In the context of widening participation policies, polarisation of types of university recruitment and a seemingly related high drop-out rate amongst first generation, working class students, we focus on the provision offered by the universities to their students. We discuss how middle class and working class student experiences compare across four different types of higher education institution (HEI). Exploring differences between the middle class and working class students locates widening participation discourse within a discussion of classed privilege. We conclude that, whilst there is a polarisation of recruitment between types of universities, there exists a spectrum of interrelated and differentiated experiences across and within the HEIs. These are structured by the differential wealth of the universities, their structure and organisation; their ensuing expectations of the students, the subject sub-cultures, and the students’ own socio-cultural locations; namely class, gender, age and ethnicity.