What is a Disadvantaged Student?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”David Cameron’s victory speech in the 2015 General Election – “A place where a good life is in reach for everyone who is willing to work and do the right thing”.” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It has come to light that Prime Minister David Cameron’s aforementioned ambition to improve social mobility has not come to fruition. An original article published at Wonkhe by Madalaine Ansell explains that Britain has in fact become more unequal in recent years, with “the top 10%’s share of both and wealth” having increased, and them owning “nearly 40% of income share and 66% of all wealth.” It is subsequently noted in the same article that over 90% of the British population are state educated (myself included), yet “71% of senior judges, 62% of senior armed forces and 55% of Civil Service departmental heads were educated independently.”

These are the jobs and statuses attainable with, not just degrees, but class and social status. Ansell goes on to discuss the causes of this misrepresentation, and states that it is universities that begin this misrepresentation and under-representation of certain students. Firstly though, what actually is it that these prestigious jobs search for in an applicant.

The advice given by the government on the appointment of a senior judge states that:

  • Five to seven years relevant legal experience and qualifications
  • Appointments are open only to citizens (including dual nationalities) of the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland or a Commonwealth country;
  • There is no upper or lower age limit, save for retirement age;
  • Applications from disabled people are welcomed and reasonable adjustments will be made.

This sounds fairly inclusive and non-discriminatory, so why is it then that only 29% of Senior judges are state-educated? In the UK we see private school education, as well as top Universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Imperial College London and Warwick as highly prestigious, but the stigma attached to this that not everyone has the opportunity to go there, namely, due to money.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The cost of education at Eton College is set at:

  • £315 Registration fee
  • £1,900 Acceptance fee (for 2017)
  • £11,907 per term (three terms in a year).

Personally speaking, that cost is astronomical! There is a huge disparity then between these jobs, being some of the highest paying, and most prestigious, and the representation of the citizens of the United Kingdom. It is also worth noting that in a Guardian article in 2014, in terms of Oxford and Cambridge education, 75% of Senior Judges are educated there (for further reading, take a look at these statistics). How then are students supposed to attain these jobs without the prestige placed on them by their parents.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Firstly we need to look at the factors that influence a student’s apparent automatic placement within society:

  • Ethnicity;
  • Gender;
  • Financial circumstance;
  • Class;
  • Prevalence of disability.

A separate Guardian article in 2015 found that 29% of MPs were women, 6% were from minority ethnic backgrounds, and a separate article by the Newstatesman showed only a handful of MPs were disabled in 2012.

The question is, is this what we are now classing as a “disadvantaged student”? I asked four OLC staff members from different backgrounds what they thought, and also how they would try and solve this mass disparity; I believe it is worth confirming, that not everyone has the same equal chance in life.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”5″ accent_color=”#8cba3e”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”Professor John Sharp” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Professor John Sharp followed a fairly traditional route into the Higher Education Sector. He started off as an apprentice at Rolls Royce before completing a degree at Bradford University, then his PhD, before eventually working as a lecturer for Salford University.

Professor John Sharp defined “disadvantaged” as those from a different socio-economic background – those that don’t have the opportunity to go to university and pushed into the labour markets at an early age.

Professor John Sharp’s idea to alleviate this is to provide wider access programmes (which OLC do provide as an alternate to Higher Education).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”7802″ img_size=”large”][vc_custom_heading text=”Professor John Sharp at OLC’s 2015 Graduation Ceremony at Bolton” font_container=”tag:h6|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”5″ accent_color=”#8cba3e”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”7805″ img_size=”large”][vc_custom_heading text=”Derek Hill (left) with a graduating student (middle) and OLC tutor Mazhar Hussain (right)” font_container=”tag:h6|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”Derek Hill” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Derek Hill is a long-standing colleague of Professor Sharp’s at Salford University and rose to be the head of various international programmes and acting head of Department for Salford Business School for a short period of time. But Derek’s early life was grounded in the poorer estates of East London; as a product of the disadvantaged, Derek is a paragon of success.

Having built himself up and worked hard outside of the cycle of drugs and crime that his peers succumbed to, Derek became a success by going to university, and then working in one for 25 years. He is also knowledgeable on Dyslexia and its affects and acts as the first point of contact for Dyslexic students, or those who think they may be Dyslexic, at OLC.

Derek Hill then defines “disadvantaged students” as, “someone who doesn’t have the same opportunities” as someone else, and puts these down to mental, physical and socio-economic disadvantages (or as they are seen as disadvantageous in our current education system).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”5″ accent_color=”#8cba3e”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”Lisa Rees” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Lisa has worked in a variety of different roles: as a Casino Manager, on a cruise ship, as well as with us at OLC as a tutor. However, a key difference is that she was educated at a grammar school; in fact Lisa went to say that she has been accepted into a job role not because of her degree, but because she was grammar school educated.

Lisa states her definition of disadvantaged as “someone who doesn’t have the same opportunities as those with equal grades.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”7804″ img_size=”large”][vc_custom_heading text=”Lisa Rees (centre) with OLC’s graduating students and OLC tutors” font_container=”tag:h6|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”5″ accent_color=”#8cba3e”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”4″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”Shaun Lewis” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Lastly I discussed the issue with the newest tutor at OLC, Shaun Lewis. Shaun is huge advocate for the support of Dyslexic students and equality in the classroom, and strives to build the most inclusive approach to teaching that he can at OLC. His definition of “disadvantaged students” focused on social class like the others, with an interesting twist; he put it down to upbringing and social circumstances that cause a set mindset, particular a mindset of social exclusion.

