that ALL students in those colleges are pompous and insulting p***ks

lemongrove Sat 24-Oct-20 13:13:55

Except Elegran Durham University is a classy one!
It was always oversubscribed, just as much as Oxford Cambridge and Bristol are /were.

I do agree though that the media are always on high alert for a story on ‘class division’.

Elegran Sat 24-Oct-20 13:19:47

No need for the other students to feel got-at. Anyone accused of being "common, vulgar and uneducated." with parents on benefits needs to learn to laugh scornfully at such ignorance. Tell the twits they know F. all about life, having been dumped by parents who couldn't bear to have them live at home they were so stupid and selfish, into a school that couldn't teach them enough to get into the Oxbridge colleges where they wanted to go. Let them into the secret that there are many many different ways to speak - it was what is said that matters, and what is in the brain and heart behind the mouth.

lemongrove Sat 24-Oct-20 13:25:43

Why retaliate in the same stupid way though? They would have laughed and walked off long before you had got to the end of that insult about parents not wanting them.
A simple ‘ F off idiot’ would be better, accompanied by a pitying shake of the head.

Ellianne Sat 24-Oct-20 13:26:55

Just change your accent to adapt! I went for interview at Queen Mary London (East End) and my cockney accent went down fine. Then to Royal Holloway London (Bedford Ladies' College) where a plum in the mouth performance gained me an unconditional offer. Exeter University required a bit of lengthening of the vowel sounds and talking about riding holidays, (just a few pony lessons in Wales, but they were none the wiser!) Playing them at their own game worked and as a student it was quite fun experimenting with who one wanted to be in life and how to get there.

PS. Durham needs to get its act together. My God daughter is there and tells a few stories.

Elegran Sat 24-Oct-20 13:27:03

Crossed posts, Lemon. None of my children went to English Unis (except one to York for a post-grad course) so I am not au fait with which of them are posh. Edinburgh in the 50s/60s was only posh if you gravitated to the posh lot (like the poor, a posh contingent is always with us anywhere desirable to be seen) but Scottish unis have no history of elitism anyway. The lad o' pairts was always a common sight.

Alegrias2 Sat 24-Oct-20 13:30:06

A wee story about getting on when you are considered to be "inferior"....

James Clark Maxwell was called daftie at school in Edinburgh because of his rural accent and clothing. He went on to create the classical theory of electromagnetism, amongst other things. He never lost his accent. When Einstein was asked if he stood on the shoulders of Newton, he said no, he "stood on the shoulders of Maxwell."

Alegrias2 Sat 24-Oct-20 13:31:19

Crossed posts Elegran, but quite apt!