42 per cent of Scottish students have experienced accent discrimination, study finds

But students from the North of England are most concerned about their dialect


Over two-fifths of university students from Scotland have had their accents mocked, criticised or singled out, according to a new study.

Those from the North of England are most discriminated against – 56 per cent of Northern students in the UK have experienced accent discrimination. 41 per cent of them feel their dialect will affect their ability to succeed in the future, compared to 27 per cent of Scots.

One of the students surveyed by the Sutton Trust for the report attended Edinburgh University and claimed they were discriminated against regularly because of their Lancashire accent.

“I consciously spoke with a stronger Lancashire accent as a form of protest”, they added.

Scottish accents are one of the most socially favourable, except traditional RP, otherwise known as ‘received pronunciation’ or Queen’s English.

The Speaking Up report found that accents remain “arguably the primary signal of socio-economic status”, with positions of authority in politics, the media, business and civil society all still dominated by those with RP accents.

Edinburgh University’s 93% Club, which aims to increase the representation of state-school-educated students at unis across the country, says it has heard “countless stories” of accent discrimination at Edinburgh.

“As a student from the highlands, peers have told me my accent is broad, foreign, rough…”, one student told the group.

University students’ concern about their accent tends to increase as they progress in their studies, with 36 per cent of fourth-year students concerned about the impact versus 29 per cent of first years.

Accents associated with English cities, including Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool and Afro-Caribbean and Indian accents, are ranked the lowest among the general public.

Notably, those from high social economic groups in the North of England experience greater accent discrimination than their less well-off peers. Researchers say this is likely because they aspire to work in positions of senior authority, in which a southern English accent is generally more welcome.

The Sutton Trust recommends that students avoid modifying their accents and focus on confident public speaking. They have also encouraged those who have experienced discrimination to point out accent bias in educational and professional settings.

To view the full Speaking Up report by the Sutton Trust, click here

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