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Entry to elite positions and the stratification of higher education in Britain

Wakeling, Paul and Savage, Mike ORCID: 0000-0003-4563-9564 (2015) Entry to elite positions and the stratification of higher education in Britain. Sociological Review, 63 (2). pp. 290-320. ISSN 0038-0261

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Identification Number: 10.1111/1467-954X.12284


We use the Great British Class Survey to examine the association between social background, university attended and social position for over 85,000 graduates. This unique dataset allows us to look beyond the very early labour market experiences of graduates investigated in previous studies and to examine the outcome of attending particular institutions. We find strong evidence of distinct stratification of outcomes by university attended, even within the prestigious Russell Group. There are marked differences in entry to elite positions for graduates of different universities, with sharp gradients in levels of economic capital in particular. The ‘golden triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge and certain London institutions emerges as a distinct elite. However, even within that grouping there are striking differences, with Oxford ahead of Cambridge on several measures. These findings underline the importance of a geographically concentrated set of elite universities in channelling access to top positions in British society.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2018 12:52
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:20

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