Research: Over 70% of top judges and barristers are privately educated or Oxbridge

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By Thomas Connelly on

Little progress on social mobility at Bar for quarter of a century


The privately educated Oxbridge elite continues to dominate the top ranks of the judiciary and Bar, according to research released today.

The educational charity the Sutton Trust has published data on the background of over 1,200 people across nine top professions.

According to the stats, close to three-quarters (74%) of the 147 top judges were educated privately. The same proportion — 74% — attended either Cambridge or Oxford University.

It was a similar position at the Bar. Of 100 QCs polled, more than seven out of 10 (71%) had been privately educated and an overwhelming 78% had attended Oxbridge.


This privately schooled Oxbridge elite dominance of the law persists despite only 7% of the population attending private schools and less that 1% attending either Oxford or Cambridge.

The solicitors’ profession was more consistent with other industry sectors.

Of the solicitors questioned, just over half (51%) were privately educated, while almost six out of 10 (55%) had attended Oxbridge.

Back in 1989 more than three quarters of High and Appeal Court judges (76%) were educated privately. This figure dropped only slightly to 75% in 2004, and again in 2015, to 74%.

Historically, it’s been a similar situation at the Bar.

Previous Sutton Trust data showed that in 1989, almost nine out of 10 (89%) of top barristers were Oxbridge educated, whilst almost three quarters (73%) attended a private school. Fast-forward to 2004 and the picture was much the same, with 68% of the sample having attended a private school, and 82% attending either Oxford or Cambridge.