Higher education’s five chariots of fire

Almost a fifth of the athletes competing for Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics are current or former students from five UK universities, an analysis has shown.

August 6, 2012

Of the 535 athletes who make up Team GB, 98 are graduates or students from Loughborough University, the universities of Cambridge, Nottingham and Bath or The Open University.

And with 46 students and alumni representing the country in the London games, Loughborough has produced just three fewer competitors than the next four universities put together.

According to the analysis, 55 per cent of Team GB are graduates or are currently studying towards a degree, higher than the overall UK participation rate (49 per cent).

The figure would be even more impressive if the athletes who are too young for higher education or who have deferred entry to focus on sport were removed from the equation.

Of the 297 students and graduates in Team GB, 49 studied at overseas universities.

The analysis found that basketball players and swimmers are particularly likely to have studied abroad, often on sports scholarship programmes.

Graduates and students dominate certain sports: some 90 per cent of Team GB hockey players are studying or have studied, and the figures for rowing and athletics are also impressive (81 per cent and 67 per cent respectively).

Football comes bottom of the graduate-involvement table, with an overall higher education participation rate of just 31 per cent (significantly lower for the men’s squad alone).

Among the graduates representing Team GB are heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis, who studied psychology at the University of Sheffield, and double scull gold medallists Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger, who are University of Cambridge and University of Edinburgh graduates respectively.

Current students include judo silver medallist Gemma Gibbons, a University of Bath graduate who is studying for a master’s degree in exercise science and health at the University of East London.

Those with links to Loughborough include many of those competing in team sports such as hockey, but also include track and field stars such as distance runner Lisa Dobriskey.

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