Why Do Privately Educated Students Still Dominate Professions?

A recent study by Sutton Trust has uncovered that privately educated students still dominate top professions. Whilst only 7% of students are privately educated, the top end of professions, including politics, medicine and film, are still dominated by those who were privately educated.

Over half the politicians in the current cabinet were privately educated, including the Etonian Prime Minister, David Cameron. 61% of people in top medical professions studied at private schools with only 16% having attended comprehensive schools. Similarly, 41% of BAFTA winning actors were privately educated.

Whilst these findings are bleak, it is unlikely that social mobility will improve when over half the cabinet in power are privately educated, including the Prime Minister. It appears that the fault in the system lies sometime after university as entrants to university are at an all time high and the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds attending Russell Group Universities has doubled since 2010. It is likely that students who were privately educated are privy to broader professional social networks; students from advantaged backgrounds are often able to find employment through social networks built in their schools. Privately educated students are also more likely to gain valuable work experience, being able to apply for unpaid internships with their parents supporting them financially.

“61% of people in top medical professions studied at private schools”

Impact spoke to a privately educated student, who believes that students from private schools excel due to their extensive alumni system. When speaking of his school, he explained that the ‘Old Boys’ alumni system regularly contact him allowing for the students to have connections all across the globe. This network allows for students to seek out extra help and backing when applying for jobs, searching for experience or even starting their own businesses. Those who are not privately educated often find that they have less opportunity to build social networks with people in the top end of professions. Another privately educated student believes that he was instilled with the “mentality that they feel more confident in [their] ability” and that people at the top of companies who were privately educated might consider an applicant who was also privately educated to be more suitable for a job.

Speaking to students who attended comprehensive schools revealed a similar response, with many agreeing that their private school counterparts likely achieved better positions due to the networking encouraged at school. One student claimed that privately educated students try harder to achieve better jobs as their parents have invested a lot of money into their education. When asked how they felt about The Telegraph claiming that privately educated students made better use of their time at university, many of the students I questioned scoffed. This is a large generalisation and completely subjective as some students would consider getting a high grade a good use of their time whilst others would lean more towards taking advantage of extra curricular activities which university offers.

“Those who are not privately educated often find that they have less opportunity to build social networks”

Unfortunately, until an effective solution is found, this issue will continue to exist. It is an endless circle, as the people who dominate professions are often those paid the best,  and therefore those who can afford to have their children privately educated. It is also worth noting that this study comes at a time just months after another study claimed that state school pupils who enter university with an A* at A Level perform better than their private school counterparts. However with a better professional network and a wider opportunity to partake in unpaid work experience, privately educated students continue to dominate the higher end of the job market.

Alice Simmons

Image: Bodey Marcoccla via Flickr

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