Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Political science, public administration

Publication Details

This is the final submitted version of the paper the published version of which is Feeney, S., Hogan, J. & O’Rourke, B. K. (2017) Elite formation in the higher education systems of Ireland and the UK: Measuring, comparing and decomposing longitudinal patterns of cabinet members. British Journal of Education Research. Available on early view at:


The role of higher education systems in the formation and reproduction of governing elites, and their countervailing potential for the creation of a more egalitarian, or meritocratic, society has been an enduring subject of concern, debate and research. Many of these debates are made all the more difficult by our inability to directly compare elite formation systems within and between countries and over time. To resolve these problems, this paper employs elite formation quantitative indices to directly and transparently compare elite formation systems, namely the role of higher education systems in political elite formation over three quarters of a century in two countries. Specifically, the paper compares the influence, exclusiveness and eliteness of the Irish and British higher education systems in the production of their respective governing political elites in the 75 years between 1937 and 2012.