How the 7% privately-educated elite continue to dominate the UK professions

The Sutton Trust report “Leading People 2016″ shows very clearly that the UK’s top professions remain disproportionately populated by alumni of private schools and Oxbridge, despite these educating only a small minority of the population (estimates suggest about 7% attended private schools, less than 1% Oxbridge):

  • In the military, nearly three quarters (71%) of the top officers in the country attended independent schools. With grammar schools included, too, nine out of 10 (88%) senior officers attended a selective school.
  • In medicine, nearly two thirds (61%) of top doctors were educated at independent schools, nearly one quarter at grammar schools (22%) and the remainder (16%) comprehensives. Of the same group, 40% were educated at Oxbridge and 60% at one of the top thirty universities in the country.
  • In politics, nearly a third (32%) of MPs were privately educated and over a quarter (26%) attended Oxbridge. Half (50%) of the cabinet was privately educated, compared with 13% of the shadow cabinet. Of the cabinet, just under half (47%) attended Oxbridge; of the shadow cabinet, just under a third (32%) attended Oxbridge.
  • In the senior civil service, about half (48%) attended private school, nearly a third a grammar school (29%) and the remainder comprehensives (23%). At university, about half had attended Oxbridge (51%), over a third UK top thirty institutions (38%) and a small minority other UK universities (7%).
  • In journalism, about half (51%) of the country’s leading journalists were educated privately, less than one in five (19%) went to comprehensives. Over half (54%) went to Oxbridge.
  • In business, a high proportion of FTSE 100 chief executives attended schools overseas. Of those who were UK educated, over a third (34%) of CEOs were educated at private schools and nearly a third (31%) at Oxbridge.
  • In law, nearly three quarters (74%) of the top judiciary were educated at independent schools and the same proportion (74%) went to Oxbridge. Barristers and solicitors disproportionately herald from the same schools and universities.
  • In music, about four fifths (81%) of British solo BRIT winners were state educated, just under one fifth (19%) attended independent schools. In classical music, the pattern is reversed: three quarters (75%) of top British Classic BRIT winners attended private schools.
  • In film, over two thirds (67%) of British winners of the main Oscars attended independent schools, over a quarter (27%) grammar schools and the remainder (7%) comprehensives. Looking only at the last 25 years, these proportions have remained remarkably stable (60%, 27%, 13%, respectively) despite the growth of comprehensives.
  • In film, under half (42%) of British winners of the main BAFTAs attended independent schools, over a third (35%) grammar schools and less than a quarter (23%) comprehensives. Looking only at the last 25 years, these proportions have again remained remarkably stable (42%, 33%, 25%, respectively).
  • In the international sphere, nearly two thirds (63%) of British Nobel Prize winners were educated privately, one quarter (28%) at grammars and 8% at comprehensives; 63% attended Oxbridge, nearly a third (31%) UK top thirty institutions and the remainder other universities or none (7%).

One Comment

  • Janet

    Commenting from personal experience, my son and several of his friends joined the armed forces after university having being introduced to the Cadets at their private school. None of his peer group who attended local comprehensives experienced membership of Cadet forces and presumably being less informed had no inclination to join up.
    Similarly, there are more opportunities for progressing in Classical music at independent schools, in particular Cathedral schools, who can offer scholarships for talented individuals and are less constrained by the demands of the National Curriculum.


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