There are more foreigners than Oxbridge grads at the top of FTSE 100 companies

And UK plc is not as educationally elitist as the US, Germany or France.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 06 Oct 2015

It goes without saying that going to Oxford or Cambridge University will give you a leg up in life, so it’s not surprising that nearly a quarter (24%) of FTSE 100 chief executives were educated there. But it turns out UK plc is actually less educationally elitist than some of its biggest rivals, especially when you consider half of the current Tory cabinet went to Oxford or Cambridge.

In the top 100 companies in the US Fortune 500, 28% of bosses went to an Ivy League institution, while in France half of SF 120 CEOs went to one of four Grande Écoles. Germany doesn’t have elite universities per se, but 38% of DAX 30 and MDAX 50 leaders have a PhD, according to analysis by executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles.

Further education is very much the route to the top in France too, with a whopping 92% of CEOs holding a post-graduate degree of some description. Even though 65% of FTSE 100 bosses have a masters degree or higher, UK plc is still the least educated of the lot.

On the other hand, Britain is the most international of the lot (perhaps Theresa May’s didn’t get the memo before her anti-immigration speech at the Tory party conference today). More than a third (35%) are foreign nationals, compared to just 7% in the US, 8% in France and 17% in Germany.

Not surprising then that FTSE CEOs have the most international experience too – 41% have spent at least five years abroad, averaging 15 years outside the UK. Around a third of French and German bosses have overseas experience, but just 19% of American leaders do, despite many of their biggest companies being global powerhouses.

American bosses are also older, with an average age of 59, compared to 56 in France and Germany and 54 in the UK. The US does the best for women at the top, though, with a grand total of nine CEOs. In case it needed pointing out, female bosses are still vanishingly rare across the board - RTL Group co-CEO Anke Schäferkordt is the only one in Germany, for example. Sigh.

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