Streaming out of Oxbridge, with caviar and quail’s eggs in their butler’s knapsack, the elites of Britain are making their way to the most prestigious positions in the employment market – and leaving no room for anyone else.
Indeed, in a 2014 report from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, it was revealed that 71 per cent of senior judges, 62 per cent of senior armed forces officers and 55 per cent of top civil servants were educated at private schools.
In the greasy pole to the top, those from affluent backgrounds slide upwards like they were covered in Clingfilm and bacon fat.
If you’re slaving at a Tesco checkout or washing dirty dishes in a restaurant kitchen, statistics like this are about as heartening as an Orwellian boot stamping on your face – forever. But although the privately educated elites might take precedence over the “plebs”, it doesn’t make the education system itself a closed circuit.
Giving the poor a chance at uni life
While you might feel like you’ll never reach the heady heights of senior judge or civil servant, universities across the UK are trying their hardest (despite a trebling of tuition fees in the past four years) to continue the flow of students from poorer backgrounds into these once entirely elite institutions.
Shadow universities minister Liam Byrne has even set forward plans to give universities £1,000 for every below-the-breadline student they recruit. It’s a policy in its early stages, and put forward by a political party that isn’t in power, but at the very least it’s a positive step forward.
But in giving those who have to be in fulltime employment a chance for a university education, distance learning degrees have been the most progressive in evening the keel.
Going the distance
Giving you the option to mould your study time around your working life (unlike the far stricter parameters of traditional university), the world of online degrees and studying offers a direct portal to the “campus lifestyle” without having to be there, in thick of it.
And it’s changing the dynamic of the university experience globally. In 2001, for instance, the US’s University of Phoenix awarded only 72 degrees online. By 2011, that number had risen to more than 6,000.
As those born with wealth and privilege continue to rule senior positions, distance learning and programs to help the poor are pushing at the fringes of this “cosy club” and allowing more people the chance of entry.
The egalitarian nature of the internet, with its seemingly infinite number of course materials and chat functions to message tutors and peers, is making elites of us all, in many ways.
Although it might feel like only the “silver spoons” can float to the top, the opportunity exists to try and beat them at this seemingly rigged game. University itself is not a closed system – so take the opportunity to learn when you can.