In preparation for my new role as head of an Oxford college, this occasional blog will now address matters of general higher education interest as well as more literary thoughts. There is a very interesting piece on the BBC website about the huge variation in regional origin of students at top universities. This is arguably as significant--and certainly it is less widely recognized and written about--than the much discussed question of state versus independent school admissions. The article suggests that there are deep cultural and aspirational variations and expectations between many in the north and the south. And of course that has a long history. One of the best ways of understanding that history is by means of literature--novels such as Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South and Disraeli's Sybil or The Two Nations come to mind. Indeed, Disraeli is a figure who is relevant today in all sorts of respects.
Jonathan Bate, Provost of Worcester College and Professor of English Literature in the University of Oxford, is well known as a Shakespeare scholar, biographer, critic and broadcaster. He was previously Professor of Shakespeare & Renaissance Literature at the University of Warwick.