Graduates who secure top jobs see their salaries rising more quickly if they went to a private school, seeing their pay average £4,450 more than their state school colleagues, representing growth of £3,000 in the three years after graduation. This is according to Private Pay Progression, a new research brief published by the Sutton Trust and upReach today based on research into graduate pay progression conducted by Jake Anders from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR).

Previous research by the Sutton Trust and upReach has shown that graduates from less privileged backgrounds are less likely to enter elite professions like law and the financial services, and has shown the size of the private school pay premium overall. But today’s figures show that a private school education can have an immediate effect on graduates’ pay progression soon after they start work.

According to Private Pay Progression, six months after graduation the average annual salary difference between a state educated and a privately educated employee in a high-status job is £1,300, with the latter earning £24,066 and the former taking home £22,735. By the time they’ve been working for 3 years, this financial gap has grown to £4,450, with the private school alumni earning 14% more than their less privileged peer (£36,036 compared with £31,586).

Half of this difference can be explained by factors such as prior academic attainment and the type of university attended, but the remaining half cannot – and is likely to be down to non-academic factors such as articulacy, assertiveness and other important soft skills.

Today’s findings reinforce earlier research by the Social Market Foundation for the Sutton Trust that showed that by the age of 42, a privately educated person will earn £193,000 more than a state educated person, or £57,654 when all other things are equal.

In order to address the inequality in graduate pay between private and state school alumni, upReach and the Sutton Trust are making the following recommendations:

  • Graduates from less privileged backgrounds applying for high status jobs should be identified early on in the application process and during employment to allow graduate employers to support the best talent regardless of social background. This support might include mentoring opportunities, career coaching and application guidance. By engaging applicants in this way, employers will be better able to employ the best talent, regardless of social background.
  • Similar support should continue in the workplace to tackle the challenge of differential progression of employees from more and less privileged backgrounds.
  • Further research is needed to understand the distribution of less privileged graduates in the labour market and the impact of non-academic skills on graduate career progression.

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

We know that graduates from less privileged backgrounds are under-represented in the top professions but today’s research shows that they face disadvantage when it comes to pay progression too. This new research shows us how vital is it that firms do more to improve social mobility through their recruitment practices. Enabling greater access to a wider pool of diverse talent will deliver real benefits for employers and employees alike.”


Henry Morris, Founder of upReach said today:

“Today’s research tells us that Britain’s social mobility challenge does not end on a graduate’s first day of work. Despite doing as well academically, the pay of graduates from more privileged backgrounds rises more quickly than their peers. By working in partnership with organisations like upReach, employers can seize the social mobility opportunity for their own, and society’s benefit.”

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:  Hilary Cornwell or Conor Ryan on 0207 802 1660.



  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. upReach supports undergraduates from less privileged backgrounds to secure top jobs in partnership with six employers and ten universities. Day to day, it develops the social and cultural capital of its “Associates” via a unique, peer-led employability model.
  3. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) is Britain’s longest established independent research institute, founded in 1938. They carry out research to improve understanding of the economic and social forces that affect people’s lives, and the ways in which policy can bring about change.
  4. Open Access: an independent evaluation, published in July 2014 by the Sutton Trust and the Social Market Foundation, examined the premium (the financial and other benefits) associated with pupils attending independent schools compared with those who attend state schools. The research drew on a range of newly available data sources in its analysis, including the latest waves of the 1970 British Cohort Study and of the Millennium Cohort Study.

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