One of the news items today has been about how few students from the north or from lower income families or ethnic minorities go to Oxford or Cambridge. Apparently if you take five elite schools - Eton, Westminster, St Paul's Boys and Girls and state-funded Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge, together they sent 946 pupils to Oxford and Cambridge 2007-2009. By contrast, 2,000 lower-performing schools combined sent a total of 927 students to the two universities, getting less than 6% of available places (this is according to the Sutton Trust). Many of these schools sent no pupils at all, or on average fewer than one per year.
One can understand the frustration. One of my regrets in life is not having gone to Oxford. I did try, with no encouragement from my school. My parents were keen but clueless. I sat an entrance exam and was then interviewed for Lincoln College. They liked the idea of having a boy from a Welsh comp there but in the end it was too much of a risk and they said no. (There were 19 of us trying for 11 places I recall). And they were right. In almost every way I would have been totally out of my depth and it would have been a wretched three years on the whole. Coping with Aber and all that brought was bad enough.
It is all very well talking about outsiders going to Oxbridge but it really is no simple matter. It is not enough to simply tell the universties to be more open to diversity. A public schoolboy in this country today is a million miles away from the average kid in parts of South Wales or certain parts of the North of England and it is foolish to try and pretend that is not the case. It is not something we need to lose too much sleep over either. Us plebs do okay, thank you.