Report alleges verbal and physical abuse against Northern students at Durham University

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A Durham student has published a report into Northern students’ experiences at Durham University. The report, which has been sent to University Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge, details the experiences of Durham students from the North of England who described feeling unwelcome at the University, and in some cases, have felt forced to live at home during their studies or drop out of Durham.

of Van Mildert College interviewed over 20 past and present Durham students from the North of England, the oldest having graduated from Durham in 1996, and the newest having started at Durham this year.

The report asks that the University acknowledges that it has a “toxic culture” towards Northern students, and that ‘background’ is included as a type of discrimination in the student pledge, which every students is required to sign before they begin their studies at Durham.

It also calls on the University to take “re-educational action” to ensure that every student at Durham is aware that prejudice and discrimination against students due to their background is “unacceptable”, and to provide more support for the recpipients of the Supported Progression programme and Northern and working class students, and asks that these students are invited to give evidence and share their experiences. 

Northern students at Durham have been subject to mockery of their accents which have been described as “feral”, “dirty”, and “vulgar”.

The report claims that “there is no support for students from Northern, working-class backgrounds” at the University, and that the attitudes of “many” students and staff “directly contradict the terms and conditions of student conduct”.

Testimony from current and former Durham students included in the report shows that Northern students at Durham have been subject to mockery of their accents which have been described as “feral”, “dirty”, and “vulgar”.

In one instance, a student was allegedly subject to physical abuse by another student, where a cigarette was stubbed on the back of their hand. 

The report also shows that some Northern students have reported feeling isolated in a college environment and as a result, have chosen to live at home after their first year, or have chosen to drop out of Durham. , the author of the report, has chosen to live at home at her Gateshead address this year to complete her final year of study, as a result of the “alienation” she has experienced.

One former student said: “I ended up dropping out of Durham in February 2019 after only five months because of how elitist I found it. I’m from a working class Gateshead family and went on the supported progression programme to get into Durham which I really enjoyed. But then when I got to Durham it was so different to everything I thought it would be.

“I was such an advocate for the Uni and I now tell anyone who’ll listen that it’s one of the worst institutions I’ve ever been a part of.”

The report asks that the University acknowledges that it has a “toxic culture” towards Northern students

Another former student said: “I attended Durham 2013-2017 and I had the most horrendous time there. It resulted in me going to counselling during University and years after because my self esteem became so low.

“I was told repeatedly that the only reason I was at Durham was because my family were on benefits. I was told I would never get a job because of the way I speak, I was told that I was a waste of a worthy student’s place.

“Another thing I remember that I think should be mentioned is ‘rolling in the muck’. It was a thing a lot of students would say referring to them sleeping with a Northern/working class person. I remember there being nights dedicated to ‘rolling in the muck’ where sports teams or societies would go out to try and get with Northern/working class people.”

Another student alleged they had been refused entry to a college bar even after showing their student ID which bar security believed to be forged. 

Some students reported not feeling comfortable in seminars. One student said: “I can’t bear seminars sometimes, I just feel like nobody accepts my points because of the way I talk.”

Another student said: “By the end of my first semester in first year I wouldn’t even want to speak in seminars because I felt so conscious of it [my accent].”

When talking about their experience at Durham, one Durham graduate told White: “I honestly think Durham University is just a cesspit where people can get away with saying almost anything with no consequences.”

The University has indicated a commitment to tackling discrimination. In the virtual matriculation ceremony University Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Corbridge warned students: “If you see misbehaviour, if you see examples of sexism or misogyny or racism or classism, challenge it.” He continued by warning students to “be an active bystander”.

“If you see misbehaviour, if you see examples of sexism or misogyny or racism or classism, challenge it.”

University Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Corbridge

White told BBC Radio Newcastle that the Vice-Chancellor has assured her that the University is committed to working to solve the issues in the report and that Professor Corbridge has asked to have a meeting with her to discuss the report.

Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “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.

“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.”

Palatinate asked , Durham Students’ Union Postgraduate Academic Officer about her own experiences as a Northern student at Durham and action the University has taken to make Durham a more inclusive environment.

