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Stinky fishhead

July 21, 2016

Now two of my contemporaries at university have been Prime Minister – Blair (1972-75) and May (1974-77). I arrived in Oxford in the year in between.
What did Blair and May have that I didn’t? Inter alia,
1. Middle class / establishment backgrounds. Neither of my parents was educated beyond the age of 14, my mother’s education ended at age 12 because of the German occupation of Greece.
2. State subsidised college accommodation for their whole university undergraduate careers. Although I had a state school northern working class background, I had to find private accommodation in high-rent Oxford for the two years before my Finals.
I’m not sure that in those years before grade inflation Blair and May achieved three grade “A”s at A-level like me (mine were maths, physics and chemistry).
Theresa May observed in her first speech outside number 10 Downing Street, “it’s a burning injustice” that “If you’re a white working class boy you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university”.
Hertford College provided accommodation preferentially to female students, and to scholarship award holders. Hertford awarded its chemistry open scholarship to eventually the one other chemistry student, who was the son of Oxford University’s Dr. Lee’s Professor of Physical Chemistry.
Not surprisingly, without a supportive environment, I underachieved, badly. Some years later a senior manager at TSB Bank plc where I was employed (FTSE 100 company, “the bank that likes to say yes!”) told me I couldn’t be promoted to senior programmer, commenting “you had trouble at university, didn’t you?”. A boy in the year above me at my state grammar school in Warrington (John W) had already been promoted when I arrived at TSB to a level I didn’t reach in my 11 years there. Not having been to university, nobody in the TSB management could tell him “you had trouble at university”. I’d have been much better advised not to take my A-level grade “A”s to university at all.
It’s said that a fish rots from the head down. I can understand why the ruling classes love Oxford, but for a working class boy, in my experience, Oxford University is the rotten stinky nepotism-loving fishhead of the English educational system.

Posted on Facebook 17/7/16

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