IT’S not often that I feel myself consumed with feelings of social injustice while on holiday in the UK.
But we’d only been in Cambridge city centre (on our whistlestop tour of the south) for a few minutes when this emotion began to seep through my being.
I wasn’t alone.
“Just look at those buildings!” exclaimed the Man-in-Charge, pointing to the first of many university colleges – including King’s College, above – that sprawl across the city. The place positively reeked of privilege.
We called in on Gonville and Caius, carefully pronouncing it ‘Keys’ in case we were marked out as dullards, and discovered within its prettily manicured quadrangles the academic home of Stephen Hawking, no less.
The Girl was almost open-mouthed with astonishment.“Is this where the students actually live?” she kept murmuring as we viewed exquisite period apartments.
Unfavourable comparisons were made with her own student accommodation block in York, hastily erected from plasterboard and asbestos in the 1960s, for which she has been paying £1,000 a term.
It’s easy to see why the university experience at Oxbridge is considered elitist.
As I understand it the students pay less to live more splendidly than the average university; many students are from private schools; and they get a superior education with one-to-one tuition.
The Sutton Trust, set up to promote social mobility, conducted a survey and discovered that as many as 82% of barristers; 45% of influential journalists (obviously not including myself) and 27% of politicians have an Oxbridge background. Both the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet are awash with Oxbridge graduates. Incidentally, 32% of politicians were public school educated as well.
Wandering among the leafy cloisters of the Cambridge colleges it is easy to see how these policy makers and opinion formers end up with little understanding of what life is like for the graduates of sink schools and unruly comprehensives.
And until they do there really is no hope.