She said:  “The experiences that are mentioned in the report were not a surprise to me. I’m from just outside Newcastle, and during my Freshers’ Week, back in 2016, I was playing a card game one evening, and I said something along the lines of ‘Oh I know a different version of the rules’ and someone I had just met that evening said to me: ‘Well that’s because you’re from the undereducated North’. That was not banter. It wasn’t funny. This wasn’t the only incident like this, but it is certainly the one that has stuck with me.  

“Sometimes, I feel lucky because I don’t have the strongest north-east accent, and often people struggle to place where I’m from, but I shouldn’t have to feel lucky about the fact that my accent hasn’t caused me to experience the same level of discrimination as those mentioned in the report. I am very proud to be from the North East and I’d like to think I’m vocal about that, but particularly in my first term at Durham University it meant that I felt very alone.  

“The University has a long way to go in building a more respectful and inclusive environment. Simply talking about BLM or the findings of the Respect commission does not automatically mean that there is cultural change in Durham. 

“Regarding active bystanders, the training was delivered to around 550 freps this year, but if they want all students to be active bystanders, they need to commit the funding so it can be available for everyone. 

“As an officer team, we are committed to tackling toxic cultures here at Durham. This means acknowledging our own unconscious biases, developing an understanding of microaggressive behaviours and feeling empowered to challenge them and actively engaging in uncomfortable discussions that make us reflect on our own privileges.” 

McAllister also said the University should work more closely with schools in Durham and the local community and allow local sixth form students access to the University’s resources. 

told Palatinate: “The testimonies that this report has been founded upon are equally as shocking to read as they are demoralising. But they have only proven what many of us have suspected for so long: that Durham University promotes a toxic environment for students of Northern, working-class, so-called ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds.

“This is why we are calling on the University to re-educate students, to provide support for existing students who have faced this discrimination and prejudice, and to identify ‘background’ in the Student Pledge as a characteristic which should not be the target of discrimination or unfait treatment. Only then will we have a Uni that works for everyone.”

is a third year politics and philosophy student at Van Mildert College and is a recipient of the University’s Supported Progression programme.

As a result of White’s meeting with the Vice-Chancellor and the Respect Report Chair, the University has now agreed to implement a new Student Pledge which will include ‘background’ as a form of discrimination, and White’s report has been referred to the University’s Respect Oversight Committee.

For more information about the Respect Commission, please visit: www.durham.ac.uk/respect

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37 thoughts on “Report alleges verbal and physical abuse against Northern students at Durham University

  • Well done to this lady for compiling this research. I attended Grey College in 1994 and it was well known that monied rugby lads would pursue you if you were deemed ‘poor’. In my first week, when I met my college pastoral group, I mentioned I’d worked full time for the NHS that summer to save for university. There was silence from the other students and looks of pity!! Most of them had done gap years or travelled etc. I never really shook that off. The rich students’ attitude towards normal, white collar undergrads was appalling. I left after my first year and finished my degree at Surrey University which had a healthy, inclusive culture.

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  • I work on staff at the Uni and am appalled at the sights and sounds I regularly encounter. Walk the Bailey after midnight to see why the few remaining locals in the Town are anti student. Hatfield College springs to mind for abusive language and indiscipline, spilling on to the Bailey, blocking road and pavements, it is not a good advertisement for College life to locals and no, I am not singling them out from any misplaced loyalty to my own employer, the littering, the foul and abusive language through the night noise,is endemic. This canny old town is being disrespected by a vocal majority. I am tired of reminding drunken hoorays that our Cathedral church is not a playground and, more regularly a public toilet. Why do they not understand that?
    As for the sexual targeting of Northern students that too is endemic. A bit of self discipline and a stricter alcohol and drug enforcement regime requires to be implemented. Immature and feral attitudes require to be targeted on arrival and the rules strictly enforced.
    At least with COVID restrictions there has been a lessening of gangs of students trawling student bars on cheap prices.
    I policed in the Army where regimental pride was paramount but often led to vicious fights between cap badges, you should see how Units/Regiments enforced discipline to ensure regimental pride never besmirched the Regimental name.
    I thought Uni was for academic betterment but experience more often now that student choice is based on social life

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  • 60% of Durham students have a state school background. Add to that the ‘good eggs’ from private schools, and the hooray Henrys are really in a minority.

