Almost a third (32%) of MPs in the new House of Commons was privately educated, Sutton Trust research published today reveals. This means that the new House is only a little more representative than that elected in 2010, when 35% of MPs had been to a fee-paying school.
The research brief, Parliamentary Privilege – the MPs, shows that around half (48%) of Conservative MPs were privately educated, 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.
With only 7% of the general population attending independent schools, MPs are over four times more likely to have gone to a fee-paying school than their constituents. Out of those MPs who were privately educated, almost one in ten went to Eton.
The research draws on data compiled by the Sutton Trust and public affairs consultant Tim Carr from public sources, requests to candidates in marginal constituencies and those in seats where the previous MP was not standing again.
Only a quarter of female MPs were privately educated compared with 35% of their male colleagues.
MPs educated at comprehensive schools now make up 49% of the House, a rise from 43% in 2010. Comprehensive schools were attended by almost two thirds of Labour MPs and one third of Conservative MPs, together with 57% of Liberal Democrats and 90% of the SNP MPs with available data.
The new intake is significantly more likely than their experienced colleagues to have had a non-selective state education. Almost two-thirds (64%) of those who were newly elected this week went to comprehensive schools compared with 44% of those who were re-elected having been in the 2010-2015 parliament.
19% of MPs went to selective state grammar schools, a reduction from 24% in 2010, which may reflect the fact that an increasing number of MPs were educated after comprehensive education became the norm in most areas.
Nine out of ten MPs are graduates and 26% hold an Oxbridge degree while 28% went to another Russell Group university. 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 figures follow the Trust’s February 2015 research, Parliamentary Privilege – the Candidates, which analysed the educational backgrounds of prospective parliamentary candidates.
Dr Lee Elliot Major, Chief Executive of the Sutton Trust said today: “The make-up of the House of Commons may have changed a lot this week but the members of the new House show little change from those who preceded them in one significant respect: where they went to school and university.
”If parliament is truly to represent the whole nation, the best people should be able to become MPs, regardless of social background. 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.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
- 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.
- 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.
For this study, we sought to get data on all 650 MPs elected on Thursday May 7th to the House of Commons. We were able to get data on the school background of 599 MPs (92%), including 311 Conservatives, 219 Labour, 40 SNP, 8 Liberal Democrats as well as 21 other MPs from Plaid Cymru, UKIP, the Greens and the Northern Ireland parties. In our analysis, we excluded eight MPs who were educated overseas and one who was home-educated.
We were able to get data on the higher education background of 625 (96%) MPs, including 318 Conservatives, 229 Labour, 8 Lib Dems, 48 SNP, as well as 22 other MPs from Plaid Cymru, UKIP, the Greens and the Northern Ireland parties.
The internal Sutton Trust analysis was supported by 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.