With the ever popular Made in Chelsea recently joined on our screens by BBC’s Posh People: Inside Tatler and Life is Toff, it seems that many of us are currently a little bit obsessed with all things posh. But are those of us not born into well-to-do families doomed to watch the spa breaks, impromptu trips to Morocco and polo matches from our living rooms forever? Or is there a way ‘one’ can rise through the ranks to become a bonafide tweed wearer?
Most would agree that going to university teaches you far more than the subject you study. You pick up new ways of thinking, living and behaving. It makes sense then, that the posher your uni is, the more likely you are to pick up the habits of the upper classes.
For those that want to study their way to RAH-dom we’ve compiled a list of the UK unis most favoured by the upper classes. We’ve ranked UK universities by percentage of privately educated students. For those who need a bit of context, it’s worth remembering that only 6.5% of UK students attend independent secondary schools.
#5. The University of Durham - 36.6% private school students
With an estate boasting 63 listed buildings, including a 11th century castle and an art deco cathedral, Durham University certainly looks the part.
The Durham university teams also rank highly in the posh sports category, in which we’ve included anything played on Made in Chelsea in a non ironic fashion, anything that appears in an Enid Blyton novel or sports that are just too expensive for the average student to join in with. Currently Durham teams hold the number one position in the UK BUCS league table for fencing, lacrosse, and rowing. Their ski/snowboarding trip is also the biggest single-university snow sports event in the UK and this year is set to host acts such as Matrix & Futurebound, Wilkinson and Sir David Rodigan.
#4. The University of Cambridge - 37% private school students
Depending on which college you visit, a trip to Cambridge University can be both bewildering and disorientating - especially if you’re dining in formal halls. Once you’ve gotten your head around wearing a gown to dinner, there are many other weird and wonderful traditions to get to grips with. Prayers in Latin, “fines" (a posher version of “I've never") and people sticking pennies in your food and then demanding you eat the rest of your meal with no hands are all par for the course. Many colleges will also have visits from their patrons or alumni at formal dinner. A good friend of mine at Cambridge once told me that if I was lucky “Stephen Hawking might be at formal dinner". She wasn’t joking.
Cambridge was also ranked as the most expensive university city in 2013, beating London and Bristol to the top spot. This is largely due to the cost of rents which are £20 higher than the national average, coming in at £97.25 a week.
#3. The University of Bristol - 40.6% private school students
For better or worse it doesn't look like the University of Bristol will ever shake the “Oxbridge-rejects" tag. But they can find comfort in the knowledge that the rest of the UK views them as being just as posh - the town vs. gown rivalry in Bristol is one of the most bitter in England. Its huge neo-gothic Wills Memorial Hall, funded hundreds of years ago by the profits of a tobacco company, may be the closest you’ll get to Hogwarts in the UK (apart from the Oxbridge colleges of course, sorry guys). Although it’s hard to guess at the wealth of an entire student body, the fact that only 0.9% of its students qualified for free school meals at secondary school level, compared to 16.3% nationally, gives an indication of the average family income. See the excellent spoof, High Renaissance Man, for more details.
#2. The University of St Andrews - 41.1% private school students
You may remember a few years ago that a group of friends created a flash in the pan internet sensation known as milking, in which they all poured pints of milk over their heads in various public places. It was funny, light-hearted and, like every good viral video, spawned a legion of copy cats. These included students at St Andrews, who loved the video so much they made their own. Putting a toff-tastic spin on it however, they decided to use £25 bottles of champagne instead of milk. If a group of chino clad boys pouring a total of £700 pounds of Moet over their heads instead of drinking it doesn’t scream RAH then I don’t know what does. Prince William and Kate Middleton also met here so could be a good shout if you fancying trying to marry your way into the elite.
#1. The University of Oxford - 42.6% private school students
It’s no surprise that Oxford, the oldest university in the English speaking world and third best worldwide according to the Times Higher Education Survey, is home to some of the snobbiest traditions out there. A celebration called Ascension Day for example, sees pennies thrown off the top of tower found in Lincoln College’s main quad for school children to pick up. In the past these pennies were made to be red hot, supposedly to warn the local people of the dangers of greed. Thankfully that part of the tradition has been dropped, but talk about living in an ivory tower.
The infamous Bullingdon club provides an outlet for the most aristocratic members of Oxford who feel the need to wreak havoc upon the town. Past events have seen the drinking society allegedly cause hundreds of pounds worth of damage to local restaurants, burn £50 pound notes in front of homeless men and set off fireworks in a nightclub. Delightful.
However, that’s not to say all Oxonians should be tarred with the same brush. With beautiful grounds, punting in summer and decadent lawn parties it’s certainly one of the most desirable places to be educated in the UK, if also the most exclusive.
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