An analysis of the social backgrounds of almost 34,000 adults between the ages of 22-49, compiled by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex, reveal that it is the children of the middle classes, and not the working classes, that have benefited the most from the expansion of higher education over the last 15 years.
For those with parents who had 'intermediate occupations' (typically clerical and sales jobs or those running small businesses) the increase in the proportion with a degree shown between the two age groups is over 11 per cent
For those whose parents that hold 'routine and manual occupations', the growth in the proportion with a degree is only five per cent.
It is the children of white collar workers that account for the major increase in people attending university in recent years. These are children of school teachers, nurses, administrative grade civil service jobs and high level technicians – jobs which did not require a degree 20 to 30 years ago but which are now regarded as graduate or middle class jobs.
One of the co-authors of the study, Professor Peter Elias, from the University of Warwick, comments: "The findings reflect in part the restructuring of the UK economy over the last 40 years, which has seen a decline in manual occupations and an increase in white collar jobs. Nonetheless, given the remarkable increase in the participation of young people in higher education that has taken place over the last 20 years, the brief analysis presented here reveals little evidence that the much vaunted policy ambition - to provide better access to higher education to those from less privileged backgrounds - has been successful."
For further information contactTo contact Professor Peter Elias please email Kate Purcell
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