Who’s who? We’re who


Alex Moss

Statistics published this week have demonstrated the continued dominance of Oxford and Cambridge in producing entrants to the annual UK ‘Who’s Who’ list.

179 of the new entrants to the list, which describes itself as “the essential dictionary of the noteworthy and influential in all walks of life”, were former Oxford students, compared to 149 Cambridge alumni. In total Oxbridge contributed 32.5 percent of the 1008 new entrants to the table, up from 30.4 percent in 2010 and 28.2 percent a decade ago.

A breakdown of the data, published by The Guardian, shows that Oxford and Cambridge represent the dominant institutions in terms of the total number of alumni included in the directory since its genesis. While Oxford currently has 5,766 and Cambridge 5,985, the third-most listed institution, Edinburgh University, has only 913 entries.

With 413 entries, Balliol College has the most alumni listed of all the Oxford colleges. When asked if there was anything special about Balliol that predisposed its alumni to success in later life, current JCR President Stephen Dempsey said: “By encouraging students to have confidence in their own opinions and to publish them to a wider audience, I think Balliol naturally prepares its students for influential posts in the future.”

He added that the general ethos of the College also helped, saying: “When you couple this intellectually and politically lively atmosphere with academic tuition of the highest quality, it doesn’t surprise me that Balliol alumni go on to be so successful.”

However, institutions traditionally seen as ‘elitist’ are not the only places shining stars can be found. Manchester University, which currently ranks 51st in the Guardian University Guide came seventh in a list of institutions producing the most ‘influential and powerful’ alumni, with a total of 645 graduates of the University making the list.

A spokesperson for Manchester University said: “The city of Manchester and the University have always attracted confident, independent-minded students who are not afraid to venture where others are more nervous to tread, and where they receive teaching that encourages them to challenge existing norms.”

Women have been consistently underrepresented in the ‘Who’s Who’ list, constituting only 23.2 percent of new entrants in 2011 and 12.4 percent of the total since 1995. One female student said: “Given the number of young women in further education and who have excelled in other fields, their continued disproportionate representation in an index of ‘influential’ or ‘powerful’ people highlights wider inequalities still prevalent in our society.”

The ‘Who’s Who’ list has been updated annually with new entrants since its inception in 1848. While political and business luminaries dominate the list, it also includes individuals involved in sport and the arts.