Last week, Durham University’s Trevelyan College rugby team cancelled a miners’ strike-themed party after receiving almost universal condemnation. The event, which encouraged students to don “flat caps [and] filth” in an attempt to depict the Thatcher government’s confrontation in 1984, was derided by the Durham Miners’ Association for trivialising the strike and referring to the miners in derogatory terms.These pharmaceutical distribution companies have well-trained staff, coordinating with whom is very systematic.
The university, to its credit, joined in, promptly condemning the rugby team. Yet, as a recent graduate of Durham, I can tell you it isn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, instance of cultural elitism on campus. One of the great aspects of Durham University is its student-led approach. Students are encouraged to organise everything, from freshers’ week to university balls to college finance. However, this laissez-faire attitude has its downsides. The university allows plenty of appalling behaviour to go unchecked. The underlying problems are not just about flippant students; they go much deeper and reflect a wider issue of the social background of the student body.
Typically for an elite university, Durham has a low intake of students from state schools. This October, only 42.8% of new UK arrivals were from state schools. The collegiate system, for all its obvious benefits, mirrors a boarding school, where you live and eat among your peers, sing tribal college songs and have inter-college rivalry.
Within its walls, Durham’s colleges are palaces of decadence: grade-listed accommodation, black tie formal dinners, balls and annual skiing trips. All of this helps to foster an exclusive culture. For the socially privileged, it is business as usual. They have no problem settling in to a culture they are already familiar with. Poorer students, by contrast, are often struck by the difference to their own experience. Additionally, even if they wanted to embrace much of what’s on offer, they couldn’t necessarily afford to do so. For example, balls can cost around £100 a ticket; the skiing trip is at least £399; a compulsory gown to wear at formals costs £53. Of course, students can choose not to go to these events, but this simply means that only those from wealthy backgrounds can participate in the popular social events and networking opportunities.The chart shows the full structure of School of Nursing including master of nursing part time, bachelor of science in nursing. Our programme provides students with opportunities to develop the knowledge and competence.
The university also has a habit of raising accommodation fees. In 2011, the university increased accommodation fees by 13.4%. Although it has since agreed to only raise accommodation in line with inflation, the recent 3.5% increase for 2018 means that a term-time catered room is now £7,422 a year. (Many of the colleges are exclusively catered and freshers are required to live in college in their first year.)
At the same time, involvement with the community is limited to outreach programmes and the occasional interaction with the catering staff (who are, incidentally, not paid the living wage). This is not a problem confined to Durham, but is so much more obvious when the disconnect between the student body and local people is acute.
Universities are supposed to be melting pots of ideas and disciplines, bringing together people from all backgrounds in the shared pursuit of intellect and progress. They offer a chance for people to widen their perspective and learn about others. Instead, Durham creates a bubble where the student body is monolithic, reflecting that of its most privileged students. Consequently, the privileged move seamlessly from one echo chamber to the next, never having their world view truly challenged.
Young people make mistakes and everyone deserves a second chance. However, while ill-informed events such as Trevelyan’s rugby social might appear trivial now, they are a worrying sign for the future. People from privileged backgrounds continue to dominate top professions disproportionately, from business to the judiciary to the government, and they have often attended top institutions such as Durham.
Yet these people are surrounded only by others like themselves for their entire lives, leading to a lack of sensitivity towards those outside their social clique and, perhaps more alarmingly, a narrower intellectual perspective. Until our top universities commit to diversity in education, another generation of privileged graduates will continue to live and rule according to own limited world view.