It shouldn’t be competitive, so why do we continue to gatekeep higher education?

I have been thinking a lot lately about learning and how competitive it really is when it should be something that is for personal development. No matter if you aim for a certain career or to gain knowledge in a specific subject. Just the fact that we are conditioned to think that it’s normal to compete with each other for who gets accepted into “the finest university” or the “best university with the excellent reputation”. Sure, a university should meet certain standards! Sure, universities should be accredited and have accurate up-to-date knowledge, and follow the law of education. That is not what I’m talking about at all…

What I’m talking about is that higher education is closed for many disabled and less fortunate people because of this. Something that should be a human right is being held captive by “gatekeepy” students and professors alike. Certain universities are “better than others”, but why? They hold the same standards as any university that is under the law! Why would, for example, a qualification from The University of Oxford be a greater achievement than The Open University, which is a much more affordable and accessible university, that still has the same standard and quality?

Some people say that open universities are just for stupid people who can’t get accepted into regular universities, but that’s not even remotely true and honestly, it’s a bit ableist to say that as well. I’ve actually read a comment like that on Reddit, so I know some people think this way!

Firstly, not all universities have good support for disabled students. That’s why many people choose open universities and distance learning instead. Secondly, not all people have the privilege of money, being able-bodied, or coming from a background of opportunities. Many choose open universities instead of community colleges because they aim for higher education and because they actually can study but didn’t get the chance to before because of their life circumstances.

In my case, I missed a lot during high school and I ended up getting a vocational training diploma that was equivalent to a high school diploma at the late age of 26 or 27 (I can’t remember now, but it was something like that). Do you know why? Because I was ill during high school. I have psychosis after psychosis due to sexual abuse and assault which caused trauma! I wasn’t a bad student, I was just a less fortunate student. And not to forget about the fact that I’m both Autistic and have ADHD. It’s a really unfortunate combination when it comes to most educational environments. So I chose Open University because of its flexibility and because it’s distance learning.

It’s no coincidence that Open University has both “Pride LGBTQ+”, “BAME” (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic), and “Disabled Students Group” in their Student Association. Because these people are those who have the most difficult time getting their way to an on-campus university. I’m part of ALL of these three groups! So honestly, I feel safer here than I would at any other university, no matter its “fine reputation”…

So why are we conditioned to think it’s “normal” to fight for the spots in “good universities”, and with good I mean those who are equal to all the others but just are more famous? Why do we compete in learning and academia? It should be something personally rewarding and exciting and not a competition with other people. It should have something to do with making you curious about a subject and eager to learn about it, not a matter of who gets into what university! In the end, a degree is a degree no matter what. We should focus on bringing higher education to the masses rather than gatekeeping it. Education, yes even higher education, should be a human right for those who want to go that route in life!



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