Manchester SU have introduced working class officers

It’s to represent students who feel out of place at institutions dominated by the privately educated

The University of Manchester Student’s Union have appointed two self-identifying working class students in the role of working class officers.

The principal roles of those who hold the two positions, one of which must be occupied by a self-identifying woman, are said “to act as a voice for working class students and to lead the Students’ Union’s work in this area, to facilitate a forum for working class students to feed into the work of the Students’ Union, to represent the interests of working class students at a variety of meetings and the Student Senate (pending approval of Trustee Board in November) and to convene projects, events, campaigns and other activities relevant to these students.”

The new role will hopefully continue to bridge the gap between working and middle class students at the University of Manchester, where the class divide is particularly prevalent. With figures showing pupils from private schools are two and a half times more likely to enter a leading university like Manchester than their state school colleagues.

“The University of Manchester Students’ Union is committed to broadening access to disenfranchised and under-represented groups of students. We in our democratic structures in our union had representation for all groups the NUS label as marginalised, bar working class students and Care Leavers. These officers represent the interests of underrepresented groups and facilitate campaigns and self organisation. Policies such as the scrapping of maintenance grants, the cutting of the Manchester Bursary and systematic inequality highlighted in such cases as the attainment gap and the underrepresentation of working class students enrolling at our university highlight the need for dedicated officers to represent the needs of working class students.”

The news comes as no shock, with a recent poll showing that at a Russell Group uni, only six per cent of new students will be from “the most disadvantaged backgrounds”, and at a time where almost 40 per cent of young people progress to higher education by the age of 19, only ten percent identify as being from the “most disadvantaged backgrounds”, with young white men from these particular backgrounds being five times less likely to go to university than their more privileged counterparts.

And it’s not just Manchester, SOAS in London and St Hilda’s of Oxford have also created a similar role, while Exeter, Birmingham and Leeds universities are reportedly offering places to working class students at two grades below the standard offer, as part of a scheme called ‘Realising Opportunities’.

The news has been met with some criticism, being labelled as “patronising” to working class students, the reaction from Manchester students, on the other hand, has been largely positive.