16% of vice chancellors privately educated – Sutton Trust

Vice-chancellors are much more likely to have attended comprehensive schools than most elite professions

16% of vice-chancellors were privately educated, making it one of the least elite top professions in the UK, according to a new Sutton Trust Report.

Elitist Britain 2019, authored by the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission, reported on the educational backgrounds of people in the most senior and influential professions in the UK.

Of the 37 top professions measured, only football players, rugby players, members of the shadow cabinet and local government chief executives were less likely to have attended private schools.

The share of vice-chancellors who went to independent school has dropped 4% since 2014. However, the share who attended Oxbridge has risen 6% in that same period and now represents nearly one in five HEI leaders.

Almost a fifth of vice-chancellors were educated outside the UK. If removed from the figures, the percentage of privately educated VCs rises to 20%.

7% of the population were educated at private schools but, according to the new research, that group make up 39% of people working in the most elite professions – the same percentage as those who attended comprehensive schools.

Speaking at the Global Student Living Conference, Prof Lee Elliot-Major, the UK’s first professor of social mobility, said: “If you don’t fish from the general pool of talent, the top professions miss out on talent. Inequality and social mobility are inextricably linked.”

Elliot-Major also said that universities should expand the number of student places because “if you don’t, it means for every disadvantaged student you include, you exclude someone else”.


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