    Make sure they know it.

    snobbery doesn’t cut much ice out in the real world. It’s a social impediment, a marker of low intelligence.

    Make sure they know it.

    They may think they have bought themselves three years in a safe bubble.

    Burst it.

    It sounds like you have a good vice chancellor. Active bystander stuff is a good idea.

    Good luck.

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    • I was at Durham in the 80s when I think there was a higher public school percentage and a higher percentage of Hoorah Henries as they were then known.. i remember one girl stating in a tutorial that the family’s cook wouldn’t let them in the kitchen at home and being shocked that the rest of us didn’t have cooks and cleaners! Different world!
      Durham is a Northern University and should be proud of it’s northern roots.
      .Anyone who has a superior attitude towards someone else due to their wealth, income and accent or where they come from shows themselves to be of no class or manners and to be ignored.

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  • Really shocked by this, as a working class Yorkshire lad who came up to an all male, highly selective Hatfield in the 1980s I can honestly say that I experienced nothing remotely like this. In my day College discipline was tight, porters dispensed their own ‘justice’ and a summons from the Bursar reduced many ‘tough Rugby’ types to jelly. I suppose we just accepted that being a member of the College was a privilege and accepted rules on behaviour as part of the deal.

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  • It is so sad to read this. I was at Durham in the late 1990’s, from a very underprivileged care leaving background and I never ever felt that it was an issue in any way. When I was making my UCAS application my sixth form college tutor suggested that Durham was quite elitist and said that I might struggle with that but I can honestly say that St Mary’s and the wider university was inclusive and welcoming and went out of their way to encourage and support me from the process of application and throughout my student life. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I made life long friends from all backgrounds from elite private schools to North East state schools. If anything the few snobs were the butt of most jokes. Hatfield and Castle certainly draw in some unique characters but I never felt inferior or threatened by anyone.

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  • I wonder how much has changed over the years. I was a science student in Collingwood ’89 onwards, worked in the uni for a few years then back as a student again. Being from a Durham miner background, 30min bus ride away, I never really encounters this type of behaviour – and yes I lived in college Yes there was the odd idiot who tended to look down on anyone not from public school, but these were more interested in being ‘seen’ socially and were ignored by the majority. I also don’t remember any of the other ‘local’ students talking about this.

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  • As a child and young person Counsellor I am saddened but not surprised at these revelations.
    Our society is infected with a virus, it became and remains toxic amongst our society. Unfortunately it gains momentum as time goes on
    No it’s not CV19, it’s called dysfunctional attachment. These arrogant young people are a product of a mismanaged and nurturing progression from birth. Parents without a social conscience, let alone a paternal obligation have bo conception of rearing a human being, to ultimately demonstrate a basic and essential quality of kindness.
    I rest my case, it’s not the kids it’s the parents.
    Gill

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  • I was a student in 1970. I came from an impoverished background in Newcastle. My Durham experience was marred by high level discrimination not only from fellow students, which was only to be expected, brainwashed, discriminatory middle and upper class ex public school types, but worse from lecturers. The students could be excused their attitudes, they knew no better, they learned from mummy and daddy and their schools, but lecturers definitely not. Public humiliation, mocking, set ups or worse. I suffered but rose above it all, there was nothing to be done back in the seventies, no one to raise a complaint with, noe laws, no protection.. I succeeded, academically I did very well, I outstripped my wealthy fellow students. But I was damaged. That is for sure. Armed with a PhD, ultimately I failed ,my accent, my impoverished home all were against me. Today there should be no discrimination at Durham against Northern students. It is unacceptable and damnable. Looking back, I was the token gesture in my college and subject for taking in a student from a northern poor background. Perhaps the presence of nannies, governesses, chauffeurs and butlers delivering freshers to my college, and the painting of a family crest on one door should have been my reason to immediately walk away. Admittedly I had been warned that in 1970 St Aidan’s was an elitist college and likely should have not inflicted myself on the privileged. But part of me said that Durham was my heritage, my family roots, a beautiful gem and my right to be there was as big as the wealthy southerners that dominated and told me how to pronounce the river ‘Wear’.

