Sunday 11 January 2009

Opening up the professions

It is good to see Alan Milburn back working on social mobility. There is clearly a real job to do opening up professions like the law, medicine, army leadership and the national media to a wider social mix. In part, this is about young people being given the opportunities to study the right subjects in the sixth form and encouraged to take up places in elite universities. Government must be more open about this: the Sutton Trust has done some excellent working showing where this is not just about standards in state schools, as the Sunday Telegraph claims today. It requires students to apply for the right courses at the right universities.

But it is also about social connections. A good degree is often not enough. One reason why so many places are taken by a self-perpetuating elite is because of family connections and the ability to survive while taking up unpaid internships. If Alan Milburn can get to grips with those issues, he will widen the pool of talent available to leading professions. The idea - as the Tories have it - that this can only be done through "class war" is a sad reflection of the narrowness of experience of the old Etonians who want to run the country again.

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