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Fair Access to the Professions Panel Publishes Over 80 Recommendations

‘Closed Shop’ Britain Must End to Unleash Aspiration in all Children, Report Concludes

21 July 2009

Elitism in the professions and a lack of focus on careers in schools mean that bright young people from middle class as well as lower income backgrounds are being shut out from professional jobs, the Rt. Hon. Alan Milburn MP, Chair of the Fair Access to the Professions Panel, said today.

Unleashing Aspiration - The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions concludes that without action to address Britain's ‘closed shop’ mentality, tomorrow’s generation of talented young people will miss out on a new wave of social mobility.

Up to seven million more professionals are likely to be needed in Britain by 2020 as the global economy expands. A new focus is therefore needed, the report says, to unleash aspiration in all children and make social mobility the number one social policy priority for this and future governments.

Over 80 recommendations are in the final report including:

Panel Chair, The Rt. Hon. Alan Milburn MP, said:

“There is a chasm between where we are and where we need to be if Britain is to realise the social and economic benefits of huge potential growth in professional employment. We need a new recognition: that a closed shop mentality in our country means that too many people from middle income as well as low income families encounter doors that are shut to their talents. And we need a new focus: unleashing aspiration, not just beating poverty.

“The Report recommends how the professions, the government and others can unleash the pent-up aspiration that exists in the young people of our country. Not everyone can be a doctor or a lawyer – and not everyone will want to be – but those with ability and aptitude need a fair crack of the whip to realise their aspirations. And in more disadvantaged communities we need to systematically raise the aspirations of those youngsters and families who simply do not believe they will ever progress.

“It's not that many young people do not have aspirations. It is that they are blocked. It is not that they do not have talent. To coin a phrase, Britain's got talent – lots of it.  It is not ability that is unevenly distributed in our society. It is opportunity. In this sense the professions simply reflect a wider problem in British society: a governing assumption in too many of our institutions that progress can be achieved on the basis of a limited pool of talent having access to a limited set of opportunities. Such elitism is unjust socially. And it can no longer work economically.”

The Panel found that many of Britain's professions have become more socially exclusive over the past few decades. As a consequence, bright people from all backgrounds are facing not only financial obstacles, but also social and cultural barriers – despite having the aspiration and talent required for a professional career.

Annex A The Report's key findings include

Key recommendations include

Social Mobility




Flexible Professions

Notes to editors

  1. The Panel on Fair Access to the Professions was announced in January as part of the Government's New Opportunities White Paper, outlining the Government's strategy to improve social mobility.
  2. The Panel was commissioned by the Prime Minister to review the processes and structures that govern recruitment into the professions, and make recommendations to both the Government and the Professions on action that will improve access for all.
  3. The Panel consists of eighteen representatives from the Professions, (including the media, law, business and finance, architecture, politics, and medicine), and two experts on social mobility, with the Rt. Hon. Alan Milburn MP as Chair. The Panel was supported by a Secretariat drawn from the Cabinet Office.
  4. The Panel's work did not look at some of the wider drivers of social mobility as covered elsewhere in the New Opportunities White Paper, and did not look at employment law, illegal discrimination, or wider issues of equality such as race or gender.
  5. To access a copy of Unleashing Aspiration - the Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, and for more information, visit

For more information contact Nadine Smith, Kirsteen Rowlands or Shivanee Chady on 0207 276 3472/1203/5539.

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