Sutton Trust analysis finds over half of MPs in new House of Commons went to comprehensives

Some of the data in this press release has been updated. Please visit the research page to read more.

An influx of 98 new MPs has changed the educational profile of the House of Commons, with fewer privately educated members than in previous parliaments, Sutton Trust research published today reveals.

29% of MPs in the new House of Commons were privately educated. This means that the new House is more representative of the wider electorate than that elected in 2015, when 32% of MPs had been to a fee-paying school.

The research brief, Parliamentary Privilege 2017, finds that MPs educated at comprehensive schools now make up 51% of the House, a rise from 49% in 2015.

Comprehensive schools were attended by two-thirds (67%) of Labour MPs, over one-third (38%) of Conservative MPs and 88% of the SNP MPs. 18% of MPs went to selective state grammar schools, a similar level to the previous House.

Of the 98 new MPs, two-thirds (67%) went to a comprehensive school while one-fifth were educated at a private school.

45% of all Conservative MPs were privately educated, compared to 14% of Labour MPs and 6% of SNP MPs. However, the proportion of privately educated Conservative MPs has fallen slightly from 47% in the last parliament, and from 54% in 2010 and 73% in 1979.

With only 7% of the general population attending independent schools, MPs are still four times more likely to have gone to a fee-paying school than their constituents. Out of those MPs who were privately educated, more than one in 10 went to Eton (20 and 3% of all MPs), the highest number of MPs educated at a single school. Alumni of Millfield School and Winchester College are the next best represented; with 5 members each in the new House.

The research draws on data compiled by the Sutton Trust and public affairs consultant Tim Carr from public sources.

The report also highlights the differences in educational backgrounds of male and female MPs. 32% of male MPs are privately educated, compared to only 24% of female MPs. This is despite men and women in the UK attending private schools in roughly equal numbers.

Almost nine out of 10 (89%) of MPs are graduates. 23% hold an Oxbridge degree, down from 26% in 2015 while a further 29% went to another Russell Group university. Oxford has continued its tradition of producing politicians; there are almost double (98) the number of Oxford alumni in the new house than graduates of Cambridge (52).

Whilst the public might expect MPs to have good degrees, previous research by the Trust found that those from the richest fifth of neighbourhoods are still nine times more likely to go to the top universities than those from the poorest fifth.

Today’s research follows the Trust’s research Leading People 2016, which looked at the educational backgrounds of those at the top of 10 areas of British life.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman and Founder of the Sutton Trust and Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

“The landscape of British politics changed considerably this morning.  This is reflected in the educational profile of the House of Commons where there has been an increase in the numbers of state-educated MPs.

“However, MPs are still four times as likely to have been to a fee-paying school than a state school.  If parliament is to truly represent the nation as a whole, able people from all backgrounds should have the opportunity to become MPs.”


  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 180 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. The Mobility Manifesto, published by the Sutton Trust in May 2017, sets out 10 practical policy steps to improve social mobility.


For this study, we sought to get data on all 650 MPs elected on Thursday June 8th to the House of Commons. We were able to get data on the school background of 626 MPs (96%), including 304 Conservatives, 250 Labour, 34 SNP, 11 Liberal Democrats as well as 27 other MPs from Plaid Cymru, UKIP, the Greens and the Northern Ireland parties. In our analysis, we excluded a small number of MPs who were educated overseas or home-educated.

We were able to get data on the higher education background of 639 (98%) MPs, excluding 4 Conservatives, 6 Labour, 0 Lib Dems, 0 SNP, as well as 1 MP from a small party (Plaid Cymru, UKIP, the Greens and the Northern Ireland parties).

At the time of publication, the MP for Kensington had not been announced.

The internal Sutton Trust analysis by Rebecca Montacute and supported by Urte Mackinene was combined with data collected by public affairs consultant Tim Carr. Information on MPs’ education and career histories was taken primarily from public sources, such as candidates’ campaign web pages. The school and university backgrounds of MPs were obtained by using a number of publicly available sources, such as Who’s Who and MPs’ websites, and by contacting prospective MPs directly.

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