Day 4: Class, privilege and Oxbridge.
A minority of those that received their A-Levels result last week will make their way to two of the most elite educational institutions in the world – Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Going to one of these universities can mean that a graduates starting salary is £7,500 more than those who graduated from lower ranking universities.
It’s clear that Oxbridge puts you on the path to a top job across media, law, banking and politics. But this year, as every year, you can bet that the students going to Oxbridge will be disproportionately rich, privately education and from the South East and London.
A trawl through Oxford's own admissions data reveals a huge geographical disparity. Only 26 students from Salford, Wigan, Bolton and Oldham were admitted to Oxbridge between 2013-2015 – their combined population is just over 1.04 million. This is striking when you consider 460 students were admitted in the same time period from Richmond Upon Thames, Kensington & Chelsea, Camden and Cambridge which have a combined population of 695,000.
For those that emphasise meritocracy - the ability of anyone to make it regardless of background - the Oxbridge admission numbers are a challenge. Look at the percentage admitted from private school – 44% when only 7% of British children are educated in this sector. Remarkably, just under a third of those from Eton will go to either Oxford or Cambridge. It seems maybe Eton is worth the £34.4k a year fee.
And what about race? In 2015 only 1 in 6 applicants from Black African, Black Caribbean, and less than 1 in 10 Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities were accepted, compared to 1 in 4 White applicants. Despite all the attention these numbers have barely shifted over the last decade.
All of this raises the question - if those entering these elite institutions are disproportionately rich, White, from London and the South East - how will we have a more diverse set of politicians, journalists and scientists? In the interview, Tolia talks about having better representation for working class people in politics and a way of doing this is making higher education more accessible. This aim will only be achieved if we both break the Oxbridge grip at the top and ensure it is more inclusive.