The Sutton Trust and the All Party Parliamentary Group on social mobility are launching an inquiry to find out how best to improve access to top professions like law, finance, medicine, journalism and politics, it was announced today.

The announcement comes after the Sutton Trust published Leading People 2016, a report showing that the top of the UK’s leading professions remain disproportionately populated by alumni of private schools and Oxbridge, despite these educating only a small minority of the population.

It found that almost a third of MPs in the 2015 intake were independently educated and, of all High Court and Appeals Court judges, nearly three quarters attended private schools, as did over half of the top 100 news journalists and two-thirds of British Oscar winners.

The inquiry will ask representatives from leading professions and those campaigning to widen access to them what is being done to get more less advantaged young people into top jobs. It will also look at what the biggest obstacles to improving access are as well as what measures have been more successful.

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

“Graduates from low and middle-income backgrounds are hugely under-represented at the top of the professions. This is why the Sutton Trust has set up several Pathways Programmes such as law, medicine and STEM in partnership with major employers to enable students from low and middle-income backgrounds to access leading professions.

“We believe it is vital that major employers do more to improve diversity through their recruitment practices. It is more economic to provide access to a wider pool of talent and it is also fairer. Through this inquiry with the Social Mobility APPG we will look to find out what is being done and what is working to make the professions more diverse.”

Justin Madders MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility, said today:

“For too long, our most prestigious professions have not been representative of the population of this country, with many of the top jobs disproportionately populated by alumni of private schools and Oxbridge.

“Ensuring that access to professions is based upon merit rather than background is not only a moral imperative, it is an economic one too.  I look forward to exploring these issues in detail through the inquiry and making some positive suggestions about how we can improve this unacceptable situation.”

Baroness Tyler, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility, said today:

“Why do some talented children grow up to fulfil their ambitions and become leaders in any number of fields, while others never realise their full potential? This is the question I posed in The Character and Resilience Manifesto which I co-authored in January 2014 for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility, which found a desperate need to improve the so-called ‘soft skills’ of underprivileged children and young people.

“After successfully making the case to the government to do more to address this, the APPG will now will hear from leaders across the UK’s elite professions to find out what is being done to ensure that young people from any background have the opportunity to sore as high as their potential can take them.”

Flick Drummond MP, Access to the Professions Inquiry Champion, said today:

“As an MP for Portsmouth – birthplace of Charles Dickens who, in Oliver Twist and David Copperfield, penned some of our best known and loved stories that managed to capture the essence of social mobility – it deeply frustrates me that the life chances of the children in my constituency are determined more by their backgrounds than their talents.

“Even in our highest profile state funded professions, medicine and the military, the upper echelons are dominated by the privately educated. I hope this inquiry will show what is being done to improve access into leading professions, so we can spread what is working more widely and ensure social mobility is not a Dickensian fiction.”

The Sutton Trust welcomes written evidence from employers, representative groups and campaigners outlining what organisations are doing to increase access. The deadline for submissions is 5pm Friday 1st July 2016.


  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 170 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. All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) are cross-party groups of MPs and Peers that explore issues in depth and draw their attention to parliamentarians. The APPG on Social Mobility was set up to discuss and evaluate key issues, research and indicators of social mobility and barriers to it. During the last parliament, the APPG on Social Mobility explored character development and early years, culminating with the Character and Resilience Manifesto. The Sutton Trust became the group secretariat in December 2015.
  3. Justin Madders is the Labour Member of Parliament for Ellesmere Port and Neston and previously worked in employment law.
  4. Baroness Claire Tyler of Enfield, is a Liberal Democrat Peer, member of the House of Lords Social Mobility Committee, the Chair of CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) and the President of the National Children’s Bureau.
  5. Flick Drummond is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, used to work as an insurance broker and was a member of the TA Intelligence Corps.

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