Report Overview

Over a decade ago, the Sutton Trust published its first report on the educational backgrounds of the UK’s professional elite, looking at the schools and universities attended by top solicitors, barristers and judges.

Since then, we have published over ten updates on the educational backgrounds of people at the top of the professions, across a range of sectors. These include members of the House of Commons and House of Lords, leading news journalists, top medical professionals, FTSE 100 chief executives, university vice-chancellors, leading scientists and scholars and a selection of the most famous people in the arts.

Across the years, these reports have shown the staying-power of the privately-educated at the top of the UK’s professional hierarchy. Even when those with such backgrounds retire from the top of their field, they are frequently replaced by those with a similar educational past. In this report by Philip Kirby, these results are updated. The charts below show the data for the key professions, looking at whether or not they were privately educated and went to Oxford or Cambridge universities.

Key Findings

  1. The Careers and Enterprise Company should be resourced and encouraged to trial and identify what works in careers advice for disadvantaged pupils
  2. Good internships are rated highly by top employers, but many are unpaid. After four weeks, all interns should be paid the National Living Wage.
  3. The Sutton Trust has pioneered the Open Access scheme, which provides low and middle income students access to top independent day schools. This programme should be supported nationally.
  4. More companies should be encouraged to sign up to the Government’s Social Mobility Business Compact, which should be strengthened to require greater transparency about diversity data.
  5. The government should introduce a means tested voucher system, as part of the pupil premium, through which lower income families could purchase additional educational support for pupils, such as extra-curricular tuition.
  6. Highly able pupil premium pupils achieve half a GCSE grade lower, on average, than other highly able pupils, with significant knock-on effects for access to leading professions. The government should develop an effective national programme for highly able state school pupils.
  7. Widening participation strategies need to do more than just improve academic achievement; they also need to provide knowledge of possible careers for disadvantaged young people.