Almost half of uni students say they have been mocked or criticised for their accents

Northern students are the most likely to have had their accents mocked

Almost half of all university students say they have been mocked or criticised due to their accents.

A new report by Sutton Trust has found that a third (30 per cent) of uni students said they have been mocked, criticised or singled-out in educational settings due to their accents, and almost half (47 per cent) saying they experienced this in a social setting.

Northern students were the most likely to have experienced this, and spoke about how they had been “described as uneducated” in tutorials, avoided joining societies because they didn’t feel like they belonged, and had people judge them because of their accents.

35 per cent of uni students said they are self-conscious about their accent, the report found, and 33 per cent are worried that their accent could affect their ability to succeed in the future.

Students originally from the north of England are most likely to be concerned their accent could affect their ability to succeed, it found – 41 per cent, compared to only 19 per cent of southerners (excluding London).

Northern students were also the most likely to have had their accent mocked or criticised in a social setting – with over half (56 per cent) of students from the north reporting this. This is compared to 51 per cent of students from the Midlands, and 42 per cent of students from both Scotland and the south of England (including London). The report notes that figures for students from Wales and Northern Ireland are not shown due to small sample sizes.

One student from Lancashire said their accent was “described as ‘uneducated’ and ‘aggressive’” in tutorials. They said: “When I assert myself my accent was mocked as I struggle to suppress it when I am emotional.” A student from Leeds spoke about a time when they’d been asked to repeat themselves multiple times despite speaking clearly, saying they felt it was because their accent was not perceived as “posh/Queen’s English enough”.

Another student from Lancashire said: “I did not join any societies or clubs at uni due to my insecurity about my accent. I felt that I didn’t belong.” They were once asked if their parents “worked in coal mines”, and were also asked if they “grew up in a council house”. “In my experience, accent and class are often conflated in these situations”, they said. After being “discriminated against” by students and staff for years and being “persistently overlooked and underestimated”, they consciously minimised their accent in a hope to be seen as “more intelligent”.

And a Scottish student said: “I am a very sociable and friendly person but have had numerous
people clearly of higher class/wealth turn their back to me in a group setting where they have clearly judged me to have been ‘not their sort of person’. My accent is an inescapable indicator that I am ‘not their sort of person’.”

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‘People demean me because of how I speak’: Durham second year on classism at university

‘You’re actually pretty intelligent’: Students share their experiences of classism at uni

Being working class at uni is a massive culture shock and we need to talk about it