Education: Booming Redbricks

For centuries, caste-bound Britain regarded higher learning as a rite of the rich and a privilege of the few. Even by 1945, only one-tenth of 1% of the population attended universities—mainly the well born, who "went up" to Oxford and Cambridge and on to the "Establishment" that runs English culture and politics. But in 1948 came a dramatic change: for any poor youngster with a rich mind, Britain's welfare state promised a free university education through a vast system of scholarships. "For the first time," recalls Eton's Headmaster Robert Birley, "the working class...

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