old boy net works

Old boy network

An old boy network, or society, can refer to social and business connections among former pupils of top, male-only private schools.

This can apply to the network between the graduates of a single school, also known as an old boy society and similar to an alumni association. It can also mean a network of social and business connections among the alumni of various prestigious schools. In popular language, old boy network or old boy society has come to be used in reference to the preservation of social elites in general; such connections within the British Civil Service formed a primary theme in the British Broadcasting Corporation's satirical comedy series Yes Minister.


In Canada, Upper Canada College (UCC) refers to all its graduates as Old Boys, and thus the casual connections between the alumni is dubbed the Old Boy Network. The old boy network of UCC has been so influential in the political and business realms of Canada that the book Old Boys: The Powerful Legacy of Upper Canada College (ISBN 978-1551990057), by James Fitzgerand, was published in 1994.

Sterling Hall School is another Canadian private school that uses the term old boys to refer collectively to its graduates.



Former students of the Welham Boys School refer to their society as the Welham Old Boys Society. Though the school was founded in 1937, the society was not founded until 1983. The group is intended to encourage Welham graduates to aid in the school's success through their union; they have established scholarships and bursaries for deserving students. The Welham Old Boys Network has established definite membership criteria, as well as requiring a subscription fee. Uniquely, members of the Welham Old Boys Society are also regarded as old boys of the Doon School, which maintains its own old boy society for social connections and fundraising on behalf of the college. Old boys of the Doon School are known as doscos.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the affiliation between graduates of schools such as Eton, Harrow, Winchester and Charterhouse, as well as Oxford University and/or Cambridge University, is known as an old boys network.

Other terms

  • The expression old school tie has essentially the same meaning as the business association interpretation of old boy network. This expression derives from school ties indicating that the wearer is an old boy of a particular school. This expression is sometimes also used in Australia, where there is a system of grammar schools which base themselves on British public schools and have a similar association with the upper class.
  • An old girl network is essentially the same sort of organization, official or unofficial, for girls' schools.

See also


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