Jude teaches himself the classics, Latin, Greek, and much more in the hopes that he will one day be able to further his education in the proper setting: at college. It's not too hard to envision the role education plays in this novel when you discover that one of its major settings is a city renowned for its famous university.
But of course, the book strongly criticizes the university structure that keeps Jude from pursuing a higher education because he comes from a working-class background. Even though Jude has taught himself brilliantly, what he knows isn't as important to the colleges as where he comes from. It's a great tragedy that, despite all of Jude's dreams and hopes, he never had a chance in the first place to make it in Christminster—in this snobby world, his rural, poor background is enough to keep him down.
The connection between higher education and money in this book continues to resonate with readers today.
Despite never having attended university, Jude believes he is smarter than many of those who graduate on Remembrance Day. Hardy uses this as a bit of social commentary on changes that need to be made to the higher education system in England.