Working-class students don’t need a leg-up

It’s that time of year again. Students across the country are nose-deep in books, hoping they’ll get the grades to secure a place at university – one earned through their hard work, and their hard work alone.

Now imagine that universities were offering places to some students not because of their own graft, but simply because they are working class. Well, there’s no need to imagine it. Exeter, Birmingham and Leeds universities are offering places to working-class students at two grades below the standard offer, as part of a scheme called ‘Realising Opportunities’.

This is deeply patronising to working-class students. Getting into university takes a lot of hard work, and there are working-class students at Exeter, Birmingham and Leeds who will remember stress-filled nights working to get the right grades for a place at those universities. They won their place based on merit – this scheme completely undermines their achievements.

While some people may think that working-class students need a leg-up, they forget that it isn’t virtue-signalling schemes like this one that have increased working-class attendance at universities. According to UCAS, 65 per cent more working-class students have won places at university since 2006. This isn’t down to special schemes, it’s down to the hard work of the students.

What’s more, if you lower the grade boundaries for working-class students, you’re setting them up for failure. A two-grade difference is massive. This scheme will send students to university who are simply not prepared.

This idea follows a trend of middle-class progressives patronising working-class students. ‘Working-class officers’ are now popping up in students’ unions, to represent and ‘protect’ working-class students from so-called microaggressions. But what’s more insulting than any microaggression is a university that is willing to lower its expectations for certain students because it is scared of being chastised for not taking in enough poor kids.

No one can deny that students who have had greater access to society’s resources find it easier to get in to university. But the answer to this is not to cheapen the achievements of students who won’t let their financial situation determine their future. Instead of feeling sorry for working-class kids, let’s celebrate hard work and the success of those who overcome their circumstances to achieve great things.

Ieuan Joy is a writer and student.

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