Young people "taken for a ride" says Oxford professor

Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford, has said in an article for the New Statesman that young people, in Britain are being “taken for a ride.”

In a comment to Cherwell, he stated that this discrimination extended to young people across the country, including students at Oxford.

In his New Statesman article, he said, “The young are discriminated against in ways in which it would be illegal to differentiate between men and women, or between more and less disabled people, or on the basis of race or religion.”

Although he emphasises that it is the poorest who suffer the most, he discusses in his article the issues that extend to students and graduates at top universities.

He writes, “What of the most successful of university graduates, the ones who go on to get a starter job in the City, and look to buy that tiny flat close to work? What will happen when they take out their 95 per cent mortgage and start repaying one twenty-fifth of the borrowed capital out of what they take home after tax? For a few years they might be able to do it, just – until interest rates rise.”

Furthermore, in a statement to Cherwell, Professor Dorling added that he believed that this concern also applies to students at Oxford: “I think it includes students at Oxford in that they are partly the target for the ‘help to buy’ scheme. A student who graduated from Oxford this summer might now be in a good job in London. The government’s scheme means that banks are being encouraged to lend them up to £600,000 to buy a flat on a 95% mortgage. These are loans that will be made to a few graduates starting on very good salaries that under normal circumstances the banks would consider too risky to make.

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“The initial beneficiaries will be those who sell these flats to people like recent Oxbridge graduates. What then happens in a few years’ time when interest rates rise?”

He added, “Many people find it very hard to have any sympathy for young people who now have some of the best chances in life. Of course, if house prices rise and rise these graduates will think they have done well, but if there is a house price crash in London after the next election when the help to buy funding ends…. Who loses out most?”

James Blythe, Brasenose JCR President, said, “Anyone who is passionate about making sure an Oxford education is open to all bright young people, regardless of means, should also be worried about the cost of living. For many Oxford students, especially those who just miss out on the University’s generous bursary package, high accommodation prices can have a major impact on their quality of life and be a source of massive stress. Moreover, the high cost of living in Oxford risks putting many prospective students off applying to Oxford in the first place. The student union must continue to campaign vigorously for affordable accommodation for students in Oxford.”

Nathan Akehurst, a third year at Lincoln, commented, “One cannot regard Oxford students in aggregate – certainly many people here (and the vast majority in term time) lead lives that cannot be compared to the hundreds of thousands reliant on food banks and hit hardest by austerity.

“However, as an Oxford student coming from a single-parent unemployed family with our household income decimated by the bedroom tax and reliant on casual work to survive in the vacations, I certainly do feel that less well-off young people are affected by the issues Dorling raises regardless of which university they attend.”

One second year student at New College said, “I think that as he specifically states that the people worst affected are ‘the very poorest of the young’, it is probably not true that Oxford students are equally affected on average.

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“Personally, I don’t feel especially discriminated against: as a young person you have to work your way to the top. He writes about rent and house prices being high: although this might affect young people, it is not necessarily a deliberate attempt to discriminate.”

She added, “Applying the term ‘discrimination’ to something like this seems a bit paradoxical, as most ‘discriminations’ are permanent, e.g. race or gender: everybody grows up at some point. As today’s children are tomorrow’s adults, and he makes out that all of us are suffering the same fate, ultimately it shouldn’t make any difference in the long run. But personally I think that the word discrimination is probably too strong.”