Britain’s Class Divide: Can Oxbridge Solve Its Privilege Problem?

Oxbridge – is it more than a reach for some?


Corrections Appended January 8 and 10, 2013

In a study decorated with leather-bound books and busts of ancient Greek scholars, an 18-year-old British student is getting an assignment: a 2,000-word essay on democracy and Fukuyama’s “The End of History?” “I want you to get argumentative,” says her teacher, glancing over his spectacles. “Next week we’ll pick up the theme of democracy with Plato.”

Dressed in jeans, bangles and a leather jacket, the student, Jane Odera, appears at home with these highbrow challenges. Yet just five years ago, she was living with her mother in social housing and considering dropping out of school to become a hairdresser. Now, she’s applying to one of the most prestigious universities in the world: Cambridge.

(MORE: Can Oxford and Cambridge Shed Their Elitist Images by Admitting More Poor Students?)

Her teacher, Oxford professor Peter Claus, travels to Odera’s London public school, Brooke House Sixth…

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