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  • This does not surprise me in the least. In 1976, I had an interview at Durham. I attended a Catholic comprehensive at the time. The person who was interviewing me began with” Surely, as an apparently intelligent young lady, you don’t believe in all that Christian nonsense, do you?”
    This was followed by a question as to whether I saw parallels between life in my school and that depicted in Brighton Rock.
    I oscillated between finding it outrageous and funny. I chose not to go there despite achieving 3 As.
    Durham has long been regarded as a university for rejects from Oxbridge for those students from public schools with their accompanying arrogance and inflated sense of entitlement.

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  • Even without an accent I found Durham to be elitist and my voice silent in seminars when I did my MA there in 1994. The fact that I’d done my BA at Sunderland, a former poly, was enough for some people to make their minds up about me. I made friends with other people on the course who felt the same way, some northern, some not but all struggling with the culture at Durham. It was these friendships that got me through that year and helped me to understand that there was something wrong with the place, some of which comes from its status as Britain’s third university – there are a lot of people there that wish they were somewhere else. It’s a shame because it’s a beautiful city with the friendliest locals if you treat them with respect and warmth.

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    • I was looking for this comment. I spent most of my education around highly aspirational working class people with special educational needs. I think I really just feel so so alone, even as a non accented lower middle class northerner, with barely anyone wearing casual clothes, lack of casual friendliness and the shocking not just whiteness but “high breeding” of the majority of students in so many of Durham’s students spaces. I feel embarrassed that I have naturally acquired and more southern posh town and I don’t want to give the impression to other northern students that they are not speaking “properly.” If David crystal wouldn’t agree with it, no one else has to listen to an uninformed linguistic opinion about someone’s internal voice.

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  • I am a current student, in my second year. I have been called working class, my accent has been made fun of, I had someone scream in my face inwas a racist because my town voted Brexit (when I wasn’t even old enough to vote).
    The attitudes in the university are disgusting. I hate speaking seminars because nobody takes me seriously. Never in all my life have I felt so alienated and singled out. I’m working from home this term and my mental health has lifted so much as I don’t have to deal with discrimination.
    Not enough is done to ensure our university experience is good. There’s even institutionalised classism.
    I can’t believe I go to one of the best universities in the world and that this is their attitude

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  • It is not only within the University that there’s scorn for Northerners. It happens to residents of Durham too. Basic good manners do not exist for many of the students, especially those who seem to come from Southern areas. I have seen students with North East accents being mocked by fellow students for being polite in local shops.

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  • How sad to read that Durham has become the preserve of the self-appointed elite. Despite Jo’s unfortunate experience at St Aidan’s in 1970, I can remember a time when Durham presented a less elitist image. In the early 70s it was not uncommon to see Durham students going round local houses and selling their paintings to supplement their grants. And the Students Union even backed the 1972 Miners Strike. Hard to imagine now. Maybe the self-entitled bright young things of today should get themselves along to the Bullingdon Club and leave genuine Durham students to the pursuit of knowledge and excellence. Which is what a university education should be all about.

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  • I was at Durham University from 1972-1975. I am from a working class background and was the first in my family to go to university. I am from the south, and totally accept that northern working class students suffer discrimination on both class and locality.

    Surviving to the end of my degree course was the hardest part of my life. A high percentage of the students were posh, privileged, public school and carried an attitude of entitlement. I survived by getting to know local working class people to whom I very grateful.

    Well done Lauren. You are raising an important issue of class prejudice at Durham University which has been there for a very long time and is deeply embedded. It greatly resembles the old Etonian club that dominate the current UK government.

