‘It’s easier if you’re middle class’: first-generation students on going to uni

Is higher education still the preserve of the middle classes or have tuition fees opened up access? What are the challenges of being the first in your family to go to university – and how does it shape your academic experience?

We asked four first-generation students about their experiences. From struggling to pay for books and scrambling for a rental guarantor to not wanting to let your family down, here’s what they said.


Dalal Barahman, 21, first year medical student at Manchester University

I’m one of seven and none of my six older siblings went to uni. I feel that perhaps they followed each other and this seemed like the safer option. A lot of people were telling me to go for something else – not in a malicious way, but because they didn’t want me to be rejected. They thought it’d be easier to get an apprenticeship or a job.

Money was an issue, but I was part of the Manchester Access Programme for students who come from low socio-economic backgrounds. They guide you through the application and the costs, and mentally prepared me for it all. Read more