someone I’ve been in a mutual on twitter with for honestly years has just laid into Oxbridge people all being privileged twats who hold their university over other people and has now gone on to say that it’s easy to get in to Oxbridge if you’re ‘from that environment already’
okay, fine, some people are like that but the majority that I have encountered are just not
and maybe I did go to private school my whole life but getting into oxford was not easy jfc I slaved for a summer over reading lists and essays and my personal statement, I went to every extra thing I could think of, I sent myself to summer school and I bloody deserved it
This sort of thing makes me so angry!
It completely devalues the work that people like you, Lucy, have put in - and I can acknowledge that, despite being someone who has quite a chip on her shoulder about being from a ‘lower income family’ or whatever the PC term is for being poor. You did have to work hard to get in, and oddly enough, maybe more so if you went to a decent school, because the data’s contextualized when your application is considered by some universities - because my school didn’t get amazing A-Level results, I got a lower offer to study at Exeter University (AAB instead of the standard A*AA). Oxford also take this stuff into account during their applications, although they give everyone the standard offer of AAA for arts subjects - so well done to both of us for getting in anyway!
There are certainly people at universities like ours who are really complacent about getting in, but I really do believe that this is reflected in the quality of their work (or lack of it) and inability to do anything independently or without a parent’s credit card. If that person on Twitter claims to want potential students to be valued on their own merit instead of their parents’ bank balance, then that should apply to those whose parents can afford to pay their bills as well as those whose parents can’t. If some people can coast through life with the help of their parents good for them - that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t acknowledge the work of those whose parents have paid for their education - they should still be applauded for not becoming complacent about their privileges but instead trying to make the most of them. Speaking more generally now, and not directly to you, Lucy, this really doesn’t take into account the varying social or economic situations of people either - there are many people whose parents sacrificed material things in order to pay for what they thought would be a better education (whether it is or not differs wildly, and is a whole other matter for debate). Funnily enough, the only person I know who has ever played the ‘I went to Oxford, what about you?’ card is someone state educated - one can be relatively poor and yet be complacent. Don’t you dare reduce the poor to people with a perpetual Dunkirk spirit and a glottal stop.
I feel far more equipped to say this than a lot of state-school kids ever will, because being poor and going to state-school are not synonymous, and people often forget this. Plenty of the girls at my school went on fancy holidays and carried their books in designer bags and had parents with jobs and cars - describing the demographic of Oxbridge as ‘rich twats’ and ‘not-so-rich-twats’ is so reductive and completely ignores the fact that I applied and got in. People told me that I was ‘brave’ to apply - what, brave to ignore wankers who are desperate to write off my ability to fill out an application form and talk to some people about books I’ve read? I recognise that to some extent I am a statistical anomaly - fewer than 1% of Oxford students qualified for free school meals at school, as I did, but if I actually gave a shit about statistics I might have chosen to study science (and indeed, maybe got a better grade in maths).
I will admit that I have found adjusting to my new life at university quite difficult, in part because it can be a struggle to suddenly find myself surrounded by people who don’t know what it’s like to have to count the pennies, or have their parents say no to them about matters regarding money. Yes, there are people at Oxford who had never met anyone ‘wot talks like me’ in real life before - “Oh you know, Ellen, you sound like the Artful Dodger” - but so what? I’d never met anyone like them before either - people who think a spice rack and a pepper grinder and a dishwasher are things that everyone have, who know how to drive because they can afford lessons - and while that doesn’t make them any better than me, it certainly doesn’t make them any worse, whatever they might say! (Besides, there’s nothing more intolerable than a middle-class guilt complex. If you do happen to be clever and privileged - get over it.) And so now a lot of these people are my friends - and so what if some of them aren’t? You can’t like everybody. I’m not entitled to friends - no-one is. Don’t be a baby and whine just because some people like to rub their privilege in the faces of others - there are plenty of people who don’t, but we never hear about them! I will confess a propensity for rubbing my comparative lack of wealth in other people’s faces, just to make them feel uncomfortable, but I won’t pretend to think that I’m being admirable when I do so.
One of our tutors once said to us, as we sat in black-tie and gowns before a formal meal (and here I paraphrase), “Don’t forget. Most people will never sit down to a three-course meal in an ancient building in fancy clothes and a gown - don’t ever let this become normal.”
I really hope that I don’t let it become normal, and that I don’t forget what it’s like not to be able to afford things - my scholarship doesn’t just go on books, it goes on things like nice meals and fancy shoes and a holiday with my friends in September - so that I can keep up with them socially as well as intellectually. Often, people say I’m lucky, but I hate that, because it makes it seem like getting a scholarship into Oxford is somehow a matter of luck - rather, I’d say I’m fortunate to have had the chance to study there, and the financial help to make it possible.
My life’s prospects are so different now thanks to my education, and I will not have some fuckwit on Twitter tell me that because I don’t come ‘from that sort of environment’ originally that my existence there is impossible.
That’s just as bad as those so-called ‘privileged twats’ that they so desperately seek to slag off, Lucy, and I can only hope that it doesn’t prevent capable people for applying to our university.