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  • Reading all this saddens me tremendously. I was a student at Durham in the mid ’80’s ( though I had to leave for family reasons to my eternal regret) and though I encountered a certain amount of this kind of behaviour from the “rah” crowd – mostly with regard to my sexual preferences given that I’m Welsh – I can honestly say that I have nothing but the fondest memories of the place. I suspect that the main reason this is the college I attended (St. Cuthbert’s Society) which was the antithesis of elitism and was very much a haven from the self – styled “superiority complex” crowd who smarmed their way around the colleges in the North Bailey and elsewhere.

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  • I graduated in 2009 and I experienced many of the same things I have read about here, and well done to this journalist for having the courage and vision to investigate this issue. I was not allowed to participate in sport (mysteriously being missed off e-mails, or being given the wrong time so I turned up just as everyone was finishing) or being actively snubbed if I tried to join any society. I once turned up for a lecture early and overheard one student with the typical southern accent telling his friend “You should come to football practice, we already have a goalkeeper but he’s just a local so we’re obviously trying to get rid of him”. Seminars were very difficult as I found no one engaged with or responded to anything I said, but they would happily discuss their own ideas – the lecturers didn’t seem to even notice. After trying for a year, in my second year I lived at home and did not try to engage in college life after that (Cuths), I got the message. This ostracism and discrimination is constant and endemic. One reply here mentioned the number of state school people in Durham, that is probably true, but they are still middle-class southerners who look down on/want nothing to do with working class northerners. Durham was a lonely place for me and I wish I had studied elsewhere; I only stuck it out as I enjoyed the lectures, I made few friends and it was rare for any of the middle-class kids to even speak to me. To this day I advise anyone from my background to go elsewhere, Durham (or more accurately their students) does not welcome the likes of us.

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  • I am a local, working class woman who graduated from Durham a year ago. I always advocated highly for the university and for the rights of local, Northern people to have access to the high standards of education available there. While I experienced little direct discrimination related to my class and accent, I always felt a certain sense of imposter syndrome. I hope the evident classist toxicity related in this report does not stop Northern students from attending Durham Unicersity – we have a huge well of talented and passionate people in the North and it is a shame for them to be required to leave the North East and take their skills elsewhere in order to enjoy their education and succeed, or to feel they must lower their aspirations to stay in the North East. Durham University has an obligation to its surrounding area to support local social growth and education, and start to redress the imbalance of wealth and power within the UK. It is perfectly placed to make real positive differences within one of the most deprived areas of the country, which should be an ongoing focus of academic and cultural pursuits within the university. It is a shame to see such blatent elitism on display in what is supposed to be a world class educational institution.

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  • This is certainly not my experience at Durham. I graduated this year and although my southern friends did say it sometimes it was difficult for them to understand my accent (especially after term breaks), I don’t recall ever been discriminated against for my accent. Then again I was at Grey college, which is a really welcoming, chill college. Plus, the archaeology department is really welcoming and friendly too.

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  • Very sad to read this. I attended Durham in the mid 1980s (in fact the miners’ strike coincided with my time there; I still remember the busloads of riot police driving through the town every morning.) As a state school kid with a strong South Yorkshire Accent I was aware of class prejudice but it was treated as joke; they were the ‘Rahs’, we were the ‘Northern Chemists’. I never felt in the slightest disadvantaged by my background. In my time, anyone who said any of the vile and ignorant things quoted in Lauren’s report would have been quickly (but, I should add, verbally) slapped down. It appears that things have deteriorated in the intervening years.

    I should add that I attended a college (Mildert) and a course (Engineering Science) probably not likely to attract many Bullingdon types.

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  • These sort of attitudes seem to fester in some of the public schools that so many Durham students come from. One way to tackle this is through admissions. Part of the process of dealing with a complaint of this type should be to report it to the school that the offending student came from and ask for an explanation from them as to what they are doing to combat these sort of attitudes. Unsatisfactory responses, or a preponderance of cases linked to particular schools, can be taken into account when deciding who to make offers to.

