Universities Are Toxic – We Told You So

‘I used to push for working class kids to go to university, but no longer: they are toxic institutions of prejudice’

by Dr Liza McKenzie for RT

I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life working with and supporting working class people to get into higher education. Today I’m wondering whether I’ve been right to do so.

I remember my first day at University. I was 31 and had gone to Nottingham University, part of the so-called elite Russell Group, from an access course for mature students. I had no idea what I was walking into. I didn’t know anyone who had been to university, and had spent the years since I left school working mainly on piece work in a factory making women’s tights.

I’d never ever been on the campus, even though I only lived only two miles away. I went to that university out of ignorance. I thought that wanting to study sociology was enough – I’d read a book about St Ann’s, the part of Nottingham where I lived, authored by two researchers who had worked at the university. The book was called Poverty: The Forgotten Englishman and was based on research about poverty in Nottingham during the 1960s. It  was written the year I was born, and I recognised my community in it; I wanted to study sociology, because I wanted to represent and fight for that community.

On that first day, two things happened. During the initial welcome speech, the vice chancellor welcomed all of the students to Nottingham and told them to enjoy the city and the university, but warned them that there were some areas of the town to avoid, that were not so welcoming – “Don’t go to St Ann’s,” he said. Which, as it was where I lived and the reason why I was at the university, was going to be more than a little difficult for me. I remember being devastated and not feeling welcome at all … Continue reading >>>

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