EXCLUSIVE: The Public-Private Split in Oxford’s Societies

Investigation reveals Oxford’s educational inequities of student politics, journalism and other societies.


A ground-breaking new survey conducted by the Oxford Tab has revealed an alarming trutheven once at Oxford, private-school graduates are a privileged class.

Our EXCLUSIVE research covering a wide range of clubs and societies in Oxford revealed that private school students formed an outright majority in all but three institutions.

Oxford Union

  • The executive committee was split fifty-fifty (but the most senior posts were all held by private schoolers)
  • Of the last ten Presidents, at least EIGHT attended a private school

This includes outgoing President and Old Etonian Parit Wacharasindhu, who had this to say to our reporters:

“The figure quoted is a very small discrepancy compared to the University average… Furthermore, the Union itself has a well-established access scheme which incentives people from low income backgrounds to both join and run for election by substantially lowering membership costs and nomination fees.”

Political Societies

The political societies threw up a few surprises:

  • The Conservative Association (OUCA) outperformed almost everyone else in our survey, with 56% of their officials coming from state schools

President Rob Greig emphasised to us that “Merit alone dictates success in the Association, as it should elsewhere”.

  • The Labour Club (OULC) had a greater than average proportion of state-schoolers at 63%.

Co-Chair Aled Jones told us that despite private students actually being under-represented: “We haven’t taken any overt measures to improve the private/comprehensive balance, but always try to ensure that the club is as open, friendly and meritocratic as possible.”

  • Oxford’s Liberal Democrats (OULD) were 67% private.

However co-Chair Alex Sibulkis told The Tab: “compared to many student societies…we have a small executive, the make up of which frequently changes” and asserted that “it is unlikely that any given term’s executive can be taken as particularly indicative of any bias”.

Student Press

Here the outlook wasn’t so heady for the student press.

  • FIFTY-FIVE PERCENT of editors, deputy editors and section editors of the three major newspapers (Cherwell, OxStu and The Tab) went to a private school, including nine of those to traditional public schools.

Even we at the Tab have to hold our hands up here; just four of our editorial team went to state schools.

Editor of the Tab Tom Goulding responded by saying “I welcome the uncovering of statistics done here by Jo and Zachary and I will spend the rest of term attempting to change my school background so my opinion has more legitimacy”.

JCR Presidents

You may be asking, perhaps these are all marginal, interest-based bodies? Surely those bodies representing all students have a better balance?

 Strap in.

  • A shocking FIFTY-NINE PERCENT of JCR Presidents attended a private school; we have taken it upon our self to provide a graphic illustration of this imbalance.



Data is hard to find because of the ever-shifting nature of OUSU committee members, but we found out that:

  • All but one (whose school could not be found) full-time OUSU officers were state-schoolers– an enormous departure from the trend.

A proud OUSU President Tom Rutland did not seem to mind:

“An ‘access-to-OUSU’ initiative for the Bullingdon boys won’t be at the top of my to-do list this year… I’m confident that our composition reflects what students want, and that our officers’ educational background can only make them more passionate about making sure that Oxford is open to everyone with the potential to be here.

“I’m proud to be from a state school [and] I’m proud of the work our students do to encourage more applicants from state schools.”

In summary, the results of our survey are conclusive: even once at Oxford, private schools are over-represented.

Why do you think this is? Join the debate in the comment section below.

Want to write stories, take photos or make videos for the Tab? We’d love to get you involved, email [email protected].