Half of David Cameron’s new cabinet was privately educated, Sutton Trust research published today reveals, but twice as many have been to comprehensive schools as in the coalition cabinet of 2010.

Cabinet ministers are seven times more likely to have gone to a fee-paying school than the general population, of which 7% went to private schools.

However, the proportion of independently educated ministers attending Cabinet is less than that of the previous cabinet (62%), and significantly less than the last two previous cabinets under Conservative Prime Ministers, John Major (71% in 1992) and Margaret Thatcher (91% in 1979).

43% cabinet ministers were educated in comprehensive state schools, a rise from 21% of the cabinet in 2010. 7% attended state grammar schools.

Of the 28 ministers attending David Cameron’s new cabinet, 50% went to Oxbridge. This compares with 32% of backbench Conservative MPs in the 2015 Parliament, and 26% of all MPs who attended Oxbridge.

A further 32% were educated at other Russell Group universities (excluding Oxbridge), compared to 25% of backbench Conservatives and 28% of all MPs.

Prime Minister David Cameron continues the academic dynasty at Number 10 that stretches back to before the start of World War 2: with the exception of his immediate predecessor, Gordon Brown, every Prime Minister since 1937 who attended university was educated at one institution – Oxford.

Today’s figures follow Parliamentary Privilege – the MPs, a research brief published by the Sutton Trust that looked at the educational background of the new House of Commons. This data showed that 32% of the new House of Commons were privately educated. Around half (48%) of Conservative MPs attending fee-paying schools, compared to 14% of Liberal Democrats, 5% of SNP MPs for whom we have data and 17% of Labour MPs. Among other MPs, 24% went to a fee-paying school. However, the proportion of privately educated Conservative MPs has fallen from 54% in the last parliament and 73% in 1979.

Dr Lee Elliot Major, Chief Executive of the Sutton Trust said today:

”Parliament and Government should represent the society they represent. The best people should be able to become ministers, regardless of social background. It is good to see more comprehensive educated cabinet ministers, reflecting the schools attended by 90 per cent of children. But with half of the Cabinet still independently educated and half having been to Oxbridge, today’s figures remind us how important it is that we do more to increase levels of social mobility and make sure that bright young people from low and middle income backgrounds have access to the best schools and the best universities.”


  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 150 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to access to the professions.
  2. Parliamentary Privilege – the MPs, published by the Sutton Trust on Sunday 12th May, looked at the educational background the new House of Commons.
  3. According to her official website, Theresa May attended an independent school from the ages of 11-13, and then attended a state grammar school. Iain Duncan Smith attended the naval school, HMS Conway at age 14, but had previously attended St. Peter’s RC Secondary School.
  4. The Mobility Manifesto, published by the Sutton Trust in September 2014 ahead of the party conference season and this year’s general election, sets out 10 practical policy steps to improve social mobility.
  5. The information in this brief was correct at 4.30pm on Monday 11th May.
Table 1: School and university backgrounds for individual Ministers attending Cabinet
Ministerial ResponsibilityNameSchool TypeSchoolUniversity
Prime MinisterDavid CameronIndependentEton CollegeOxford
Chancellor of the ExchequerGeorge OsborneIndependentSt Paul’s School, LondonOxford
Foreign SecretaryPhilip HammondComprehensiveShenfield SchoolOxford
Home SecretaryTheresa MayIndependentSt. Juliana’s Convent School for Girls (see note)Oxford
JusticeMichael GoveIndependentRobert Gordon’s CollegeOxford
DefenceMichael FallonIndependentEpsom CollegeSt Andrews
HealthJeremy HuntIndependentCharterhouseOxford
EducationNicky MorganIndependentSurbiton High SchoolOxford
Business, Innovation and SkillsSajid JavidComprehensiveDownend ComprehensiveExeter
Small BusinessAnna SoubryComprehensiveHartland ComprehensiveBirmingham
International DevelopmentJustine GreeningComprehensiveOakwood Comp SchoolSouthampton
Environment, Food and Rural AffairsLiz TrussComprehensiveRoundhay School, LeedsOxford
Energy and Climate ChangeAmber RuddIndependentCheltenham Ladies’ CollegeEdinburgh
TransportPatrick McLoughlinComprehensiveCardinal Griffin Roman Catholic SchoolNone
Communities and Local GovernmentGreg ClarkComprehensiveSt Peter’s Roman Catholic SchoolCambridge
Work and PensionsIan Duncan SmithIndependentHMS Conway (see note)None
Culture, Media and SportJohn WhittingdaleIndependentWinchesterUCL
Cabinet OfficeOliver LetwinIndependentEton CollegeCambridge
Scotland David MundellComprehensiveLockerbie AcademyEdinburgh
Northern IrelandTheresa VilliersIndependentFrancis Holland SchoolBristol
WalesStephen CrabbComprehensiveTasker Milward SchoolBristol
Leader of the House of LordsBaroness StowellComprehensiveChilwell Comprehensive SchoolNone
Chief WhipMark HarperComprehensiveHeadlands SchoolOxford
Minister for EmploymentPriti PatelComprehensiveWatford Grammar SchoolKeele
Minister without PortfolioRobert HalfonIndependentHighgate SchoolExeter
Leader of the House of CommonsChris GraylingSelectiveRoyal Grammar School, High WycombeCambridge
Chief Secretary to the TreasuryGreg HandsSelectiveDr Challenor’s Grammar SchoolCambridge
Minister of State at the Cabinet Office and Paymaster GeneralMatthew HancockIndependentThe King’s SchoolOxford
Table 2: School backgrounds of Ministers and MPs in the 2015 Parliament
 Total with known dataIndependentComprehensiveSelective
All MPs92%32%49%19%
Conservative Backbenchers94%48%33%19%


Table 3: University backgrounds of Ministers and MPs in the 2015 Parliament
 Total with known dataOxbridgeOther Russell GroupOther None
All MPs96%26%28%35%11%
Cabinet100%50%32% 7%11%
Conservative Backbenchers97% 32% 25% 32%10%



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