Most of us have our own idea of what constitutes the “north-south divide” but if you’re from the midlands or an international student, you may not understand what all the fuss is about. To be honest, I didn’t get it either until I started applying to universities in the south, and I received puzzled comments like ‘What do you want to go to Bath for?’. But since completing my first semester at Bath and heading back t’ North for Christmas I’ve noticed the divide, and my family and friends back home were intrigued to find out the differences of living down south.
In freshers’ week it was the simple things; from the extortionate cost of a pint to the regional rivalries of dialect. My experience of meeting new people came with debates on what you call a ‘bread roll’ (for the record, it’s a ‘bread bun’) and receiving a confused look when suggesting to go down the ‘snicket’ for a quicker route to lectures. Let’s not get started on the pronunciation of Bath. The thought of going home and accidentally slipping ‘Barth’ rather than ‘Baff’ into conversation fills me with a bit of dread. I’d never hear the end of it.
However, little things like regional dialect only scrape the surface of the divide. In the North, there’s no regular transport, let alone opportunities. Hence northerners are more eager to fly the nest than their southern counterparts. So, when it was the time to think about university, I joined the many young school leavers who set their sights to the south of the country. It promised better employment and more graduate jobs in and around London.
In fact, 62% of students travel south for university despite the divide in the quality of education that they may have received from secondary school.
The reality is that children in London and the South East are 57% more likely to get into universities ranked among the top third than their counterparts in the North. It is proven that if you live in the midlands or the north, you have fewer chances of attending a good school than children in the south. And I’ve seen this. My secondary school in North Yorkshire was placed into ‘Special Measures’ after Ofsted deemed it as ‘Inadequate’ in 2016, and I’m yet to meet anyone from the south with the same experience.
This divide in the quality of education may suggest why students from the north remain unrepresented in southern universities. Obviously, there’s other factors like staying close to home, having a lower cost of living or simply loving a northern city – believe it or not, it’s possible, they’re not all abysmal. But it’s also argued that now overseas students are a major part of the UK student population, overtaking numbers of northern students in some top universities. This education divide is arguably continuing the cycle of the north-south divide in which the stereotypical ‘posh south’ prosper over the disadvantaged from the ‘grim north’.
Since moving to Bath, I’ve realised that geography still plays a huge part in shaping young people’s university choices. And, although I’m a born and bred Yorkshire woman, I’m starting to feel at home in the south…even though it’s rare that anyone else shares the same love for chips and gravy.