Pipeline of privilege: how can we improve social diversity in the UK

A new report reveals a ‘pipeline’ from fee-paying schools through Oxbridge and into top jobs. In some professions over 50% per cent of the leading figures followed this pathway, with an average of 17% across all top jobs.

The research highlights that social mobility across the UK is low and is improving very slowly. Power still rests with a narrow section of the population – the 7% who attend private schools and the 1% who graduate from Oxford or Cambridge.

Elitist Britain 2019, a new report by the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission, is released today. It maps the educational backgrounds of leading figures across nine broad areas including politics, business and the creative industries. The study provides a snapshot of ‘who gets to succeed’ in British society.

Although there are some pockets of positive movement – the overall trajectory of public school over-representation is moving downward, for instance – change is happening slowly. There is, however, evidence that a focus on diversity and inclusion in recent years has started to make a difference. Many sectors and organisations are aware of the benefits of including a more diverse talent pool – not only in senior roles but starting from entry level.

Bright Network joins the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission in calling for social diversity to be adopted as a key mission to ensure we use the talents of people from all backgrounds. The report itself makes recommendations to improve social diversity, including tackling financial barriers and reviewing university admission practices.

Sir Peter Lampl, Founder of the Sutton Trust said: “Giving young people from all backgrounds access to the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in life is key to bridging the social mobility gap. As well as academic achievement an independent education tends to develop essential skills such as confidence, articulacy and teamwork which are vital to career success. The key to improving social mobility at the top is to tackle financial barriers, adopt contextual recruitment and admissions practices and tackle social segregation in schools.”

James Uffindell, CEO and Founder of Bright Network said: “I started Bright Network as I wanted to fix a problem in British society; how the brightest graduate talent, regardless of background, connects with the best employment opportunities. Three-quarters of our Bright Network members come from state schools and it’s clear that, despite differing backgrounds, they are no more or less talented than our privately educated members. We need to continue to address the societal issues that cause this disparity in the workplace.”

Bright Network partners with The Sutton Trust on its alumni programme, which offers every student that takes part in one of its programmes access to an outstanding alumni community plus further support as they move forward in their careers.

Read the full report: Elitist Britain 2019