Care about social mobility? Don’t send your kids to Oxbridge

Our obsession with just two elite institutions is a distraction from enacting real change in how people get on in life.

Over the past few weeks, a discussion has rumbled on off the back of comments by Stephen Toope, the vice chancellor of Cambridge, who in an interview with the Times said that the university intended “to reduce over time the number of people who are coming from independent school backgrounds.”

Some have complained that this betrays a selective bias that goes against the spirit of meritocracy. Others, like Sam Freedman, have argued that private schools should stop acting like they were ever entitled to send dozens of pupils to Oxbridge in the first place.

Now even the education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has pushed back against Toope, saying he is against tilting “the system away from children who are performing,” regardless of whether they attend private or state school.

Can anyone seriously believe that so many people at the top of government (nearly two-thirds of permanent secretaries and around 40% of the House of Lords), the judiciary (75% of judges) and the media (50% of newspaper columnists) should come from the 1% who attend one of two universities — or even, as is the case with many of our politicians, take the exact same degree?

Monocultures like this are seldom healthy and never natural. It’s about time Britain did something about it.

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