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What we learn from listening to Edinburgh University’s state school students

‘You are worthy of your place here, you are good enough’

Under seven per cent of students in the UK are privately educated. At the University of Edinburgh, it’s over 35 per cent, making it the fourth most elite university in the country – and if you went to a state school, you can tell.

A new student documentary series has highlighted the struggles of life at Edinburgh for those from state school backgrounds, revealing that students have their accents mocked, are ridiculed for getting a job at uni, and feel generally isolated.

Edinburgh University says it’s proud of its “diverse university community”, but sometimes it feels anything but.

Five short films were produced by The 93% Club, a student society which aims to represent those from less privileged backgrounds at British universities. Each installment of the ‘State School Stories’ campaign gives voice to a state school pupil who now studies at Edinburgh – here’s everything we learned.

A lecturer ‘mimicked my own accent back to me’

Catherine, a second-year English and Scottish Literature student from Glasgow, explains how her state school background has held her back at Edinburgh: “I had a Scottish Literature lecturer mimic my own accent back to me when she had an English accent”, she says.

“That was a pretty insulting moment seeing as the piece she was reading from had been in Latin and translated into Modern English, and I just thought that was very inappropriate”.

But students are at fault too. Catherine said she thinks her peers are “very guilty often of making very quick comments about just how ridiculous we sound, or how we sound less intelligent, or the way we speak is so unintelligible that they aren’t even gonna bother to listen”.

Sadly, this is far from uncommon at the university and across Scotland. 42 percent of Scottish students have experienced accent discrimination, and the Edinburgh Tab recently reported on the experience of Northern Irish students with accent discrimination.