BRITISH SOCIETY remains “deeply elitist” with privately-educated pupils and Oxbridge graduates continuing to dominate top roles in society, a major report published today has warned.
The study revealed the extent to which leading positions from judges, politicians and Armed Forces chiefs to journalists, TV executives, public officials and sports stars are filled by those who attended fee-paying schools before going on to study at Oxford and Cambridge universities.
The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, which conducted the research, warned the stark lack of diversity means many of Britain’s key institutions are not representative of the public they serve, and the people running them may not understand the daily issues facing people from different backgrounds.
The commission’s chairman, the former Labour Government Minister Alan Milburn, maintained the findings were a wake-up call and suggested that institutions need to open their doors to a broader range of talent.
Mr Milburn, who is state-educated and studied at Lancaster University, said: “Where institutions rely on too narrow a range of people from too narrow a range of backgrounds with too narrow a range of experiences they risk behaving in ways and focussing on issues that are of salience only to a minority but not the majority in society.
“Our research shows it is entirely possible for politicians to rely on advisers to advise civil servants to devise policy solutions and journalists to report on their actions having all studied the same courses at the same universities, having read the same books, heard the same lectures and even being taught by the same tutors.
“This risks narrowing the conduct of public life to a small few, who are very familiar with each other but far less familiar with the day-to-day challenges facing ordinary people in the country.”
The study analysed the backgrounds of more than 4,000 individuals holding top jobs in British society. It concludes Britain’s elite is still “formed on the playing fields of independent schools” and “finished in Oxbridge’s dreaming spires”.
A total of 71 per cent of senior judges, 62 per cent of senior Armed Forces officers and 55 per cent of permanent secretaries –the most senior civil servants in government – attended a fee-paying school, according to the study.
It also showed 53 per cent of senior diplomats, 43 per cent of newspaper columnists and a third of the England cricket team and a quarter of BBC executives were also privately-educated. The report stated each profession was also dominated by graduates from Oxford or Cambridge.