Trinity fresher Lewis Croney with his mother and rapper Professor GreenUniversity of Cambridge/Tom Williams

A documentary airing tonight follows the lives of six young white working class men, including Cambridge mathematics fresher Lewis Croney.

Croney, 18, the son of a hairdresser and nail technician from Eastleigh, Hampshire, defied the odds to secure a place at Trinity College. Channel 4 follows his journey in a two-part documentary, Working Class White Men, which airs at 10pm.

The documentary is presented by Stephen Manderson, also known as Professor Green, a rapper who grew up on a council estate in Hackney. Green travels throughout the UK to investigate the social group which comprises almost half the prison system and is least likely to attend university in Britain.

Speaking to Varsity, Croney praised the CUSU shadowing scheme which encouraged him to apply to Cambridge, and which facilitated his appearance in the documentary: “It was actually in the Facebook group made for the shadowing scheme that the documentary was advertised. There was a contact phone number given, so I got in touch after much initial anxiety.

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“This was at the time that I had believed I wouldn’t fit in at Cambridge (which has turned out to be completely different from my actual experience). I was concerned that if the documentary aired before first term, I would be unfairly judged by people who had seen it. These concerns have been totally assuaged now.”

The shadowing scheme provides opportunities to students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to experience student life at Cambridge. Just over 8% of Cambridge students arrived from UK areas flagged as disadvantaged in 2016, according to a classification system by the Office for National Statistics.

Speaking to the Guardian, Professor Green said he was disheartened by a “lack of drive and belief in them being able to achieve anything”.


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“For middle-class families, your education is your life. For working-class families, in some instances school is just school. You are not expected to do very well. You are expected to get out and do a job and earn. People have to be encouraged from early on to engage with education and think it’s for them.”

Around 35,000 of the 87,000 convicts in the prison system are white working class men, and only 5.6% of white males from the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in receipt of free school meals progressed to higher education between 2011 and 2015, the lowest of any socio-economic ethnic group, according to UCAS. The overall figure of young people attending higher education is now around 40%.

Croney hopes that the documentary will encourage students like him to apply to top universities: “My hopes for the documentary have always been the same: if we can contribute to the awareness factor, for even one person, then it would have been a success.”

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