I sent this letter to the Guardian last week, but alas not chosen for publication. I was trying to advance the idea that prejudice does not flow simply in one direction. I haven ‘t looked at it for two weeks, and I don’t think I’d make the last sentence so categorical if I was to submit it again. Comments welcome as always.
Given the high prevalence of an Oxbridge education amongst prominent people in our society, few would argue that striving for a situation where access to these institutions is available to students from a broad variety of backgrounds is not desirable. Your article ‘Oxbridge’s class divide raises food for thought’ examines the difficulties faced by students from lower income families who seek to study in these universities.
Although the start of a university experience is anxiety producing for most, starting out at an Oxbridge college may be more difficult for some than for others. For example many students from fee paying schools are awarded places alongside a large proportion of their existing social circle, whereas on day one a new student from an average comprehensive might well know no one.
Yet ‘fitting in’ is a skill that is worth mastering at an early opportunity. It’s a shame then that rather than focus on positive Oxbridge experiences of those from deprived background your article choose to feature students who were as prejudicial towards more privileged students as they expect those students are towards them. Although their parents do probably listen to Radio 4 (and read the Guardian), I find it difficult to believe that the ‘white posh boys’ described by one student in the article, were really ‘disgusted’ when the television was tuned to MTV.
In reality whilst there will always be people who refuse to see beyond the narrow confines of class the majority of Oxbridge students are friendly and welcoming. For all but the deliberately anti-social, marginalisation based on background is available only for those that seek it.