I'm no toff, but I'd prefer a pro-Oxbridge bias

Share

Educationists were celebrating last week after the announcement by a leading law firm that it will alter its recruitment process to eliminate what it calls its own "pro-Oxbridge bias". Clifford Chance, one of the most prestigious firms in Britain, promises to make final interviews "CV blind", meaning that interviewers will not know which schools or universities applicants attended. It is a move presumably designed to placate left-leaning meritocratists just like me. But I'm furious about it.

First, let me come clean: I have a degree from Cambridge University. But that doesn't mean that I'm a privileged toff. I know now that there are schools in Britain from which almost every student is expected to apply to Oxford or Cambridge – but mine was not one of them. I went to a school from which almost every student was expected to apply for a job in the local chewing gum factory. I was not expected to apply to Cambridge, still less to be offered a place.

When I did, it was not because I had contacts at my grandfather's alma mater, or because my school coached students through the application process. I certainly did not stride into my interview full of confidence after a lifetime of chatting to daunting academics in Gothic buildings. It wasn't even because I am a born genius. I achieved a place at Cambridge by working my socks off, and I think prospective employers should know that about me. Now, apparently, I would not be allowed to tell them.

I think that I understand the reasoning behind Clifford Chance's decision, and I believe that the lawyers' hearts are in the right place. They've noticed that too many of their staff are just the same: white, middle-class, well-connected, and public-school educated. They'd like to increase the variety of backgrounds within their workforce because doing so would make them better as a company. Great idea! But when they look at each other and try to pinpoint what exactly it is that they all have in common, do they really think it's that they all went to Oxbridge? Might it not be because they're all, well, privileged?

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against toffs; some of the people I most admire went to expensive schools. Nor do I assume that an Oxbridge degree is proof of being clever. I agree that top universities need to make greater efforts to seek out students from less privileged backgrounds, which is why I worked on Cambridge's "Target Schools" campaign while I studied there. But if our "best" universities are not offering their best educations to all bright students equally, then employers need to pressure them to fix that; not just refuse to be biased towards the best.

It is a fact that a self-selecting group of people from a narrow, fortune-favoured background dominate the Government and the nation's top jobs, and I'll support anything that tries to shift that. That's why people who make it into top universities despite their backgrounds, should be snapped up. Let them plaster it all over their CVs, then. Tell employers and say it loud: Oxbridge, and proud.

twitter.com/@katyguest36912

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Ashdown Group: PHP Web Developer / Website Coordinator (PHP, JavaScript)

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: PHP Web...

Recruitment Genius: Estates Projects & Resources Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in London, Manchester, Br...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: moderate, iconic royals are a shoe-in for a pedantic kicking

Guy Keleny
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: Cameron is running scared from the “empty chair”

Oliver Wright
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us