The Educational Backgrounds of Government Ministers in 2010

Report Overview

This follows up the Sutton Trust’s paper on the educational backgrounds of MPs in 2010, focusing on those in the current Cabinet. This report provides analysis of the school and university backgrounds of Government Ministers appointed after the General Election 2010.

Key Findings

School backgrounds of Ministers

  • Just over six in ten (62%) of Ministers attending Cabinet, and six in ten (60%) Ministers went to independent schools, which educate just 7% of the school population. This compares with half (50%) of backbench MPs from the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Parties in the 2010 Parliament, and just over a third (35%) of all MPs, who attended fee-paying schools.
  • Less than a quarter (24%) of Ministers were educated in comprehensive state schools, with the remainder having attended state grammar schools (16%).
  • The proportion of independently educated Ministers attending Cabinet (62%) is nearly twice that of previous Cabinets under the Labour Prime Ministers, Gordon Brown (32% in 2007) and Tony Blair (32% in 1997). However, the proportion is lower than that for previous Cabinets under Conservative Prime Ministers, John Major (71% in 1992) and Margaret Thatcher (91% in 1979).

University backgrounds of Ministers

  • Seven in ten (69%) Ministers attending Cabinet, and a half (50%) of Ministers were educated at either Oxford or Cambridge universities. This compares with three in ten (31%) backbench MPs from the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Parties in the 2010 Parliament, and 28% of all MPs, who attended Oxbridge.
  • Eight in ten (83%) of Ministers attending Cabinet, and eight in ten (82%) Ministers were educated at leading research universities. This compares with two thirds (67%) of backbench MPs from the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Parties in the 2010 Parliament, and just over six in ten (62%) of all MPs, who went to these universities.
  • The proportion of Oxbridge educated Ministers attending Cabinet (69%) is higher than that of previous Cabinets under the Labour Prime Ministers, Gordon Brown (45% in 2007) and Tony Blair (16% in 1997). However, the proportion is lower than that for previous Cabinets under Conservative Prime Ministers, John Major (71% in 1992) and Margaret Thatcher (81% in 1979).
  • David Cameron re-establishes an academic dynasty at Number 10 that stretches back to before the start of World War 2: with the exception of his immediate predecessor, Gordon Brown, every Prime Minister since 1937 who attended university was educated at one institution – Oxford.

May 21, 2010