Socialist Worker

Tory's crocodile tears for 'white male working class' students

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2335

David Willets, the Tories’ universities minister, claimed last week that white working class men need a special campaign to encourage them to go to university.

He said they should given the help that “an ethnic minority” gets. The implication appears to be that poor white men suffer because of advantages given to ethnic minorities.

Willets said there was a “shocking waste of talent” among young people. This is true. But it is shocking hypocrisy from him.

He is part of the government that tripled higher education fees and abolished the Education Maintenance Allowance that allowed poorer students to stay in education.

These attacks make it harder for working class people to get to university, whether male or female, black or white.

Ucas, the universities admissions service, released figures last week showing that applications from students living in England are down 6.5 percent this year.

In some of the most prestigious universities there are still more men than women—including Cambridge, the London School of Economics and Imperial College, London.

A report published in October last year surveyed 17,000 men and women six years after they applied to university. It found that men tended to earn £3,000 more—a gender pay gap that has stayed unchanged for ten years.

And in 2011 fewer than 10 percent of black students studying in England and Wales were at the top Russell Group universities, compared to 25?percent of white students.

Children of middle class families are three times more likely to get the A levels needed for university than working class children.

This is made worse by the coalition’s rule that universities can recruit as many students getting AAB at A level as they like, cutting out students with lower grades.

The new attacks on universities threaten what diversity already exists. Universities like London Met and UEL both draw in local working class students from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. They both face huge cuts and closures of whole courses and departments.

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Sat 12 Jan 2013, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2335
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