Schoolzone | Elitist Britain 2019

Elitist Britain 2019

Date: 22.07.2019

Social mobility across the UK is low and not improving, depriving large parts of the country of opportunity. This contributes strongly to this sense of distance. This study, conducted for the first time by both the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission, looks at the backgrounds of around 5,000 individuals in high ranking positions across a broad range of British society, and provides a definitive document of who gets to the top in Britain in 2019.

The report paints a picture of a country whose power structures remain dominated by a narrow section of the population: the 7% who attend independent schools, and the roughly 1% who graduate from just two universities, Oxford and Cambridge.

  • Two fifths (39%) of the elite group as a whole were privately educated, more than five times as many as the population at large, while a quarter (24%) had graduated from Oxbridge.
  • Politics, the media, and public service all show high proportions of privately educated in their number, including 65% of senior judges, 59% of civil service permanent secretaries and 57% of the House of Lords.
  • Thirty-nine per cent (39%) of the cabinet were independently educated, in stark contrast with the shadow cabinet, of which just 9 per cent attended a private school.
  • Findings reveal a ‘pipeline’ from independent schools through Oxbridge and into top jobs. An average of 17% across all top jobs came through this pathway, but this figure rises as high as 52% of senior judges, and one third of regular newspaper columnists.
  • Sport (particularly football), the arts and local government were areas with the lowest numbers of those coming from socially exclusive educational institutions.
  • Across the 37 categories surveyed in the report, only among men and women’s footballers were the privately educated under-represented.
  • Looking at the five years since 2014, Elitist Britain 2019 shows isolated pockets of positive change, but a picture characterised by persistent inequality. The proportion of the elite who are privately educated appears to be decreasing, but change is happening slowly.
  • More significant is in the decline of grammar school alumni among the elite (20%), down about 7 percentage points in five years, and a consequent rise in those educated at comprehensives (40%, up 9%). This reflects the abolition of the selective system in most of England during the 1960s and 70s, and the rise of the comprehensively educated generation to positions of power.


Read the report summary here.