White, privately educated boys are ‘the new disadvantaged’, Cambridge academic claims. Yes, really

Amelia Hansford May 13, 2022
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June 2006

A University of Cambridge professor has remarked that white, privately educated boys are the new disadvantaged group in a move that has left people stunned.

In an article from The Spectator, Cambridge professor David Abulafia claimed that “the really disadvantaged candidates are arguably the white males from outstanding independent schools”.

“University admissions have become another site for culture wars in which ‘white’, ‘male’, and ‘privileged’ are terms of disapproval, linked together to justify injustice,” he continues.

The article was later picked up by The Times, where Abulafia’s comments were reiterated and, if reactions on Twitter are anything to go by, people are not happy.

“Unbelievable levels of entitlement needed to justify this absurd view,” says one Twitter user. Another said they weren’t “aware The Times were doing a comedy bit now, but here you go”, in a sarcastic remark.

The Mediterranean history professor took issue with the University of Cambridge’s vice-chancellor Stephen Troope’s commitment to reduce the number of people who enter through an independent school.

“Individual students who are talented, we would want them, but they’re going to be competing against an ever-larger pool because there are more students coming from state schools who are seeking a potential place for themselves at Cambridge,” Toope said in an interview with The Times.

However, 2021’s A-level results tell a different story of a widening socio-economic divide, with private schools seeing higher grade averages than in previous years.

Social mobility professor Dr Lee Elliot, major of University of Exeter, explains further in an interview with The Independent. “On the basis of the results, my worry is that some disadvantaged students won’t get into the highly prestigious courses, and will be elbowed out by those from privileged backgrounds,” he said.

Of course, the case here is that Abulafia has a different perception of what disadvantaged means in this case. He claims that “the selection of state school candidates in place of well-qualified competitors from private schools has been going on for a long time; it simply has become more obvious in the past few years.

“The university’s target figure for state school candidates has slowly crept upwards beyond three-quarters; but it was originally announced as a target, not a quota,” he continues.

He complains that only 48 Etonians entered Oxbridge last year but, as journalist Sam Freedman points out, “is roughly the total number of students on free school meals who get in every year”.

More: University of Cambridge

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