Steep decline in recruits from Oxbridge and Russell Group Universities as management consultancies become more accessible

– Survey conducted in 2019 shows significant decrease in number of consultants recruited from Oxbridge and Russell Group universities[1]

– Sociable working hours, continuous personal development as well as competitive salaries vital to attract future talent according to young consultants[2]

– Consulting sector growth estimated at 5.7% last year with highest growth rates in Retail, Leisure and Transport sectors[3]

– Positive outlook for 2019 with 9/10 consultants expecting activity to increase driven by projects relating to Brexit and a changing business environment[4][5]

Management Consultancies are recruiting significantly less graduates from Oxbridge and Russell Group universities according to a new independent survey conducted for the Management Consultancies Association, the representative body for the consulting industry in the UK. In the survey, conducted this year, only 4% of young consultants were educated at Oxbridge whilst 54% came from Russell Group universities as leading firms seek to diversify their talent pool and compete with tech giants for the best skilled young people. Over the past 8 years the number of young consultants attending Russell Group universities has dropped by a fifth and the number attending Oxbridge has dropped 9 percentage points.  The survey, conducted by the market research agency Savanta, found that the industry is becoming more accessible than ever to graduates from all backgrounds.

The skills most in demand from firms for new recruits are data science, technological expertise and analytical and digital skills which are all vital to meet growing client demand for digital and technology focused advisory[6]. Three quarters of respondents believed the consulting industry is better than most sectors at attracting high quality talent, but young consultants said firms needed to offer sociable hours of work and better work life balance, continued professional development as well as competitive salaries to attract the best talent[7].

The MCA commissioned the market research agency Savanta to conduct a member survey on its behalf to identify the key trends, challenges and opportunities facing the consulting industry. Over 328 management consultants participated in the survey from firms of all sizes and specialisms and at all levels from Heads of Consulting to Junior Consultants in January 2019. Roughly two thirds of respondents worked for larger and medium sized firms whilst one third of participants came from SMEs.

2018 was a positive year for the industry according to the study, with 90% of consultants saying their business performance had met or exceed expectations and members estimating their consulting activity grew by 5.7% over last 12 months[8]. The two highest growth sectors included Retail and Leisure and Transport. Business transformation, change management and digital and technology consulting were the largest service areas that most consultants were working in according to the report[9]. The outlook for the industry is positive in 2019 with 9/10 consultants anticipating that their organisation’s consulting activity will increase in the next 12 to 24 months and over a quarter of members believing it will increase greatly. Over 70% of consultants however believe that a general slowdown in the UK economy will impact the industry. Survey respondents noted how clients have been delaying and even cancelling projects as a direct result of Brexit uncertainty with over half of consultants (60%) saying clients have been delaying projects due to Brexit uncertainty and almost a third of consultants (31%) believe clients have been cancelling projects due to Brexit.

Members predict that increased consulting activity will be driven by projects relating to the impact of Brexit and a changing business environment with growth driven by client demand in three key sectors: Digital and Technology, Government and the Public Sector and Financial Services. Larger firms believe they will see more activity in Financial Services and Government and Public sector whereas SMEs are more positive about outlook for consulting in the Manufacturing and Retail and Leisure sectors in the same period.

In terms of future trends likely to have most impact on the industry, consultants said AI, Automation and Cyber security were like to have the most profound impact with the increasing use of these technologies growing across the sector and demanded by businesses in the UK[10]. The biggest internal challenges for firms are increased requirements for flexible working and competing with non-consulting industries for the best talent[11].

Tamzen Isacsson, Chief Executive of the Management Consultancies Association said

“Consultants are highly valued by clients across the UK for bringing in the smartest and best digital talent and helping to transform businesses, deliver tangible results and get better outcomes for firms. Developing top talent is not the privilege of one educational institution and this survey shows entrance to leading management consultancy firms is becoming more accessible than ever. The outlook for the consulting sector is positive this year with firms expecting an uplift in due to Brexit related activity and the constant demand for digital and tech advisory.”

Ryan Wiseman, Technology Consultant at Deloitte and member of the Young MCA said

“When I left school, I was adamant that university was not the correct route for me, although technology was always a big interest of mine. When I began my search for opportunities within technology that did not require a degree, I was overwhelmed by the number of consulting firms, like Deloitte, that offered school leaver roles. “The BrightStart apprenticeship scheme at Deloitte has enabled me to learn on the job and gain first-hand, invaluable client experience. I’m also studying towards a degree in Digital Innovation, alongside my day-to-day role. I’ve found this experience so rewarding, as I’m gaining a qualification whilst also in a full-time client facing role.”

