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The Educational Backgrounds of the Nation’s Leading People

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The Sutton Trust has compiled information on the educational backgrounds of nearly 8,000 people who appeared in the birthday lists of national and Sunday newspapers during 2011.

Key Findings

School backgrounds

  • Ten leading independent schools accounted for 12% of the leading people for which schools data was available. These are: Eton College; Winchester College; Charterhouse School; Rugby School; Westminster School; Marlborough College; Dulwich College; Harrow School; St Paul’s Boys’ School; Wellington College (see table 1 for top 100 schools).
  • Eton College alone produced 330 top people – 4% of those with school information.
  • The top comprehensive schools – with 6 each on the list – are Holland Park School and Haverstock School (where Ed and David Miliband both went to school). The top state grammar school (though it is now comprehensive) is Watford Grammar School with 17 former pupils.
  • 44% of those listed went to independent school, 27% to grammar school, 8% to a former direct grant school and 21% to comprehensives and other state schools.
  • The professions whose top people are most dominated by independent school alumni are ‘public service’ (which includes royalty, lord-lieutenants, and others in national, public, or local government organisations) 68%, followed by law at 63% and the armed services at 60%. The police are least dominated by independent schools with only 13% of leading police officers having an independent school background

University backgrounds

  • 31% of top people went to Oxbridge and a further 20% attended another leading research university in the Sutton Trust 30, but 22% did not go to university
  • The profession whose top people are most dominated by Oxbridge graduates is the Diplomatic service at 62%, followed by the Law at 58%, the top civil service at 55%, education and literature at 48% and financial services or the City at 47%.
  • The professions least dominated by Oxbridge graduates are pop music at 1%, sport at 8%, actors and actresses at 8%, the Police at 11% and the Armed Forces at 12%.