5:12 pm - May 20th 2010
Actually I do have a problem with the term ‘Oxbridge Mafia’. It is just so unfair to the Cosa Nostra, which at least welcomes working class applicants and is sufficiently discreet to ensure that members keep schtum about their adherence.
By contrast, the graduates of our elite universities flaunt their education for all to see, and make no pretence of their desire to monopolise every leading position in politics. Take, for instance, the Labour Party leadership race.
Runners so far include David Miliband, who has a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford; his brother Ed Miliband, who has a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford; and Ed Balls, who has a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford.
Just to inject some variety into the proceedings, Andy Burnham and Diana Abbott did at least go to Cambridge, which makes them les damnes de la terre in this context.
Whoever wins the contest will face a government headed by David Cameron, who has a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford, and Nick Clegg, who went to Cambridge. Incidentally, some 70% of the ministers in Con Dem administration are Oxbridge educated.
Not that I’m prejudiced against the bastards, honest. Indeed, I was out drinking with a posse of them last night, including the two excellent former Oxford lawyers who acted for me pro bono in my recent libel case.
The ex missus got a double first from Cambridge, while the last girlfriend but one got a first from the same place, although I’m not quite sure what the distinction is there.
I grant that the typical product of Oxbridge is extremely bright. There’s little doubt about that. Even the ones that come out with a third, after spending three years thrashing restaurants when not punting up and down the Cherwell, strike me as clever, at least in the sense of not actually dumb.
Most of them, in my experience, are personable as well. In the majority they are public schoolies, although that is not universally the case. A handful genuinely are from ordinary backgrounds.
The question is, does this matter, or am I just thinking like a chippy provincial grammar school boy who didn’t make the cut? I guess the main point here is that a place at Oxford or Cambridge is itself a privilege, in so far as it is almost a guarantee of career success.
Yet survey after survey has shown that entry procedures are stacked in favour of a small minority of elite fee-paying schools, which are themselves by definition unavailable to the majority of the population.
The entire mechanism designedly perpetuates class divisions, and that situation will only be exacerbated by the trends towards allowing top higher education providers to charge ever-higher fees.
It’s not that the left should not advocate that existing centres of excellence be torn down, of course. The provision of world class education is something that should be encouraged, while efforts are made to level other universities up.
The question is how to achieve democratisation in the meantime. The abolition of private education would be just fine by me, but is politically a non-starter. That onlyleaves positive discrimination, and we all know the drawbacks with that.
But unless anyone has got any better ideas, Oxbridge should be forced to apply it on a massive scale, just so the other 99% of us occasionally get a look in.
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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- Liberal Conspiracy
How to democratise Oxbridge http://bit.ly/bHolgX
- John Band
I think he misspelt "demonise" RT @libcon How to democratise Oxbridge http://bit.ly/bHolgX
- Alda Telles
Want to be a Prime Minister? Just take a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford http://bit.ly/aVoxjY
- Elizabeth Eva Leach
@libcon Felt compelled to reply to @libcon article on democratization of Oxbridge. See http://tinyurl.com/36has9v.
- Tweets that mention » How to democratise Oxbridge | Liberal Conspiracy -- Topsy.com
[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Liberal Conspiracy, John Band. John Band said: I think he misspelt "demonise" RT @libcon How to democratise Oxbridge http://bit.ly/bHolgX [...]
- The Truth About Oxbridge Admissions: A Reply To Dave Osler « Bad Conscience
[...] in Higher Education, Politics at 7:30 pm by Paul Sagar Dave Osler just wrote a piece attacking the “Oxbridge Mafia”. I thought I’d take it upon myself to offer The Family’s [...]
- David Skelton
RT @libcon: How to democratise Oxbridge http://bit.ly/bHolgX
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