Incoming UK MPs drawn from ‘narrow’ university background

More than half of newly elected UK MPs attended Russell Group universities, up marginally from the previous election

July 5, 2024
Source: Source: iStock / Nigel Harris

The newly elected members of the UK’s House of Commons attended a “narrow range” of universities, analysis by the Sutton Trust has found. 

The analysis found that more than half the 650 MPs elected on 4 July – some 55 per cent – attended Russell Group universities, a marginal increase from 54 per cent in 2019. 

One in five (20 per cent) attended the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge, again in line with 2019’s 21 per cent. Meanwhile, the number of MPs who did not study an undergraduate degree witnessed a small decline, coming in at 10 per cent compared with 12 per cent in 2019.

Times Higher Education previously reported that following its landslide election, the new Labour government is likely to have the most educated Cabinet in UK history, with nearly half its ministers having gained at least one postgraduate degree.

The Sutton Trust noted that the educational backgrounds of MPs “impact on the decisions they make and the issues they choose to prioritise”. 

“If MPs come from very similar socioeconomic backgrounds, and if their backgrounds look very different to those of the public, there is a risk that the concerns and priorities of all parts of society won’t be adequately reflected in Parliament,” it cautioned. 

It recommended that all parties review whether their selection processes are accessible and open to individuals from all socio-economic backgrounds. Parties should consider establishing support schemes and mentoring programmes aimed at improving diversity among their candidate selection, and monitor candidates’ backgrounds. 

But overall, the analysis found that the make-up of the newly selected MPs is more in line with that of the UK public, with 63 per cent attending comprehensive schools – the highest proportion ever recorded. This figure rose to 73 per cent among Labour MPs.

Nick Harrison, chief executive of the Sutton Trust, said there was still a “long way to go” before the Commons was “truly representative” of the population.

“If Parliament is to truly reflect the nation, it’s vital that more is done to enable talented people from all backgrounds to get the opportunity to become MPs,” Mr Harrison said.

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