Alex Massie Alex Massie

The Unbearable Self-Pity of Britain’s Rich and Privileged – Spectator Blogs

Is there anything more pathetic, more risible than rich and privileged Britons whining that their cadre fails to receive a fair shake in the matter of admissions to this country’s most prestigious universities? Oh, sure, I suppose there must be but the smugness and evident sense of entitlement on display in these matters remains enraging.

Today, for example, Anthony Seldon, headmaster of Wellington College, complains that his pupils are suffering unreasonable discrimination. Worse still, apparently, a presumed “bias” against public school pupils is a “hatred that dare not speak its name”. As the Americans say, cry me a river.

The evidence for this notional bias is, needless to say, emaciated. Seldon argues:

Dr Seldon claimed there are 62 pupils at Wellington bright enough to get an Oxbridge interview this year, but said he only expects 20 offers of places to come in.

He said: “From our perspective it looks as if some public school students are being discriminated against at the final hurdle. It’s painful because we are seeing some excellent candidates who would go on to get firsts who are not getting offers, about 10 this year.”

“Was that different to when I was at Oxford 35 years ago? Yes. I don’t think anyone gave a toss back then where you came from, only that you were good enough to go.”

And, actually, that remains the case. Oxford, Cambridge and other elite universities are not actually in the business of admitting candidates they feel are too thick to survive at a rarified academic altitude.

But, look, if the (roughly) 10% of children educated privately gain (roughly) 35% of the places at Oxford or Cambridge only the most blinkered headmaster  – even if he is chiefly pandering to parental prejudice – can truly believe public school pupils receive a raw deal.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in