The truth about top civil service jobs

Fast stream entry into civil service is the annual scheme that appoints the leaders for the future.

In 2008, 119 of 400 or 31% of successful applicants were Oxbridge graduates.

In any one academic year, there are 6,000 Oxford and Cambridge graduates out of a total 350,000 UK university graduates. That’s about 1 in 60 or 1.5%. So, proportionally only 1.5% of successful candidates would be from those two universities.

But the figures are complicated further because more Oxbridge students apply than from any other university. There’s an 8% success rate for those who apply from Oxford or Cambridge compared to a 3% success rate from other universities. So on this level, they are 3 times better than the rest.

Perhaps there is an institutional bias that reflects the top heavy Oxbridge cadre at the top of the civil service.  Also, do the selection procedures just reproduce characteristics of the interviewers?

A bias towards Oxford and Cambridge students is another form of advantage for those coming form public schools. Public schools educate 7% of all students, yet they account for 45% of the Oxbridge intake. Similar trends can be found in the group of the top 13 research universities. For example, Durham has a 30% private school intake. Are these privately educated students really four to six times better than their state school peers?

Of course, apart from the high walls surrounding Oxford colleges, there are invisible walls, which also put state school students off applying. Many have little or no history of sending students to top universities and if they do, at interview they can lack the confidence that a private education tends to bestow. Also state school teachers’ attitudes of ‘what makes you think you’re good enough to apply to Oxbridge?’ persist. The rat lines that connect schools to universities, and onwards to prestiguous employers are in rude health. How else do we begin to account for the fact that half of students from Westminster School get into Oxbridge?

Working class kids usually lack a sense of entitlement compared to their better off peers. They have not been groomed to believe they are entitled to the very best in education, career, health and life.

The Sutton Trust’s report on access to university (2007) found that of the 30 top performing comprehensives, only half the expected number by A -Level scores went to the top 13 universities. While a third more pupils than might be expected from top private schools won a place. There is a hidden booster element afforded in coming from a private school.

Other sectors of employment show similar advantages. The Sutton Trust also found: ‘that of the top 100 journalists in 2006, 54 per cent were privately educated – a rise from 49 per cent in 1986. Meanwhile, 45 per cent of the leading journalists overall in 2006 (or 56 per cent of those who went to university) attended Oxbridge. And just under 37 per cent of the journalists in 2006 who were graduates came from Oxford.’

Assuming if, at birth, intelligence is pretty evenly distributed among socioeconomic groups, we are swinging towards a system where social background unfairly skews outcomes and talent is squandered.

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