The Student Room Group

Elite universities; research shows they’re rife with racism and classism

https://www.theguardian.com/education/commentisfree/2023/jan/30/universities-wokery-research-racism-classism-gatekeeping-us-uk


"Beyond the culture wars caricature, universities such as Harvard and Yale, Oxford and Cambridge, remain highly cpnservative institutions that align with the interests of privileged groups to perpetuate existing power structures.Yes, young people who aren’t white or wealthy might make it through the gates, but the gatekeeping does not end there. And, for many, the reality of daily life within these institutions can be very uncomfortable. As one student told us: “Getting here is hard enough. Once you get here you would think you were on a level playing field, but it doesn’t work like that."

Interesting article ...
(edited 1 year ago)
:eek::frown:
I'd be surprised if a lot of people weren't aware of this. The system is unfortunately very unfair at all levels.
Original post by Labradoodle1
I'd be surprised if a lot of people weren't aware of this. The system is unfortunately very unfair at all levels.


Assuming you are right, do we just accept that the system is unfair and leave it at that - or do we attempt to do something about it?

The purpose of the research is to highlight the nature and sources of this unfairness with a view to mitigating it. One of the central arguments of the book by Bhopal and Myers (to which the opening post in this thread refers) is that elite universities "cynically attempt to promote meritocracy and egalitarianism whilst simultaneously obscuring discriminatory practices." If there is some truth in this then we need to promote greater awareness of what those discriminatory practices are and consider how to address them.
Original post by Supermature
Assuming you are right, do we just accept that the system is unfair and leave it at that - or do we attempt to do something about it?

The purpose of the research is to highlight the nature and sources of this unfairness with a view to mitigating it. One of the central arguments of the book by Bhopal and Myers (to which the opening post in this thread refers) is that elite universities "cynically attempt to promote meritocracy and egalitarianism whilst simultaneously obscuring discriminatory practices." If there is some truth in this then we need to promote greater awareness of what those discriminatory practices are and consider how to address them.


I would genuinely love to attempt to do something about it. What I was saying is that from my understanding, awareness isn't the issue (as I'd expect most people would know about this elitism and discrimination). I think what we should focus on is what we can actually do about it - fighting back against a system that's been around for hundreds of years (even though it has been around in a range of different forms) is very, very difficult. I can think of so many instances where raising awareness for the sake of raising awareness has failed to actually accomplish anything. Many of us know what the problems are, but we don't really have many ideas on how to solve them. That's what I'd be interested in exploring. So yeah, I 100% agree with you on considering how to address them
Original post by Labradoodle1
Many of us know what the problems are, but we don't really have many ideas on how to solve them. That's what I'd be interested in exploring. So yeah, I 100% agree with you on considering how to address them

You are right to say that there is a widespread awareness of the problems but what this and other similar research is trying to do is break those problems down into their various elements.

There is a great deal of debate on the subject of admission to elite universities, both here and in the US. For example, the Guardian article by Bhopal and Myers says:

"In the US, an emphasis on “extracurriculars” such as evidence of sporting or musical ability, often fostered through private lessons paid for by wealthy parents acts to exclude students along racial or class lines. In the UK, the Oxbridge college system and interview process privileges those from elite private schools, who pride themselves on their longstanding ties and strategic knowledge of how to get in."

But there is less attention paid to students' experiences of elite universities when they actually get there. The research shows that many students from disadvantaged (or "ordinary") backgrounds have difficulty fitting in to the university environment and are thus unable to benefit from its inbuilt advantages in the same way as their better off peers. Of course, this by no means applies to everyone. Clever, hard working and highly motivated students will rise above what the research calls " discriminatory practices" - but many don't.

So first we need to know a little more about these problems in order to address them effectively. I have read several very revealing comments from TSR members about the difficulties of "fitting in", ranging from just feeling uncomfortable to outright discrimination. As a response to this thread, it would be interesting to hear some more.
(edited 1 year ago)
Original post by Supermature
You are right to say that there is a widespread awareness of the problems but what this and other similar research is trying to do is break those problems down into their various elements.

There is a great deal of debate on the subject of admission to elite universities, both here and in the US. For example, the Guardian article by Bhopal and Myers says:

"In the US, an emphasis on “extracurriculars” such as evidence of sporting or musical ability, often fostered through private lessons paid for by wealthy parents acts to exclude students along racial or class lines. In the UK, the Oxbridge college system and interview process privileges those from elite private schools, who pride themselves on their longstanding ties and strategic knowledge of how to get in."

But there is less attention paid to students' experiences of elite universities when they actually get there. The research shows that many students from disadvantaged (or "ordinary") backgrounds have difficulty fitting in to the university environment and are thus unable to benefit from its inbuilt advantages in the same way as their better off peers. Of course, this by no means applies to everyone. Clever, hard working and highly motivated students will rise above what the research calls " discriminatory practices" - but many don't.

So first we need to know a little more about these problems in order to address them effectively. I have read several very revealing comments from TSR members about the difficulties of "fitting in", ranging from just feeling uncomfortable to outright discrimination. As a response to this thread, it would be interesting to hear some more.


Good points, I agree with you on all of them. I'd also like to add another point. When it comes to admissions, I believe the root of the problem is actually education at lower levels. That's where the unfairness starts. I think trying to balance things out just by using things like contextual offers isn't a long-term solution, and more needs to be done to address this massive inequality. If people have different starting points, it's no surprise that they'll have different outcomes. Ultimately, balancing things out at the university level is bound to be much more difficult if one student has had significantly more advantages throughout their entire education than another.
(edited 1 year ago)
Original post by Labradoodle1
Good points, I agree with you on all of them. I'd also like to add another point. When it comes to admissions, I believe the root of the problem is actually education at lower levels. That's where the unfairness starts. I think trying to balance things out just by using things like contextual offers isn't a long-term solution, and more needs to be done to address this massive inequality. If people have different starting points, it's no surprise that they'll have different outcomes. Ultimately, balancing things out at the university level is bound to be much more difficult if one student has had significantly more advantages throughout their entire education than another.

That's an excellent post and I agree with you wholeheartedly, as would virtually the entire Educational Research community!

As this thread is in the University Life forum I felt it best to concentrate on students' experiences while attending or having attended elite universities. But, as you so rightly imply, this is only a small part of the problem; likewise, the issue of unfairness in the admissions process.

At the present time, students will have their hands full coping with the many day to day problems that affect them, not least of which will be the current cost of living crisis. Nevertheless, it is still worth thinking about the origins of these problems and how they are reflected in our own experiences. The best ideas often come from the ground up rather than the top down!
Original post by Supermature
That's an excellent post and I agree with you wholeheartedly, as would virtually the entire Educational Research community!

As this thread is in the University Life forum I felt it best to concentrate on students' experiences while attending or having attended elite universities. But, as you so rightly imply, this is only a small part of the problem; likewise, the issue of unfairness in the admissions process.

At the present time, students will have their hands full coping with the many day to day problems that affect them, not least of which will be the current cost of living crisis. Nevertheless, it is still worth thinking about the origins of these problems and how they are reflected in our own experiences. The best ideas often come from the ground up rather than the top down!

Glad you agree!
Has anyone read the book mentioned in the articles? It seems to cost about £30 which is rather a lot without positive reviews.
Original post by ajj2000
Has anyone read the book mentioned in the articles? It seems to cost about £30 which is rather a lot without positive reviews.

Not yet. I have it on order. I am familiar with their other work in this area.

Cosmopolitan Brands: graduate students navigating the social space of elite global universities
https://doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2021.1941763
Open access.

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