Exeter is elitist and it’s a problem that needs to be addressed

There is not point denying that there is a class gap

I remember my open day at the University of Exeter. On the shuttle bus from St David’s station to campus, I ended up sitting in amongst a sea of boys dressed in Jack Wills blazers who spent the trip arguing over a copy of the FT. I laugh about it now but at the time, little did I realise that Exeter is, in fact, a melting pot for the privileged.

In stats from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, Exeter came out as the seventh worst university in the country when it comes to its working class population. Ranking just under the likes Oxbridge and Durham, the study revealed that only 15.5 per cent of Exeter’s current students are from a working class background.

As startling as they are, the findings from experts in higher education data are hardly surprising. Any student at Exeter could have told you there is a class divide without doing any of the research. You only have to step into a lecture to see it – the recent statistics are just another reminder of the painfully posh reputation that proceeds us.

Ask anyone who doesn’t go to Exeter what they think of the university and the answers are usually all pretty similar. We’re seen as the chino wearing public school kids who spend daddy’s money in Waitrose and drink Prosecco at pres. I understand that to claim that everyone in Exeter lives up to this stereotype would be ignorant. It would be stupid to make such generalisations. However, as ridiculous as it might seem to the outside world, this stereotype, despite being somewhat hyperbolic, exists for a reason. One girl described Exeter as “an overgrown private school”.

Despite being an academically openminded environment, the social side of Exeter seldom reflects a broad spectrum of society. From the copious amounts of Macs that litter the desks in the library to the fact that you could probably turn ‘spot the Barbour jacket’ into a drinking game, there is an undeniable middle class reputation affiliated to us all by default. As simplistic as it may seem to cite these material objects as evidence, they have come to symbolise the middle class and bourgeois aesthetic of the ‘Exetah’ student that sadly seems to exist.

Of course, this problem is not exclusive to Exeter. As the statistics show, the best universities up and down the country are failing to be representative. It is a problem that has been described by government ministers as ”worrying’.

Why that is the case is a question that must be asked on a local and national level. From hardship grants to open days targeting deprived areas, more undeniably needs to be done to widen the outreach of the top institutions in order to attract the brightest students. Students with promise and academic merit are going unnoticed and are not being given the opportunities they deserve. More must be done to attract the students that are put off by crippling student fees and privileged stereotypes. At a time when British universities are churning up mind boggling amounts of revenue, more money needs to be invested in those that cannot afford the best education in order to create a culture in which university is an experience accessible to all.