For Shaun then, he suggested that there be widened participation within universities  and perhaps trying to attract those who would see university and unreachable, or those who never even think about it.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”5″ accent_color=”#8cba3e”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”What Can We Make of All This?” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]We’ve come across a number of issues, and despite each of my interviewees sometimes saying very similar things, each one had something different to say. We have these aspects now:

  • Social Class;
  • Background;
  • Wealth;
  • Culture;
  • Gender;
  • Physical and Mental Disability;
  • Ethnicity;
  • Locale.

A number of different ways to approach this issue have also be presented:

  • Wider Access recruitment into HEIs – the recruitment of those with work experience and vocational skills who otherwise couldn’t move through the traditional academic system;
  • Appreciate who we classify as ‘disadvantaged’ – understand who are those that are missing out, and who are those that are seemingly being granted the opportunities;
  • Have a truly open access policy – an open access policy should be implemented in all HEIs, including universities, so that only skills and grades are the differentiating factors;
  • Widened Participation – support mechanisms in schools and also from universities to attract and open up opportunities for those who traditionally are given the chance, or don’t even consider it.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”5″ accent_color=”#8cba3e”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”Professor Sharp – Wider Access recruitment into HEIs” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]It’s key here to note that upon my initial observations, at no point did I even mention those that don’t go to university, or don’t have the opportunity. UCAS’ 2016 analysis showed that 37% of 18 year olds in England applied for University by the January deadline. So are those who don’t even go to university classed as disadvantaged and thus excluded? The short answer is no. Not every student wants to go to university, or even has to.

For Professor John Sharp, the trouble lies within the support mechanisms and the schools that provide them, with certain socio-economic circumstances almost enforcing, without the students’ choice, which industry they enter, and it becomes extremely difficult to break that cycle. However, whilst it is difficult to break that cycle, it is not impossible.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”Derek Hill – Appreciate who we classify as ‘disadvantaged'” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]It’s interesting to see with Derek’ definition the addition of mental and physical disabilities/health issues. Again in those prestigious jobs we can see a distinct misrepresentation of those with disabilities, and there appears to little or no statistics that suggest those with mental health issues being given prestigious job opportunities for instance.

Derek believes that in order to approach the issue, we must first know and appreciate what it means to be disadvantaged. I believe this is down to a function of what we deem as advantageous first, or rather the kinds of people that appear to receive the opportunities others don’t. In my opinion it appears that in order to have the best chance at a job in senior judiciary, or as an Armed Forces Officer or as an MP, one must be:

  • Caucasian;
  • Male;
  • Wealthy;
  • Absent of physical and mental disabilities;
  • Have the background and social class befitting wealth.

With the percentages presented earlier, if you are a gambler, these traits appear to the most sort after, and the most likely to ‘win’.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”5″ accent_color=”#8cba3e”][vc_custom_heading text=”Lisa Rees – Have a truly open access policy ” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]After her definition was given, Lisa went on to discuss with me the nature of cultural aspects that affect whether someone is disadvantaged. For instance, in communities were women are seen more singularly as homebound and ineligible for treatment as anything other, that notion is confirmed by society and culture, not by British culture as it is written and enacted by the majority. In minority communities, this can have a truly detrimental effect on potential students that aren’t disadvantaged by the educational system, but before then by the culture they grow up in.

Lisa’s suggestion for helping ease the under-representation of students was to have a truly open access policy in higher education institutions, where grades and skill is all that determines someone’s placement in university.

This is similar, concurrent to those already mentioned, but I feel this definition is much more inclusive of those beyond socio-economic disadvantage. Lisa goes on to list others that could be classed as disadvantaged being from:

  • Minority ethnic groups;
  • Women;
  • Those part of the LGBT community.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”5″ accent_color=”#8cba3e”][vc_custom_heading text=”Shaun Lewis – Widened participation ” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]When looking at Shaun’s Definition we can link back to both Derek and Lisa’s points. We can see that the culture in which potential grow up can affect whether they are disadvantaged by the educational system, and in a way that is almost wholly out of control. Shaun went to say that certain cultures and families within them can discourage children from aiming at an education within education, and thus prestigious jobs like in Government or the Judiciary.

As discussed earlier with Derek, your peers and family, if having had no ambition or history within university, tends to reinforce the idea of being into a certain job, such as the labour market.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”5″ accent_color=”#8cba3e”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”What Do I Make of All This?” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]But I want to add one other from myself, as I go out on a limb. Move focus away from university and re-advertise industry jobs as prestigious. In the UK we tend to place so much focus and adoration onto those that become government MPs, judges and lawyers and also actors, singers and sports personalities. It is my belief that these professions lend themselves to become unobtainable for the vast majority of the “disadvantaged”, especially those via class, wealth, background and locale. The UK does not advertise the successes of industry, engineering progression and invention; we push tertiary and quaternary industry, leaving our manufacturing and agriculture to those born into it, and a resentment for that, mostly because we idolise certain figures so much.

In my opinion vocation needs to be championed a huge deal more than it is. Take away the prestige from certain jobs, from universities and from private education and balance it with industry skill and talent, and invention and entrepreneurial skills in order to cater to truly balance the UK’s ambitions and allow all great people to come through in an industry they want to.

However whilst this may help to advertise the worth and prestige of other professions and industry as they should receive, it still does not account for choice above all else; if a child still does want to become government MPs for instance, regardless of the advertisement and vocational opportunities, would they still then be treated unequally? Perhaps then the solution is not yet elucidated.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”5″ accent_color=”#8cba3e”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”7819″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]Ashley Eubank is the primary blog writer for OLC, tutor and one of the quality officers. His involvement in the company ranges from teaching, to evaluations, to social media.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]