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 Post subject: Education and Eliteisum
PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2011 12:09 pm 
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Location: Rugby
Britain’s best-educated family are staring at me in polite puzzlement. They clearly think I have gone mad. I’m inclined to agree with them, but I can’t stop myself from channelling Jeremy Paxman and barking out random questions: “What’s the collective noun for a group of ladybirds? Mozart’s K.626 is better known as which piece of music? Can you name the three naturally occurring forms of titanium dioxide?”
Well, can you? Ha! Not so clever now, are we? “Oh, we’re not clever at all. Our contemporaries at Oxford are all running the country, so we consider ourselves decidedly second-rate,” chortles Thomas O’Malley, 42, who studied at New College, manages pension funds by day, and is a Tory councillor in Richmond by evening.
“Absolutely,” chimes his sister Helen, 46, an ex-Balliol restaurateur and mother of seven. “The thing about Oxford is that you are confronted with so many brilliant minds you feel quite dim by comparison.”
Dim? Hardly. A Dynasty? Absolutely. Today the O’Malleys will take part in an extraordinary graduation ceremony, when all six siblings collect their degrees from Oxford University. Helen and Thomas will be joined by Mark, 47 (Magdalen), Charles, 44 (Oriel), Elizabeth, 37 (Wadham) and Edward, 33 (New College).
Born and brought up in Richmond, London, they all studied history except Elizabeth, who daringly read English literature. Edward, the last of the line, distinguished himself by gaining a first, but even he never got round to graduating formally.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2011 12:48 pm 
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They seem like a nice, interesting family - the parents clearly made sacrifices but must have had a bit put by to start with, though sending that many children to elite independent schools would leave anyone but landed gentry out of pocket... :lol:...but I can't help wondering whether you would have a situation today in which all the siblings from a middle-class family manage to secure a place at the same top-ranking institution. It does happen, and you often hear stories about twins etc. getting top grades and starting university together, but the sheer numbers game means that it's much less likely nowadays.

By comparison, while looking into admission statistics for one of DD's university choices yesterday I came across the following publication, the Bristol University alumni magazine: http://www.alumni.bris.ac.uk/publicatio ... summer.pdf
which contains an article in which families in which the parents attended Bristol university were interviewed about the difficulties faced by their children in securing a place at the same university. Nobody is claiming that you have an automatic right to a place just because your parents went there, but it is interesting that these youngsters who are just as bright and well-qualified as their parents were in their day seem to have a much harder time of it. Today, success seems to be largely down to luck. The rest of the journal focuses mainly on the university's approach to widening participation, and the massive oversubscription it has to contend with. A difficult balancing act, but I can't help wondering whether - rightly or wrongly - the one situation is contributory to the other. If there simply are not enough places for those who are well qualified and highly motivated, and then you have to start making allowances for those who are not, then surely something has gone wrong somewhere?

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2011 1:02 pm 
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Sassie's Dad: Please may I remind you that when quoting articles on the forum you should always acknowledge copyright? It is clearly stated in Forum Rules.

For reference, the article Sassie's Dad is quoting in full is by Judith Woods and appears in the Education section of today's Daily Telegraph.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2011 11:15 pm 
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Huh? I'm confuzzled! Clearly I didn't have a good enough education to understand the point. :cry:


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2011 1:13 am 
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Waiting_For_Godot wrote:
Huh? I'm confuzzled! Clearly I didn't have a good enough education to understand the point. :cry:


I'm not sure I understand the point the OP made just by posting the article without commenting on it (though I think the reference to elitism in the thread title is a clue). I just found it interesting because I had already read the article - initially I was intrigued to find out why these people had not already graduated, rather than the fact they were all siblings. I had also read another article shortly afterwards about a group of siblings today trying to attend the same university as their parents and each other, which highlighted how things have changed in a generation. In some ways for the better, in others maybe not.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2011 8:49 am 
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Initially I was intrigued to find out why these people had not already graduated


Oxford has a strange system where you choose whether you bother to go to a degree ceremony or not. It's part of the tradition! I don't know if it's still the same today, but 25 years ago they didn't even give you a degree certificate and you had to request one separately. I haven't got one but my partner had to apply to apply for one more than 20 years after he'd gained him MA to prove to a Government Agency that he really had a degree.

The university is trying very hard to become more like the US universities and increase its endowment funds so it can enjoy more independence from the Government.

It seems to be contacting people who didn't graduate at the time and invite them back to enjoy the university again for a late degree ceremony, staying at their own college, etc. The cynic in me thinks this might be to encourage them to give lots of money!


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:55 am 
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I didn't graduate (so am still officially a graduand rather than a graduate) and my dh works at Oxford. A few years ago he reached the level where he could perform graduation ceremonies, and I have tried very hard to persuade him to graduate me! He won't though, the spoilsport.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2011 2:11 pm 
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Funny, these little traditions. DH did graduate from Cambridge as they seem to do things normally there, apart from handing out Arts degrees for science subjects and then automatically converting them to Masters a couple of years later for no extra work! :evil: :lol:

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2011 5:19 pm 
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DS2 is in his 4th and final (?) year at Oxford and told me recently he'll have to arrange his graduation ceremony soon if he wants it to happen within a couple of years of finishing. Apparently part of the problem is that the Sheldonian theatre, as well as having the world's most uncomfortable seats, is also fairly small, so it's not possible to have the usual large scale ceremonies for whole subject cohorts at one time. In contrast DS1 at Leicester graduated at the grand De Montfort Hall, there was no choice at all about the date, and fortunately the holiday we'd booked before knowing the date had a flight leaving Birmingham Airport late enough that evening for us to make it!


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2011 5:26 pm 
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This is the most therapeutic thread I've ever read. I went to Oxford and never got round to graduating. For about twenty years I've felt a bit of a fraud for never having received that scroll, as though I didn't actually get my degree, even though I kept the congratulatory letter from my tutor. It's lovely to know there are more of us out there who didn't give precedence to the ceremony. It had never occurred to me that as it was an extra, optional action at the time, there was an onus on students to hang around and sort out their graduation. I went off to further studies in Paris and forgot. For twenty years... :shock:


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