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Physics must tackle class prejudice to be truly inclusive

Mike Follows argues that class prejudice can have an equally devastating effect in science as other forms of discrimination

Downbeat People from a working-class background are more likely to suffer imposter syndrome, which undermines confidence and stymies career progression. (Courtesy: iStock/sturti)

During Boris Johnson’s resignation speech as UK prime minister on 7 July 2022, he referenced his “levelling-up” agenda – one of his government’s key domestic policies. “If I have one insight into human beings,” he said, “it is that genius and talent and enthusiasm and imagination are evenly distributed throughout the population. But opportunity is not. And that is why we must keep levelling up.”

Social mobility – the potential for people to achieve success regardless of their background – remains worryingly low in the UK and science is not immune. In 2014, for example, the educational charity the Sutton Trust and the advisory body the Social Mobility Commission published a reportElitist Britain? – that confirmed those educated at independent schools and at the universities of Oxford or Cambridge are “over-represented among Britain’s elite”.

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