The reality of the UoB bubble


By Claire Hargreaves, Fourth Year French and German

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re in an echo chamber? Or that you’re living in a house of mirrors, where everyone around you is almost a direct reflection of who you are, inside and out? Yes, it’s the uni bubble: most students are aware of it, and many of us inhabit it.

The uni bubble is a phenomenon which has a strong presence at Bristol University, where a lot of the people you are surrounded by on a daily basis share similar socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds as well as political views. A figurative bubble therefore surrounds those of us with these shared experiences, in turn separating us from the outside world, as well as excluding outsiders whose experiences vary from the so-called “norm”.

The lack of diversity at Bristol University in particular means that our uni bubble can feel suffocating. Almost everywhere you go, people look similar to you – both in terms of skin colour and clothing – and a lot of people have had the same middle-class upbringing with nice schools and holidays. Those who haven’t are arguably in the minority and, regrettably, excluded from this bubble.

If Bristol as a city is itself very diverse, the University is a different picture. Around 39 per cent of its students, notoriously, have private school backgrounds which is a huge representation compared to the national average of 7 per cent. Moreover, although increasingly more BME students are being admitted to the University each year, there continue to be problems of representation not only on the curriculum, but amongst teaching staff too.

For those who exist inside the uni bubble, it is somewhat stifling to be around a group of the same white, middle-class, heterosexual people: when you came to university, you expected to meet new people from all sorts of walks of life and broaden your horizons. But, in reality, you have probably been sucked up into the heteronormative, white, middle-class uni bubble.

'It should be more of a priority to try and burst the bubble so that marginalised groups are less excluded from the University they attend'

There are some amongst our number who make the effort to step outside the uni bubble to meet people from the “real world” who do not share the same upbringing and lifestyle, and more of us should attempt to do the same to avoid having a one-dimensional view of the world. We need to step down from the ivory tower we occupy where we view the world through rose-tinted glasses, out of touch with the world beyond our own four walls.

Whilst I appreciate how wonderful it is to meet so many like-minded people who share similar ambitions and visions of the world, it should be more of a priority to try and burst the bubble so that marginalised groups are less excluded from the University they attend and rightfully should be a part of. We also need to go beyond the University to dismantle the divide between locals and students in the city. After all, how many of us truly have friends or acquaintances in Bristol who are not part of the university community?

Featured image: Epigram / Hannah Worthington

Do you ever feel claustrophobic in the UoB bubble? Let us know in the comments below or on social media.

Facebook / Epigram / Twitter