How do you climb a broken ladder?


Exploring "How to Break into the Elite”

BBC2 recently aired “How to Break into the Elite” a documentary that explored social class, social mobility and the impact it has on youngsters trying to break into elite careers after attending top Russell Group universities.

BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan, presents the documentary and is displayed as a figure of social mobility. In the film he raises the fact that even with a degree, class impacts your ability to get access to top jobs in business, medicine, media and law. The film explores how this prejudice works in practice, with top city firms’ graduate recruitment schemes say they look for candidates with that special “polish” and sometimes neglect the ones who don’t show this.

In the documentary, it is ultimately noted that it is not just education that influences one's ability to secure an elite job, but it is a series of cultural codes and soft skills such as connections, “polish”, confidence, codes of politeness, knowing what to wear and the ability to simply “fit in”.

According to a recent report from the UK Government’s Social Mobility Commission, inequality in Britain suggests that failures in education and employment policies have caused class privilege to become more and more entrenched. The report notes how entry into professional occupations is largely dependent on parents’ careers, with children from professional backgrounds 80% more likely to go into a “professional occupations” such as law or medicine than their less privileged peers.

It was shocking to see that those from privileged backgrounds who get 2:2s at university level are still more likely to get a top job than working-class students who went to the same universities and got a 1st. It was reported in the documentary that they will, on average, earn around £7,000 a year more. It was also noted that being a woman or being from an ethnic minority background can also be a source of disadvantage. Throw class into the mix and the disadvantage becomes even greater.

Is the UK Government taking steps to tackle the problems relating to social mobility? Can Britain create a new model of social mobility that develops all talents, not just academic? Is the social ladder in Britain stuck?

Watch “How to Break into the Elite” now on BBC iPlayer.