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  • This doesn’t only happen in this University. My friend and I were ostracised at Northumbria University for not coming from a “wealthy” background or having GPs or surgeons as parents (we were doing a nursing course, where everyone’s parents were highly paid medical professions unlike our parents). Even though we both were very capable of having the grades to apply and subsequently attend university it still boiled down to an individuals background, so much for “times changing” and it being “the 21st century”. It appears that money still does talk within any walk of life! Needless to say anything that my friend and I did was taken into question and those with the power that be appeared to let the power goes to their heads. Surely if someone is academic enough to attend university regardless of their upbringing/background, they should be treat the same instead of penalised and punished. Or in our case expelled and refused an appeal!

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  • My dad attended Durham University In the 60s and dropped out after a year due to the snobbery and bullying he experienced there him
    Coming from a Northern working class background!! My daughter wants to apply to Durham next year. I certainly don’t feel like I want her to go after reading all these comments. Time certainly hasn’t changed this outdated snobbery.

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  • Attended Durham 1990-1993, sad to say despite coming from Durham still felt an outsider in my own town. This from a second generation Durham University attendee, father was there in 1960s. Nearly left multiple times, stuck at it and glad I did. Can I look back in fondness? Sadly no. If you want an example of the problem the Theatre ran a play called Alice in Sunderland, a nightmare. How the hell was this considered acceptable?

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  • I graduated from Trevelyan in 1973, I was a Northern Grammar School girl.
    I can honestly say that I never experienced the sort of negative attitude that I have read about here.
    During my time in Durham I felt supported by staff and contemporaries.
    Just a week ago I was part of a joyous reunion Zoom with 8 of my college contemporaries, 50 years after we came up.
    We have many very happy memories of our time.
    One of my departmental colleagues has prepared a photo record of our activities at Durham.
    This shows what deep friendships were made and still endure.
    During recent visits I have been aware of an apparent increase in southern students.
    However it doesn’t matter whether students are being victimised because they are northern, black, orange or redheads.
    It is WRONG and unacceptable.
    Not the university I remember.

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    • I started at Trevs the year you left. The vast majority of my college friends came from the north end the Midlands. I knew some public school types; they either fitted in or were mocked as “rahs”. I married a Mildert man and am still very close to a large number of Durham friends, most of them from similar backgrounds, none reporting those experiences. I fell in love with the accent. By heavens nobody had better mock locals!

      We had bedders then, which was extreme privilege. But ours ruled us with a rod of iron. The porters kept eagle eyes too. Especially for illicit young men after hours.

      I think we accepted rules rather more back then, and all knew we were lucky to be there. I wonder if the massive growth of the university and the commercialisation and corporatisation of higher education have made a difference. I certainly encountered more toxicity towards class at Warwick when I did an MA there a few years ago than I ever saw in Durham.

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      • I started the same year as you at trevs and agree with your comments.
        I remember going to visit older residents who lived on their own and helping at ex miners homes with young offenders who were doing community service .
        These activities helped bridge the gap between town and gown.
        I loved my time there and have many friends from all walks of life

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  • I don’t doubt the author’s report, but using a sample of 20 people (out of 18,707) isn’t statistically valid. For all we know, this could be a biased view of life at Durham University. Are people with southern accents are also made fun of in exactly the same way? There are all kinds of students here. You need to survey everyone, not just a few disgruntled northerners.

    https://www.dur.ac.uk/about/facts/

    My friends at Durham were from all over the UK, from rich public-schooled Scots to council estate-raised Londoners. We all got on well, and laughed about – and gladly accepted – our differences.

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    • Love that may be true, but this is not really the place to point this out. Even the fact of just one of these stories accounts for a whole lot of bother. Not to use too strong a metaphor (I can’t currently think of another adequate one right now), but if one has seen a rat that already means you’ve got an infestation. If this country is to heal we must be more aware of how how society disadvantages everyday people of all kind of backgrounds.

      It is the place to listen here right now, there’s been enough time already when people ignore Northern voices literally and metaphorically. The truth is that testimonial injustice is a scientific fact, especially if if the one with the prejudice is unaware of it. I’ve been reading psychology science books for most of my two decades of life, of all kinds of styles. They all affirm this struggle that people have with rejecting their own biases against the other.

