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Financing elite education: economic capital and the maintenance of class power in English private schools

Gamsu, Sol

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Abstract

The relationship of elite schools to economic capital is central to understanding the maintenance of their cultural power and institutional longevity. Since Glennerster and Wilson’s (1970) analysis, there has been little analysis of how private schools in England manage their wealth or how they are differentiated hierarchically by the composition and scale of the capital they hold. Research has explored the financing of elite universities (Spencer 2005; Piketty, 2014), with less attention on schools (James, Boden and Kenway Forthcoming). Using detailed Charities Commission financial data, I examine the finances of 216 English private schools in the Head Masters’ Conference association. The analysis entails a Principal Components Analysis followed by a Hierarchical Clustering on the Principal Components to reveal the economic hierarchy amongst elite schools in England. I then draw on the schools’ published accounts to examine this hierarchy further. These analyses show how the economic field of elite schools is dominated by just five schools with almost unassailable levels of wealth in property, investments and fees. Beneath them sit a wealthy group with smaller capital holdings and more diverse incomes including lucrative satellite campuses in Asia. These wealthier schools are largely boarding schools located in southern England. The provincial day schools of northern England and less prestigious boarding schools have much lower incomes and almost total reliance on tuition fees. Proximity to and control over capital allow schools to maintain their dominance, underlining how the material basis for elite cultural and class power in and over education is ultimately economic.

Citation

Gamsu, S. (2022). Financing elite education: economic capital and the maintenance of class power in English private schools. Sociological Review, 70(6), 1240-1266. https://doi.org/10.1177/00380261221076202

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 16, 2021
Online Publication Date Mar 27, 2022
Publication Date 2022-11
Deposit Date Dec 16, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jan 27, 2022
Journal The Sociological Review
Print ISSN 0038-0261
Electronic ISSN 1467-954X
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 70
Issue 6
Pages 1240-1266
DOI https://doi.org/10.1177/00380261221076202
Public URL https://durham-repository.worktribe.com/output/1218681

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