I enjoyed bits of Lucy Kellaway’s Oxford memories (OT Trinity 2017), as I had followed her path to Oxford, two years later, from the same school — Camden School for Girls. But I could not, at all, relate to her ‘loathing’ of Oxford, based on the ‘privilege and entitlement’ of the place. When I left Somerville, in 1983, I was the first member of my middle-class family (along with one cousin the same age) to graduate from university. When I walked into the Sheldonian Theatre on my graduation day, my grandfather was there to cheer me on. He had grown up as one of 13 children in the East End of London, and left home at 13.
When I was at Oxford, it was he and his family who ran the King’s Arms, the pub where Lucy Kellaway drank. This story is in no way unusual. Young people from far less privileged homes than myself have always gone to Oxford, and the University is currently making strenuous efforts to broaden its intake, as outlined in the same issue of Oxford Today. Oxford is considerably less ‘posh’, in this respect, than some other top-ranking universities in this country.
Ms Kellaway is now training as a teacher in order to help underprivileged children achieve academic success. This is hugely laudable, but she must remember that she is not ploughing a new furrow, and that generations of teachers (some of them Oxford-educated) have helped young people from poor or non-academic backgrounds to attend Oxford.