Oxbridge alumni set to feature heavily in next Parliament

A RECENT  study conducted by The Sutton Trust into the backgrounds of 209 prospective parliamentary candidates, who have a reasonable prospect of victory at the upcoming elections, indicated that the next parliament is likely to be more of the same in terms of educational background.

The current parliament is made up of 650 MPs, 24 per cent of whom have degrees from Cambridge and Oxford; fifty-four per cent of current MPs were educated at a Russell Group university, and only 17 per cent have no degree.  The Sutton Trust found that 19 per cent of would-be MPs were Oxbridge educated; fifty-five per cent attended a Russell Group university, and only one in 10 have no degree. These numbers differ widely from the general population’s academic backgrounds, as less than 1 per cent are Oxbridge educated; only 11 per cent of all UK adults attended a Russell Group university, and an overwhelming 62 per cent nationwide don’t have a degree.

According to the report Parliamentary Privilege, published on 5th February, the diversity of perspectives within government “considerably narrows” if an elite educational background is commonplace amongst MPs. The report recognises that it’s “reasonable” to expect political leaders to be “generally more highly educated than the average” whilst also stating that the dominance of Oxford and Cambridge degrees is concerning, based on their poor track records of accepting relatively few students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Couple_walking_into_St_Johns_College_Oxford

“This research shows that the next House of Commons is unlikely to reflect any more social diversity than the current crop of MPs,” said Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust. “It underlines the importance of enabling bright young people from low and middle income backgrounds to get to the best schools and universities if they are to have a chance to play a part in making the decisions that affect all of our lives.”

The report also offers a breakdown of the educational background of prospective candidates by political party – which saw the UK Independence Party embody a more accurate picture of the general population of the UK, with 35 per cent of their possible candidates not having a degree at all.

Out of 38 possible UKIP candidates with a reasonable chance of victory, 3 per cent attended Oxbridge and 29 per cent graduated from a Russell Group university.

In contrast, potential Conservative candidates were found to have had the most elite university education, with 28 per cent having gone to Oxford or Cambridge and 68 per cent having attended a Russell Group university.

Comparatively Labour’s figures are 18 per cent and 56 per cent respectively – while only 5 per cent of Labour’s potential candidates didn’t attend university, which is 5 per cent less than Conservative candidates.

The report also found that 31 per cent of all likely MPs were privately educated, which represents 7 per cent of the population at large.