Posh southerners are gentrifying northern unis

They just don’t get it


Let me take you back to a cold, dark day in late September. The leaves are turning, and all over the home counties Hugos, Arabellas and Livvies are heading North.  After leaving the comfort of the bright lights and green and pleasant golf courses just South of the Watford Gap , you get on to the A1, a long, bleak road that criss-crosses the deepest corners of the North of England.

Cruising past dilapidated mining towns, industrial sinkholes where average girls called Kelly work in call centres and teenagers drink cider in the park,  you arrive outside a building that looks more like an aristocratic retreat than a uni. An outpost in a sea of council estates and closed down leisure centres where the dads of these insipid, garden variety rich kids carry their bags up the stairs to their college rooms.

For the next three years, they’ll be sipping port, signetted hands clutching crystal stemware as their sweaty, ruddy jowls warm by an antique fireplace. The North is a playground, a blissful three year throwback to the days of the empire, a chance for them to pretend they’re in a period drama before they inevitably settle into a very respectable job in the city and a mistress in Hampshire.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s Durham, St. Andrews, Edinburgh or any of the other Hogwarts-like campuses dotted around North of the Pennines, the story’s the same. Whether its’ an ancient raisin party or fashion shows where blonde girls called Tilly strut around in £200 bras, there’s a certain type of posh Southerner that these unis attract.

the hunt

On the face of it, they’re no different to people that trek down to the South West and go to Exeter or Bristol. If you actually look at them, the differences are subtle, but there. It’s the difference between a black Amex and a Coutts card, a 50-year-old Barbour and a Paul Smith mac, the private school down the road and Eton.

They’ll change their accent, drop the distinctive twang that gives away their second home in the South of France, maybe buy a snapback and experiment with Ketamine, but nothing will really change.

Posh boys up North are old money, they didn’t get a Tag-Heuer on their 21st, they have a signet and their grandad’s gun. They made a conscious choice to go somewhere where their family history means something more than it does down South.

It’s a sense of exceptionalism which leads them to unis all the way up North. The idea that they can only be somewhere where their halls are older than most countries is drummed into them from the moment they step into their £10,000 a year prep school in the country.

They want to be noticed, they want to stick out like red chinos at a grime night, and they do just that. While the rest of the North is a bleak world of job centres and food banks, they’re living larger than ever. Toasting Maggie Thatcher at Port and Policy, grouse shooting at the weekend and popping bottles of Moet just to pour it away, they don’t care what’s happening around them because they’re having the time of their lives.

They’ve had the best education money can buy and now they’re in the North ignoring the consequences of their actions. They glide past the above average unemployment, the premature deaths and sub standard education. They don’t even bat an eyelid for the 20% of Durham children that have grown up in a damp or cold home.

Because deep in their hearts (normally reserved for their darling Black Lab), they know that every time they support the Tories they’re damning their new Uni towns to economic catastrophe.

Ed, a Glasgow local and Edinburgh second year is a Scot surrounded by English posh boys. He said: “These boys all seem to have gone to the same boarding schools or know each other from London and make very little effort in branching out from that circle. Someone said to me once that they chose to go to Edinburgh because they knew they would end up back in London so they wanted to experience a ‘random pointless city’ which I think sums it up.”

As long as there’s a quad, a don or any eccentricity that they can claim predates the developed world, they’re happy. About as far away as can be from the farmhouse estates of the shires, the posh boys of the South get the recognition they crave. Instead of being a fish in a samey school of other uninspiring, expensively educated dullards, there’s a feeling of smug superiority, of being Lord of the Manor.

Emma, who goes to Durham and is from Gateshead admitted sometimes it can be a struggle. She said:”Most people are lovely like anywhere, that’s a given. It’s just a small minority who might not have any experience of living in a less privileged environment and don’t understand what it is like. Council houses are probably as foreign to them as private schools are to me.

“The Durham bubble isn’t the best representation of what life is like for most people in the North East.”

So when you pass Teeside, take a look at the consequences of your actions: this is rich kids’ Britain. But there are no scapegoats: you have chosen this life for the millions who live outside your tartan-trouser world-view. This is your legacy. Are you proud?