plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

September 25, 2007

class, money and education

Filed under: education and career — plonkee @ 12:00 pm

Being in somewhat of an education minded state recently, I noticed this article on the BBC news website, that stated that you are significantly less likely to go Oxbridge if you went to a leading state school, compared to a leading independent school. There isn’t really too much surprise there as Oxbridge is known for being elite and independent schools give a good education. I was surprised, however that this bias extends to the Sutton 13 universities (Cambridge, Imperial College London, Oxford, the LSE, University College London, York, Warwick, Bristol, Nottingham, St Andrews, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Durham).

Now its not divulging my secret identity too much to tell you that I went from a state comprehensive (as in non-selective) school, and then onto one of the Sutton 13 universities. I’m surprised that is less common than would ordinarily be expected (standardising for educational attainment). It isn’t noticeably more expensive to go to one of the Sutton 13 universities than another less prestigious one – the only difference is in the cost of living, tuition fees being essentially the same everywhere.

I also don’t think that the universities aim to get more independent school or even grammar school (state funded and selective) educated students. I think it comes down to expectations. Reasonably clever students at comprehensives aren’t expected to go to the best universities in the same way that their counterparts at selective and independent schools are.

In many schools, the very best students are expected to aim high (which is indeed code for Oxbridge), but what about the next tier? It would appear from reading the article that if they are at independent schools they are expected to also go to Oxbridge, at grammar schools they are probably encouraged to try for Oxbridge and expected to attend a prestigious university. But comprehensive school educated students or their parents and schools don’t have those same expectations.

This is not good news for social mobility. Getting a degree from a prestigious education (including but not limited to the Sutton 13 group) is a massive step on the ladder towards a well-paid career if that’s what you want. If you or your kids are thinking about university applications, aim high. Its not as hard to get in as you think.

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