Report Overview

The research brief by the Sutton Trust, Parliamentary Privilege, looks at the educational backgrounds of candidates in winnable seats. The study included candidates selected by mid-December 2014 who were replacing serving MPs for the same party or in target seats with a reasonable possibility of winning.

More than half of the candidates attended Russell Group universities, including majorities of both Conservative and Labour candidates, with a fifth Oxbridge educated. However, the Russell Group figure falls to less than a third of UKIP candidates, with only one having been to Oxford or Cambridge.

The study also looks at the professional backgrounds of the candidates. 40% of the sample had political careers, including half of Labour candidates, with 14% of Labour candidates having previously worked for a trade union. 47 of the 260 candidates had careers as consultants, often in media relations, while 29 have worked as barristers or solicitors and 19 as journalists.

Key Findings

  • Almost a third of new candidates set to stand in May’s General Election with a reasonable chance of winning were privately educated, which means the new House of Commons is unlikely to be much different from the present House in educational background.
  • 49% of Conservative candidates and 19% of Labour candidates were privately educated, compared to 7% of the population.
  • 55% of candidates went to Russell Group universities, with 19% attending Oxbridge.
  • UKIP candidates are the least likely to have gone to university with 35% not attending.