Degrees rule the House

May 16, 1997

ALMOST three-quarters of MPs in the new House of Commons have a university education. In 1945, just 43 per cent had a degree, writes Alison Utley.

MPs are still most likely to have studied at Oxford and Cambridge, but an increasing proportion gained their degrees at other universities while the influence of public schools has declined markedly since 1970.

"The most common attribute of MPs, apart from gender, is the fact that they are graduates," said Colin Mellors, professor of political science at Bradford University who has compiled a new league table of MPs' university education. "MPs are becoming a more heterogeneous group as we see the influence of comprehensive schooling and non-Oxbridge universities. At least the case for higher education should get a good hearing."

The proportion of MPs with degrees has been increasing steadily since 1945, and there was a rise of 7 per cent between 1992 and 1997.

Fifty-nine per cent of this year's new MPs studied at Oxbridge. In this Parliament the largest number of graduate MPs hail from Oxford (114) - 17 per cent of all MPs. But in 1970, 21 per cent of MPs were Oxford graduates and Cambridge has seen a similar decline in influence.

Cambridge holds 10 per cent of the graduate MP market compared to 15 per cent in 1974. King's College Cambridge and Balliol College Oxford have produced the most MPs in the new house, 7 and 11 respectively.

The research will appear in a revised edition of Professor Mellors's earlier work The British MP.

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