Luke Cummings, Senior Consultant at Savanta, said

“The story this research tells is of an industry broadening It’s horizons in order to attract and retain some of the best global talent. Routes into consulting are widening and diversifying, illustrated by a significant decline in Russell Group and Oxbridge graduates. The study reveals an industry in good health, with robust growth predications for the future. However, Brexit is a concern for management consultants, with the impact of a ‘no deal’ Brexit estimated to have an overwhelmingly negative impact on the wider UK economy.”


The MCA member survey was conducted in January 2019 by the independent research company Savanta on behalf of the MCA. A copy will be available for journalists later this week

View survey

To download graphics use this link

Media Contact:

Jasmine Knight

Communications Executive

Management Consultancies Association


Tel: 0207 645 7958

The Management Consultancies Association (MCA):

The MCA is the representative body for the UK’s leading management consulting firms. For over 60 years, the MCA has been the voice of the consulting industry, promoting the value of consulting to business, the public sector, media commentators and the general public. The MCA’s mission is to promote the value of management consultancy for the economy and society as a whole. The MCA’s member companies comprise over 60% of the UK consulting industry, employ around 45,000 consultants and work with over 90 of the top FTSE 100 companies and almost all parts of the public sector. The UK consulting industry is amongst the best in the world and a vital part of the business landscape. To see full list of current MCA members see link –

Compliance with the MCA’s tough entry criteria and adherence to the principles of Consulting Excellence means that MCA member companies are widely acknowledged to provide high quality services to their clients. Many of their achievements are recognised in the annual MCA Awards.


Base: All respondents with 0-5 years’ experience (205) – Q: Which university did you attend during your undergraduate degree? Attending Russell Group: 2011 (73%); 2016 (68%); 2018 (54%). Attending Oxbridge 2011 (13%); 2016 (6%); 2018 (4%).

2Base: All respondents with 0-5 years’ experience (205) – Q: What could consultancy firms offer in order to attract the best talent (ranking question, top 3 most commonly selected elements). Competitive salary (66%); Sociable hours of work and better work life balance (42%); Training and development (40%).

3Base: All respondents (328) – Q: To what extent do you estimate your organisation’s consulting activity grew or contracted over the past 12 months? Mean average: 5.71%

4Base: All respondents (312) – Q: To what extent do you expect your organisation’s overall consulting activity to increase or decrease in the next 12-24 months?

5Base: All respondents (289)- Q: What do you believe to be the main factors attributing to your organisation’s growth in 2018? (coded from open-end responses)

6Base (289) – Q: Are there any specific skills you believe are going to become increasingly important to management consultants in the next 5 years? (coded open-end question)

7Base (318) – Q: Compared to other industries, how good would you say the management consulting industry is attracting high quality talent? Better than most industries (76%)

8Base (315) – Q: Thinking about your organisation’s overall business performance and amount of consulting services provided over the past 12 months, to what extent did it meet expectations? Exceeded or met expectations (91%)

9Base (328) – Q: Which of these service areas do you currently consult on?

10 Base (317) – Q: Which of the following digital topics and trends do you see as having a significant impact on management consulting firms over the next 12-24 months? AI (68%); Automation (67%); Cyber security (67%)

11Base (303) – Q: Which of the following internal topics and trends do you see as having a significant impact on management consulting firms in the next 12-24 months? Increasing requirement for flexible/remote working (71%); Competing with non-consulting industries on the acquisition and retention of the best talent (71%)

About Savanta

Savanta provides the intelligence that underpins better decision making.

– Data Collection & Analysis: We support all of your fieldwork needs, through access to audiences, scripting and survey design, as well as bespoke data outputs and advanced analytics.

– Research Consulting: We turn our expertise to any issue, of any size, and uncover the perspectives and insights that fuel commercial impact

– Intelligent Products:  MarketVue and BrandVue give you a deeper understanding of your brand, your customers and the opportunities in your market

With five global offices and 200 staff, we bring the benefits of scale.  But with us, it’s personal.  Our specialist Practices with their deep expertise and nimble teams built around individual clients make the Savanta experience feel more like working with a smaller, ‘boutique’ agency.

Learn more at