Unclassy system 1

May 14, 2004

As a sociologist specialising in educational policy studies, I found your report on students from the middle classes dominating higher education bewildering ("Trainee medics are top of 'posh' league", April 30).

The error in your report was, of course, your citation of the classification of "social class" introduced in 2001. This sevenfold classification would give members of the Academy of Social Sciences and the British Sociological Association not only a severe bout of apoplexy, but probably also a good dose of uncontrollable mirth. It emanated from the Office of Population Surveys and Censuses and is a total nonsense. It was obviously compiled by new Labour to demonstrate that we are all becoming more middle class. How on earth is it that librarians, social workers and the clergy get classified in "class one"? How come artists (largely upper-middle and middle-class persons strongly featured each week in Country Life magazine) are put into "class two"? Librarians and social workers should be placed in "class three", and I bet Gordon Ramsay (millionaire chef) would expend a few choice expletives if you told him he was classified as "class four" (with hotel managers).

If you really want to understand higher education admissions by social class, then let's get a more accurate classification system.

Christopher Knight

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