Bristol Uni students REJECT private school admissions cap
‘The University of Bristol has an issue surrounding social inclusion’ said Secretary of the 93% club
Bristol Uni students have overwhelmingly voted to reject a motion that would have required the SU to lobby the university to place a cap on the number of admissions of students who went to private schools.
At the Annual Members Meeting (AMM) that takes place in early spring each year, students debated (via Zoom) whether to lobby the university to restrict admissions from students who went to private school to the national average.
The motion failed, with only 49 votes in favour and 109 against. This means more than double the students who voted this year decided against this motion.
In the 2019/20 academic year, 34 per cent of Bristol students were from private school backgrounds, which compares to only 7 per cent of students nationally.
Following intensive and lengthy debate, the private school motion being the most contentious, it was the only one that failed. The other 11 motions that were debated at the meeting all passed.
Motions that passed include the creation of an Antisemitism Awareness Week, Paid Postgraduate Parental and Long-term Sick Leave, Establishing a Student Tenants Union, Championing Issues Facing Students with Caring Responsibilities, and Officialisation of the Financial Wellbeing Project.
The private school admissions cap motion was proposed by James Fishwick, and was seconded by the Equality, Liberation, and Access Officer, Jason Palmer. Fishwick is the Secretary of the 93% Club and the Chair of the Widening Participation Network, both of which represent students from state school backgrounds, however he proposed this motion in his personal capacity.
The debate was quite contentious, with passionate speeches both in favour and against, with Fishwick making the point that the university consistently ranks extremely low in social inclusion rankings, with Bristol ranking 113 out of 116 earlier this academic year.
Fishwick did say that the university had made some progress in improving inclusivity at Bristol through Access programs and others, but said that it was not enough.
Those who spoke against the motion said that it would be “inclusion through exclusion”, and that children and young people often had no input at all as to whether or not they go to private school, with those decisions made by parents.
A complaint was voiced at the very end of AMM, saying that only James Fishwick had been able to respond to speeches against the motion, adding that it created the impression that many more students were against than in favour.
However, voting opened 24 hours after AMM and took place online, so the fact that the motion failed by such a large margin indicates that it would not have had the support within the meeting either.
Bristol SU has confirmed that the meeting was not quorate, which means not enough students voted to make the decisions official. The SU confirmed to The Bristol Tab that the decisions will need to ratified at Student Council, with the next one due to be held in June (as the private school cap motion failed, that one will not be re-voted on).
James Fishwick, the motion proposer, told The Bristol Tab: “It was always very unsure how it would be received, and engaged with as an idea. It achieved some ground in getting people to think about the educational background of the cohort of students that currently make up Bristol.
“This is only the beginning of things that can happen, there is much more planned and in the making. It has to be re-iterated that the University of Bristol has an issue surrounding social inclusion, and it comes under fire annually for its bad record and the fact it’s not changing fast enough.
“The motion suggested an exciting, interesting and thought provoking way in which it to possibly effect change. But this is how it’s ended up this time, who knows what will happen in the future.”