As a Cambridge graduate, I was depressed and, frankly, embarrassed at how lowly the university ranked on social diversity in The Sunday Times’ latest Good University Guide – with only Oxford scoring lower.

Liz Hamson

I had hoped that the days when people like me – state school educated, mixed-race and from a modest background in Kent – were a novelty at elite establishments such as Cambridge would be long over. Not so. The privileged, wealthy elite still have the run of the place, it seems.

That means students from normal backgrounds are still having to contend with the same old crap – actually, let’s call it what it is, discrimination – as I did. Picture the scene. There I am, a highly strung 18-year-old, away from home for the first time in a strange place and for some reason, no one is talking to me.

I finally manage to wangle my way into a party and am asked by a fellow fresher: “Where are you from?” “Whitstable,” I reply. “No, where are you really from?” “Whitstable,” I smile nervously. “Oh,” they respond, looking with confusion at my curly hair and (I like to think cappuccino) coloured face. “Your English is really good.” “Um, yes, that’s because I’m from Whitstable.”

It turns out that they had thought I was an overseas student. To be fair, they weren’t the brightest bunch (I met the dimmest people there I’ve ever encountered as well as the smartest), but really? That’s my picture in the corner there. Do I really look that different?

The funny thing is that I hadn’t been asked that question for years and then, at the all-new RESI Convention in Wales a fortnight ago, I was asked it by quite a few people. This time, though, they were, like me, from a different ethnic background and just interested in what mine was. They were part of our inaugural cohort of RESI Trailblazers, who illustrate perfectly how strong a correlation there is between diversity and excellence – and how much further ahead the property industry is, somewhat unexpectedly, than some of our finest educational establishments.

I am always banging on that diversity is about more than simply slapping the letters ‘fe’ on to the world ‘male’, and when we launched our search for 40 Trailblazers with sponsor Cluttons, we challenged our newly convened RESI Senate not just to include a lot of women (although they did – a third), but to include people from different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different ages and sexual orientation. I didn’t appreciate until people started stepping on to the stage to receive their certificates what a truly diverse group we had come up with – and an inspiring group, too, as their brilliant mantras in our special feature demonstrate. Enjoy - read the profiles in full here.

Retail rental divide

Next brought some much-needed cheer to the high street in its half-year results this week when it raised its profit guidance for the year. However, for landlords, who can see what is driving that improvement, there was no cause for celebration.

The retailer slashed its rents on 33 stores when their leases came up for renewal this year, and plans to push for further cuts in upcoming lease negotiations. Under the circumstances, it is a tad surprising that retail landlords continue to report rental growth. You have got to think they won’t be able to for much longer…