The Changing (?) Sociology of the Senior Civil Service – what do you know?


I am currently (re)exploring some issues around the nature of the British “administrative elite” – which, for reasons I’ll explain in a later publication, I am restricting to mainly the Senior Civil Service (SCS) for the moment.

One central issue is how far the ‘sociology’ of the SCS has really changed. The official story goes something like this:

‘It is true we used to have an SCS that was mainly white, male, private school and Oxbridge educated who had entered the Civil Service directly from University, into the Fast Stream.

Today however the SCS is much more diverse, has more women, ethnic minorities, state schooled and drawn from a much wider range of Universities. Alongside the Fast Streamers there are also significant numbers of direct entrants drawn from the private sector and other parts of the public sector, many with professional qualifications in finance, personnel, purchasing and other fields.’

Whilst the first part of this story is certainly true, and some of the second, it is far from obvious that there has been a real ‘qualitative’ change in the SCS, or especially in the so-called “Top 200”. In January 2010 the Cabinet Office committed to doing an analysis of the ‘Top 200’, but that doesn’t seem to have happened, or if it did to have seen the light of day.

So, dear readers of Whitehall Watch – can you help to prise open the ‘black box’ and provide evidence and insight about what really has, and hasn’t, changed in the ‘sociology of the SCS’. Answers on a comment to…….

Or – as with my previous appeal – if you have insights you want to share but remain anonymous I will of course protect my sources. You can email me on colin.talbot@mbs.ac.uk

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About Colin Talbot

Professor of Government at the University of Manchester, England.
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2 Responses to The Changing (?) Sociology of the Senior Civil Service – what do you know?

  1. Ruth Dixon says:

    There’s a list of senior British civil servants 1900-2012 here which might be useful (Permanent Secretaries, Second Permanent Secretaries, etc) http://www.gulabin.com/

  2. sevillista says:

    Milburn reported on it in May, though a bit unclear if Top 200 or new SCS entrants and not sourced. FOI them for what data on social background of civil servants they hold?

    https://update.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/resources/IR_FairAccess_acc2.pdf

    (page 59/60)

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