His father was a Viennese émigré who came to Britain in 1938. Lampl grew up in Barnsley, Yorkshire, and as the family moved to Surrey when he was 11 he was educated at Reigate Grammar School and Pate's (Cheltenham) Grammar School. He studied at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and the London Business School.
Lampl worked outside Britain for over twenty years, initially as a management consultant with The Boston Consulting Group in Boston, Massachusetts, Paris and Munich and then as an executive at International Paper, the world's largest paper and forest products company, where he spent six years in senior management positions. In 1983 he set up the Sutton Company, a private equity firm with offices in New York City, London and Munich, and by the mid-1990s had become extremely wealthy.
On his return from America, Lampl was appalled to discover that nowadays "a kid like me had little chance of making it to Oxbridge", noting that his old grammar school was now "all fee-paying"  and his old Oxford college "used to have lots of ordinary Welsh kids, but they're not coming through any more."
His first intervention was the creation of the Oxford Summer School, which gave bright 17-year-olds (from families where no one has been to university) the opportunity to spend a week at Oxford living in college, going to seminars and "hanging out with students who are already there." The scheme has since been rolled out to eleven other top universities.
Lampl founded the Sutton Trust in 1997 "to improve educational opportunities for young people from non-privileged backgrounds and increase social mobility." The trust funds a variety of research, campaigning and philanthropical projects, including the "Open Access" programme which funded 70% of places at the academically selective Belvedere School in Liverpool, a scheme which Lampl says the state should eventually expand to 100 or 200 independent day schools who would like to provide "needs-blind" admissions. In this model:
I agree that there will be selection. You are not increasing selection as those [independent] schools are already selective, you are just democratising selection. At present well-off people have the opportunity to opt out of the state sector into what are by and large academically the best schools in the country.... when I was at school you could go to the best academic school in this country for free and that is the way it should be.
Lampl is also chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation which was set up in 2011  by the Sutton Trust with support from Impetus Trust. It was funded by an endowment of £135 million from Government, to improve the performance of the poorest children in the worst performing schools.
He has Honorary Doctorates from: Birmingham, Bristol, Brunel, City University (London), College of Law, Durham, Exeter, Imperial College (London), Nottingham, Open University, St Andrews. And Honorary Fellowships from: Birkbeck College (London), Corpus Christi College (Oxford), Institute of Education, London Business School, London School of Economics.
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