Your report on the lack of outsider students at Oxbridge doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. I was an undergraduate at University College, Oxford, from 1951 to 1954 and nothing much seems to have changed since then.
My story may intrigue you. My parents both left school at the age of 14 and worked in a local factory. I was a bookish lad and, much to our amazement, I won a free place at our fee-paying grammar school, where I stayed until I was 18.
Then came national service. a dedicated communist. At his suggestion, we both decided toHe suggested that we apply for places at Oxford. He convinced me that this was the perfect way to subvert the class oligarchy of privilege and power. So we started together an intensive programme of study based on the internal entry examination papers. This stood us in good stead; we then passed the interview stage (I wore my army uniform) and we both won places. This was a minor miracle. Perhaps we had been chosen as token working-class entrants.
We soon saw the class system from the inside. It was clear that most of our fellow students were from “public” schools or had been officers in upper-crust regiments or were skilled rowers or athletes or had fathers who had been to Oxbridge or who came from extremely wealthy families or who were peers of the realm or were otherwise members of the establishment. Geniuses were also welcome. Tony and I were fish out of water.