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One of Gordon Brown’s undeniable achievements: breaking the Oxford mould

2 December 2014

4:43 PM

2 December 2014

4:43 PM

Say what you will about Gordon Brown — and plenty have over the last 24 hours — but there is one achievement even his harshest detractors can not critique: he broke the Oxford mould among modern Prime Ministers.

Since the Second World War, Oxford University has produced the majority of Prime Ministers, outstripping the rest of the country’s institutions and even their arch rivals Cambridge. Aside from those who didn’t go to university (John Major, Jim Callaghan and Winston Churchill), Brown has so far been the only non-Oxford PM since 1945 — instead he went to Edinburgh:


Despite Oxford’s long history of churning out Prime Ministers, it was not always so slanted in favour of one institution. Out of the 55 British Prime Ministers, Cambridge produced more PMs in the past but only a handful went to other institutions:

Given that eight of the top ten ministers in the current cabinet went to Oxbridge, Brown is likely to remain the remain the exception. But the former Prime Minister is not necessarily proud of his education choices. Brown was apparently offered a place at Oxford but made the choice to go to north of the border instead. As The Telegraph’s Alan Cochrane writes in his Scottish referendum diaries, Brown confided in him, ‘I wish now that I had gone. I think I missed something by not going.’

Well, as Cochrane pointed out to Brown at the time, he made it to Prime Minister anyway, overcoming the Oxbridge dominance at the top of government.

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