School of Mathematics

Socio-Economic Class

We are committed to fostering a School environment which offers equal opportunity and respect to students and staff from all socio-economic class backgrounds.

Inclusive Behaviour and Context

Socio-economic class is a constructed hierarchical system which has existed in Britain for a long time, often categorising people into either working class, middle class or upper class, depending on a person's type of work and education.

University, and hence mathematics, was not accessible to people from lower classes for a long time, and this has only just begun to change. Better assistance with student loans and specifically free university tuition in Scotland has contributed to more and more young people from lower classes going to university. This has increased levels of social mobility more than ever, as university degrees often launch people into higher-paying jobs.

However, classism is more than just a lack of opportunity. People from lower socio-economic classes often have different cultural experiences than those who grew up with the expectation that they would go to university. This can cause people from lower classes to face microaggressions, as the lack of awareness surrounding privilege can cause people from upper class backgrounds to assume their experiences (private schooling, ski trips, world-travel etc.) are the norm, and that someone is 'lesser than' if they didn't have those experiences.

Classism can also manifest in bias against certain accents. For example, people with strong northern-English accents and Scottish accents have discussed feeling discriminated against based on these accents, as there is a perception they are less educated because of it. The University EDI webpages discuss these sort of microaggressions and how they relate to socio-economic background in more detail.

How does this affect mathematics?

Mathematics is commonly known as a 'universal language', as the subject transcends cultural and language barriers. One of the most famous examples of how mathematics can translate across even class barriers is Ramanujuan. Ramanujuan was a famous Indian mathematician who was from what would typically be considered a 'working class' family, and received no formal training in mathematics. However, he made substantial contributions to mathematics, discovering new theorems and proofs which were highly advanced, and he was compared with the likes of Euler and Jacobi.

However, the exclusion of disadvantaged people from the formal study of mathematics has still perpetuated classism, as every person from a disadvantaged background should get the opportunity to discover and study mathematics, regardless of whether they are a 'genius'.


To read more about the initiatives the School is doing to promote more inclusivity regarding class, see the School of Mathematics’ EDI Action Plan and our Initiatives and Events page, and see how you can get involved.