Students from the North of England have been subjected to ‘prejudice and discrimination’ by their ‘elitist’ peers at Durham University, a report has shown.
Lauren White, 20, from Gateshead, experienced endless ridicule because of her background and eventually moved back home during her studies at the university. She then wrote an article about the experience and was ‘inundated ‘ with messages from other students who had experienced the same.
Compiling the accounts into a report, she said all of those interviewed had been ‘discriminated against because of their Northern background, and/ or because of their Northern accents’.
One man claimed another student had stubbed a cigarette out on his hand after
hearing he had attended a local state school, while a woman from Gateshead said she dropped out of the university after five months ‘because of how elitist I found it’.
Another claimed a classmate told her ‘I hate all northerners’ and one overheard students referring to sleeping with people from the area as ‘rolling in muck’. A third year also told how he had been mocked for working to earn money during his studies and barred from college bars as people refused to believe he was a student.
He said: ‘As a student from the North East of England studying at Durham University, I am regularly belittled and made to feel like I do not belong within the University because of my accent and where I am from.
‘On my first day of Freshers’ Week, a girl in my flat approached me to ask if she would be able to get an internet connection in Durham, and then said that she “didn’t realise the North has technology”.
‘In the College dining hall, I have been called a “dirty northerner”, and a “chav”. In Freshers’ Week, a fellow student asked me “are you going to take the spare food home to feed your family?”‘
He added: ‘On a night out, I was approached by a female student who said that she would sleep with me as she had a “poverty fetish” and asked me to start a fight to impress her as “that’s what you people do, you fight whenever you get drunk”.’
Other students described being told their families ‘must be on benefits’, or that their home towns were ‘full of heroin addicts’. One woman from Hartlepool said: ‘It’s so strange being so close to home but yet when you’re in Durham there’s times that you feel like you’re in a completely different place.’
Lauren, who published the report in a Gateshead newspaper, has now called on Durham University to address the ‘toxic culture towards Northern students’ and introduce more support for them.
She noted that many of those who had contacted her had joined the university through its Supported Progression scheme, which encourages students from disadvantage backgrounds to apply.
Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, told Durham student newspaper Palatinate: ‘We believe that everyone has the right to study and work in an environment that is respectful and where people feel comfortable to be themselves and to flourish.
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‘For most staff, students, visitors and partners, their experience of Durham University is a very positive one, but we want to do better still. We recently published the final report of the Durham Commission on Respect, Values and Behaviour, which we set up to understand better what it is like to study and work here, and how we can create positive change.
‘We are now setting up an Oversight Group to oversee the implementation of
the recommendations of the Commission and explore further actions. The Northern Student Experience at Durham University’ report highlights some behaviours which are unacceptable and entirely at odds with our values as a University.
‘In the short time since receiving the report, Lauren and I have agreed both that her report will be considered by the Respect Commission Oversight Group and that we will meet shortly to discuss her findings further.’
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