The Educational Backgrounds of Leading Journalists

Report Overview

A survey of the educational backgrounds of the country’s leading news journalists, which reveals that the majority have attended independent schools and almost half went to went to Oxbridge.

Key Findings

  • Over half (54%) of the country’s leading news journalists were educated in private schools, which account for 7% of the school population as a whole.
  • The proportion of the ‘top 100’ journalists in news and current affairs who come from independent schools has increased by five percentage points in the last 20 years, from 49% to 54% .
  • In 1986 over two fifths (44%) of national newspaper editors, columnists, and leading broadcast editors and news presenters came from grammar schools; by 2006, however, this had fallen to 33%.
  • In 2006 14% of journalists who could be considered to be among the most influential in the country were educated at comprehensive schools, up from 6% in 1986.
  • Overall 45% of the leading journalists in 2006 – or 56% of those who went to university – attended Oxbridge. This is slightly lower than in 1986, when the equivalent figures were 52% of the total, and 67% of university graduates.
  • Just under two fifths (37%) of the top journalists in 2006 who went to university graduated from one institution, Oxford (40% in 1986).
  • Seven in ten (72%) journalists in 2006 who went to university attended one of the country’s 13 ‘Sutton Trust’ leading universities – those which have consistently been ranked top when taking the average of major league tables.
  • The proportion of women among the top 100 news journalists increased from 10 per cent in 1986 to 18 per cent in 2006.
  • A separate survey of leading journalists and editors suggests that the latest new recruits to the national news media are even more likely to come from privileged backgrounds than those from previous generations.
  • Reasons for this range from: low pay and insecurity at junior levels; the high costs of living in London; the increasing costs of postgraduate courses; a bias towards those with family or personal connections within the industry amid a largely informal but highly competitive recruitment process; and finally, the stronger skills and attributes exhibited at an earlier age by those from private schools.

June 1, 2006