Armchair politics


Of the current England senior football squad every single one plays for a Premier League club. Why are there no players from the Sunday Leagues Mr Boyle ? I guess ‘elitist’ Premier League players are privileged to play for their country because of their self belief - belief that they’ve earned those privileged positions through talent and hard work.

Boyle argues that people achieve the privileged (I agree) position of governing the country on the basis of “… self belief instilled by an elite education … a belief that privilege is earned through talent and hard work, against all of the available evidence”. And there was I thinking that in fact prime ministers weren’t self-appointed at all, but actually they got the job by persuading other people to vote for them - in roughly this order i) party activists who vote them in as a constituency candidate, ii) local electors who vote them in as an MP, iii) larger numbers of party people (you know what I mean) who vote them in as party leader then iv) all of us doing that thing with crosses in boxes in the local church hall every so often where we vote them in as prime minister. I would have thought it was hard to persuade all of these people to vote for someone if all (all !) of the available evidence clearly showed that that person was talentless and work-shy. And don’t point at Donald Trump. In the US money counts for a lot more than here, and you can put yourself straight into the presidential contest at stage iii).

Boyle has a problem with Oxbridge. That problem is blocking his vision, which is a shame.



This. The students I dealt with at Cambridge were the most talented and hardworking I have come across anywhere outside of North America. Those at Oxford are as good, but as I have never worked there I cannot comment as clearly. You would need to visit the likes of MIT, Harvard or Yale to get the same average level of talent, but there is greater dispersion of talent there leading to the wastage on Doctoral programs in the USA. It is surprising that more students from Imperial or Bristol etc have not gone on to No 10, but not that surprising.


I wonder what the current percentage rate is for the number of “non-privileged” or even disadvantaged students who attend Oxbridge ?

I also wonder what the current percentage rate is for nepotism within politics ? It’s not what you know …


There is far less of Bloggs Minor attending XX College because Bloggs Major did. Admissions are merit based, particularly at the Postgraduate level where I was teaching and supervising.

A fair bit. However, it is also the case that one man’s nepotism is another man’s networking. If your class is full of smart people who are highly motivated, you are likely to get to know some very important people fairly quickly.


Oxford entry at undergraduate level is roughly 50:50 state/private, although state entry is not evenly spread over all schools and includes grammar schools.

Went to Oxford, froma family that has gone to Oxford, but from a comprehensive school so I have no idea how much Frankie Boyle would hate me.


In the early 80’s I taught for just a few years at Oxford, and at the most junior level, but I did take part in the student selection process. I worked in three entirely independent colleges - Hertford, Keble and Jesus. All three selected students against the same criterion - being able to make the most of the opportunity that the university’s undergraduate course offered.

To this end, when we looked at the applicants we were trying to judge three things - i) raw talent, ii) the capacity for hard work (including relevant personality traits - maturity, ability to concentrate, ability to handle stress) and iii) preparedness. The latter is perhaps controversial. Our job, as we saw it, was to get the students in 72 weeks teaching (plus independent study in their own time) to a level where they would have mastered as much of the subject as possible. At the end they would have to face, without any help from us, the Finals examiners. Who were dead hard. If applicants turned up for interview a year behind in maths then that scared us. On the physics course all the maths is taught in the first year. In 24 weeks there is no time to run catch-up classes for people whose schools have let them down. If they’re really unusually clever then they may be able to get themself up to speed. We did take a few risks with students like this. But it was their future that we were risking. If they couldn’t hack it then that was really going to sting. We had to bear that in mind against the accusation of choosing people who had had privileged preparation.



This is not what I am asking. I am asking what %age of non say top 5% of the UK’s wealthiest attend Oxbridge ?

Which, in reality means that one entitled person who has achieved his/her privileged position through unshakeable self belief will take on another entitled person who has unshakeable self belief. Then we wonder why all of our politicians are all entitled and use their priviliged (earned through talent and hard work ?) positions to further their own means.

I see quite a big problem with that model.

Did Boris Johnson earn his privileged position through talent and hard work or just sharing the same Pigs head with other entitled people who have unshakeable self belief ?


I don’t think any Institution collects that information. I think you can break the entry statistics down by Secondary School (e.g. Public, Grammar, State etc) and Gender. A quick Google shows that Oxford’s stats are here:

It is also worth noting that Classics is relatively easy to get into compared to PPE, Law, Engineering or Medicine, so by applying for that Bojo would have had a better chance of success, as he would if he had a decent preparation in latin or greek from Eton.


and there we have it. All very useful / appropriate for running a diversely populated country.


Eh? if kid A wants to go to Oxbridge, apply for the degrees with the lowest demand and choose the subjects for your A-Levels that provide the best preparation. I had students from Eton in my classes at Reading and Liverpool. They were not smart enough for Oxbridge and didn’t fancy the pressure of work there. It is talent, preparation and ability to adapt that struck me as the key criteria for entry.


I enjoyed my time at Oxbridge


*typo Uxbridge


Worth a read


I’ve read it, and no it wasn’t


I also read it and no great surprise.

Elites run politics, who’d a thunk it ?


I’ve read it and he says

Almost one third of private school pupils get at least three A-grade A-levels versus 7.5% of comprehensive pupils. It is a gap that has doubled since 1998, even though Labour doubled spending on schools.

This is an important point. We can’t blame the university system if our children have already been selectively hobbled by the stage before that - the schools - where they spend four times as long as they do at uni and where they are very much more subject to influence.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband graduated in philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) from Oxford and was pretty quickly working for Gordon Brown. His brother David also did PPE at Oxford and was soon advising Tony Blair.

New shadow chancellor Ed Balls also went to Oxford after private school to do - you guessed it - PPE. It was there that he met his wife, the new shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, who also happened to be doing PPE as well.

Wow ! Whatever next ? People who want to be successful politicians and to run the country’s economy work hard at studying politics and economics ! Who’d a thunk that ? Thank goodness the idea hasn’t caught on, 'cause the last thing we’d want is to be operated on by someone who studied medicine. Or to fly in an aircraft designed by people who’d studied engineering. Perhaps if Mrs May had studied politics she’d be making a bit more progress on our behalf with Europe’s, er, political leaders. At least she studied geography, so she probably doesn’t think that there’s anywhere called Nambia.



This is an important point. We can’t blame the university system if our children have already been selectively hobbled by the stage before that - the schools - where they spend four times as long as they do at uni and where they are very much more subject to influence.

This is surely THE salient point.

Joe average just Isn’t prepared for the opportunities in the same way that the"elites" are, capable or otherwise.


Given the swingeing cuts about to hit state schools, the gap is only going to get wider.


My stepson was brought up by my wife after his father disappeared without trace. He went to a comprehensive, got a BA at Worcester, a double masters at Edinburgh, philosophy and politics and achieved 1st class honours. He then worked as an English teacher in South Korea for 2 years to pay for a 3rd masters in statistics at Lancaster. He is currently working at Bristol Uni as a research assistant and will do his PhD there next year. His secret is hard work and determination rather than complaining about lack of opportunity. He was offered a place at Cambridge but decided he preferred Edinburgh.


3 Masters Degrees :astonished:!