The new student

First published in Leader

THAT Durham University failed to meet its own targets on recruiting students from less privileged backgrounds is disappointing, but it appears to be in good company, Oxbridge included.

The university's policy is clear. It wishes to attract the very brightest students and no student should find their route to a Durham degree barred because of personal circumstances.

But it is uncompromisingly rigorous in its selection procedures and that may be a reason why its target has not been met.

Progress has been made at Durham. The student body is markedly different from, say, 20 years ago. Then, the common perception that Durham was favoured by Hooray Henrys and Henriettas who could not quite make Oxbridge had some slight basis in fact. But that is certainly not the case today.

Indeed, stereotyping the Durham student in 2011 is very hard. The range of backgrounds is diverse, socially, as well as geographically. They are also highly committed to their studies.

Who would have thought that the Durham Times would report on complaints from students about a late-night licencing application on the grounds of the potential noise it would cause.

That, in turn, is slowly making an impression on the Durham citizen. They look on the city's students in a new light – and not just because most of them will shortly be forking out £9,000 a year for the privilege of learning in Durham.

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