Following the recent reshuffle by Theresa May, 48% of cabinet ministers graduated from Oxford or Cambridge, new analysis conducted by the Sutton Trust foundation has revealed.
Although under pressure to differentiate her government from that of David Cameron’s, May’s new cabinet contains nearly as many Oxbridge-educated ministers as that of her predecessor (50%). A further 35% of the new cabinet attended Russell Group universities.
Just months earlier, over 100 cross-party MPs called on Oxbridge to widen and diversify admissions offers, when it emerged that students from the top two social classes gained 81% of places at Oxbridge in 2015. The 2018 admissions round is expected to conclude by the end of today.
Despite May’s apparent intention to create a more diverse front bench representative of the population, 34% of the new cabinet is privately educated, in stark contrast to 7% of the general public.
In addition, 24% of the new cabinet attended selective state schools, whilst 41% had received a comprehensive state education. This comes after May’s previous endorsement of selective state education and now-abandoned plans for additional grammar schools, despite numerous studies showing that selective state schools do not promote social mobility.
Dr Lee Elliot Major, chief executive of the Sutton Trust, said: “Theresa May made great progress in the composition of her first cabinet, so it is disappointing that yesterday’s reshuffle means that progress has reversed a little. The prime minister’s cabinet has to reflect the society that they represent and this is a step in the wrong direction.”
Nonetheless, the proportion of state-educated ministers in the new cabinet (66%) represents a significant increase as compared with the proportion under Cameron (50%). Following the ministerial changes, May said the reshuffle makes the government look “more like the country it serves” with a “new generation” of “fresh talent”.
The new education secretary, Damian Hinds, attended a grammar school. His predecessor, Justine Greening, who refused a move to the Department for Work and Pensions in the reshuffle and subsequently resigned from government, was the first comprehensively-educated Tory education secretary and the first openly gay woman in cabinet. In her resignation statement, Greening said: “Social mobility matters to me and our country more than a ministerial career.”