Educated elite

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Educational elite is a collective term for a social group within a society that has a high level of recognized education . The term came up in the 19th century and is often used synonymously with the term educated bourgeoisie, especially when the term “bourgeois educated elite” is used.

Sociologically, it is a category of the performance elite and is differentiated from other elites such as the business elite or the political elite.


While the terms educated bourgeoisie and educated elite were still not differentiated in the first half of the 20th century , this changed as a result of economic and social changes from the 1950s. According to Michael Vester , a distinction should be made between the “old educated elite” (educated aristocracy), which is primarily defined by taste and culture (what Pierre Bourdieu called distinction ), and the “new educated elite” (winners of education). The latter was formed in a first step in the 1950s by the children of entrepreneurs as a result of the concentration processes of the economy and in a second step in the educational expansion in the 1960s as descendants of civil servants and employees. The “new educational elite” is the real winner of the educational expansion.

As early as the early 1980s, there was a debate on education policy in the Federal Republic of Germany. Because of the declining competitiveness of the German economy, especially due to the enormous growth in Japan at the time, Vice Chancellor and Federal Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher (FDP) called for the establishment of more private universities , since there is no training for elites at German universities. The Federal Education Minister Dorothee Wilms (CDU) took the view that the promotion of performance elites had to be carried out, since the Federal Republic, as a highly developed industrial nation with few raw materials, is dependent on top performance in business and research. The SPD chairman Willy Brandt again called the targeted training of elites an attack on the welfare state requirement of the Basic Law.

For the United States, David Brooks coined the term Bobos for the new educational elite, which arose primarily in the wake of the Internet boom.

Recently, the concept of the educated elite has been increasingly discussed in connection with elite education and top universities . Here, too, there is a drifting apart of the terms educated middle class and the more functionally used term educated elite.

Elite training in Germany


In autumn 2004, the Free State of Bavaria, with its so-called Bavarian Elite Network, began promoting ten elite courses and five international doctoral colleges. This funding was expanded in autumn 2005 by a further six elite courses and five doctoral colleges. In autumn 2006 there was a third and final expansion of this network.

See also


  • Malte Herwig: Elites in an egalitarian world . Berlin: wjs, 2005, 188 pages, ISBN 3-937989-11-0 .
  • David Brooks: The Bobos. The lifestyle of the new elite , Ullstein: Munich, 2001, ISBN 3550071507 .
  • Jutta Ecarius , Lothar Wigger (Hrsg.): Elite education - educated elite. Educational discussions and findings on education and social inequality , Opladen: Budrich, 2006, 301 pp., ISBN 978-3-86649-024-6 (General Educational Science Section (DGfE); Volume 1).
  • Michael Vester: The shared educational expansion. The social milieus and the segregating education system of the FRG . Midday lecture at the congress of the German Society for Sociology in Munich 2004.

Individual evidence

  1. Michael Vester: The divided education expansion. The social milieus and the segregating education system of the FRG [1]
  2. Jutta Ecarius, Lothar Wigger (Ed.): Elitebildung - Bildungselite , 2006.