by Emmanuel Agu

Classically, a university education especially one of Russell group or Red-Brick standard universities has been marked as a distinction of class mobility, we know that the those in the upper percentage of wealth in this country are typically high academic achievers. Factually that merit of class distinction has belonged disproportionately to white men; though due to a long legacy of educational reform and positive action to break down these barriers, the goal of societal equality is ever more obtainable.

As Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator states: girls are 30% more likely to go to university than boys, and that BME students remain on the top end of university admission statistics; facts that deserve much celebration as they have been attained largely without positive discrimination quotas.  Yet to one who chose to who see facts at only the surface level of the wider situation; this state of affairs only upsets him. He calls on the plight of the ‘white working class men’ espousing rhetoric concerning feminism “becoming detached from equality” and should instead reach to that of bridging the between women and working class men. Similarly in national focus on the BME attainment gap Nelson states, “In spite of all we hear to the contrary, this is a pretty good country in which to be young, gifted and black.”

girls are 30% more likely to go to university than boys, and that BME students remain on the top end of university admission statistics



My cause for celebration is not one rooted in spite. Contrary to what some people may think, the thought of white men suffering and declining into poverty is not one that causes me to Dance like David Danced.  Systematic inequality extends far above simply entering institutions of higher education. We know that upon entry to university minority groups are more likely to achieve lower, more likely to leave before graduation, and more likely to be paid less. Myself (and plenty others) have made the personal effort to supply these facts directly to the editor; yet for some reason this article and a multitude of others online with this exist and I am here reiterating basic and easily available fact. We have plenty to be thankful for in social justice achieved thus far but the glass ceiling remains firmly intact for many of us. Life does not end at university admission, nor is it determined by it. We have so much more to achieve in approaching quality (both within and outside of education) and we are not helped by those who wish to use our struggles them to push base rate analyses to elicit a specific goal: the manipulation and disenfranchisement of the working class.

Life does not end at university admission, nor is it determined by it

I acknowledge myself as a Masters student, and elected Student Officer this is perhaps a weird question to appear; but young people are truly beginning to question: is a degree really worth it anymore? For those belonging to a higher class of society a university level education is assumed as a right of passage. For those of lower social standing, education and qualifications remain an essential tool in liberation and class mobility; with the doctrine of having to work ‘twice as hard’ pushed on these groups from an early age; exploring alternatives is not often a possibility. If any social group were able to take the gamble with alternative methods of class mobility – it is surely the white working class who will be first.

A wealthy bank (source 2 ) of empirical data strongly suggests the prime factor in the disengagement of ‘poor white boys’ from higher education is the sheer cost of it, further complicated by a government (and a few institutions)  that change payment conditions on a confirmed agreement. Yet, according to Nelson the increase in tuition fees is paying off for everyone: specifically by increasing funding for universities, and citing an increase in applications as a key indicator of a reason to praise fee increase.



Similarly, in following the political contest climate of the UK this summer, this manipulation of the working class can be examined in a similar form. Under a fiscal environment characterized by austerity; those destined to be detrimentally affected by this are oppressed groups and the working class. The referendum saw migrant communities as the primary target for political warfare through both demonisation and tokenistic weaponisation of the struggle of these communities – a struggle which was compounded by manipulation of the working class, (conflating mindsets of state/white fragility) or on the other hand accusing them of being a pathologised specie of racists. Though laden with added complexity, comparisons are easily drawn between Corbyn vs Smith. Corbyn is championed by his supporters as some form of working class hero, a true antithesis of (supposed) oligarchy within our political system, versus a candidate of a proposed ‘electable’ version of socialism in-line with the establishment.

The referendum saw migrant communities as the primary target for political warfare through both demonization and tokenistic weaponisation of the struggle of these communities

Worryingly, this narrative present in Nelson’s article is clearly taking hold in within progressive political spaces as well – this becomes astoundingly apparent in leadership race that seems to lack any (positive) policy proposal surrounding oppressed groups, in spite of resurgence of racism to a national standard which has not been documented in decades. It is a call for arms to shift the focus from that from that which has helped us stride further towards societal equality to previous methods of liberation to previous failed methods; as opposed to marriage of the redeemable aspects of both regimes.

It seems as if the praxis of conservative politics is rooted in counter-intellectual thought; one that is consumed by analysis of statistics (by those who are often unqualified) that can only ever confirm the inherent bias within one’s own argument, as opposed to the pursuit of equality through truth.

Cover picture ©


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