      Unless you don’t want to in which case I will have no malice against you. Have a nice day.

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  • I really don’t think that Durham is the university it thinks it is.The huge expansion has resulted in a lack of pastoral care,which I believe used to be more prevalent After visiting with my daughter I felt underwhelmed and my daughter felt like a number.We are neither working class or northern,however the upper class homogenous atmosphere felt very dull.Subsequent reports of sexist and homophobic group chats,sadly come as no surprise.I am mightily relieved that she rejected her offer.At one time to reject an offer from Durham for a university lower in league tables would be seen as an odd decision no more.

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  • I’m pleased for your daughter on her personal choice. Academic smarts on paper are one thing. An inclusive, welcoming culture, when all things are said and done, is vitally more significant in a person’s development and confidence. I think the ivory tower and elitist cultures do need to be brought into the light more, especially now we are placing increased value on societal diversity and the talent it manifests. Good ideas come from everywhere, regardless of background and this is now more necessary than ever if we are to rise to global challenges.

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  • I attended Durham between 2013 and 2016, and also worked there for a bit. I’ll be honest, this report doesn’t surprise me at all. I experienced the same, as well as threats of corrective rape as a result of my sexuality, and nothing was ever done. The university does nothing to acknowledge the scale of the problem. Simply saying it’s not acceptable is not enough, they need to actually introduce sanctions and follow through, as well as making the reporting process easier. That goes for students and staff.

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  • Sadly it doesn’t surprise me.
    Having applied to Durham in early 90s when attending interview I was looked down on by staff (including lecturers) and students for having a local accent.

    I decided not to put Durham as an UCCA choice and went to a non-elitist Cambridge College.

    The reputation of Durham being full of poor little rich kids who couldn’t get into Oxbridge is well deserve

    Had a better experience many years later as a PGCE student but had no involvement with college life. Only visited it once for administrative reasons.

    My previous experience was very close to but me off applying for the PGCE

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  • I attended durham between 1996 to 99 completing a law degree. The snobbery was unbelievable. Not just by the students either, the university itself disregarded and disrespected working class. In particular northerners! Students put on mocking fake accents. Oh the tales i could tell

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  • I did my PhD at Durham 1989-92 after a first degree at Cambridge. I certainly recognize the worse aspects of ex-public school students’ behaviour at Durham — vastly worse than at Cambridge. It was always my impression that Durham attracted the kind of public school Oxbridge rejects who were very keen on gowns and candlelit dinners. (If they only wanted the superficial aspects of an Oxbridge education, then for these students rejection was surely the correct decision.) I also wonder if public schools are less committed than they used to be to inculcating the moral code of the English gentleman, which, for all its conflicts and limitations, did at least attempt to include kindness in conduct.

    One other noteworthy point is that such students had a reputation for being unintelligent, compared to Northern and state school students. That was never the case at Cambridge, where even if one didn’t like the culture they had emerged from, one had to acknowledge that many ex-public school students were very clever indeed. I never encountered these at Durham. If Durham truly wants to be a world-class university then it needs to behave more like Oxbridge at its best, trying above all to discover talent and potential for intellectual achievement among those who have not had a privileged education.

    These days I’m a head of department at York, which in my experience is a lovely, friendly, inclusive campus. There are surely some public school students here — but their culture is not on display or privileged. Perhaps, like me (after Cambridge and Durham), they find it a pleasure to have the suffocating blanket of class conflict lifted.

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  • I was at Durham in the late 90’s. There was definitely some prejudice and snobbery. I jokingly referred to myself as the token Northerner in the year. Although from Hartlepool I had a fairly neutral accent and on more than one occasion a Rah would abruptly end a conversation and literally walk away after finding I had gone to a Comprehensive School rather than the Public School that they’d assumed. However in my experience it was always a small minority. The majority of students were great and overall my experience was positive and enjoyable. I also don’t recall any physical abuse as most of them were terrified of anyone with a Northern accent!
    I returned to Durham as a post-doc 2002-2008 and speaking with students, if anything the situation appeared to have deteriorated with far more snobbery and prejudice apparent.

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