University group calls for rethink on social mobility

In the University Alliance response to the Milburn review on Social Mobility and Child Poverty, the Chair, Professor Janet Beer, said,

“It is extremely important to be clear that widening access to higher education is not about getting a certain group of people into a select group of universities. There is extraordinary depth and breadth in UK higher education that should be celebrated and is missed if policies focus too narrowly on one part of the sector.

“Access to university is still greatly skewed in favour of the more privileged. Through opening doors to higher education and breaking barriers into meaningful employment universities are having a positive impact on social mobility and, in turn, child poverty.

“However, the strong correlation between background and educational attainment means that the student number controls proposed by government have the potential to affect social mobility negatively.  We will see the redistribution of public investment towards high achieving, high social class students because their courses will be publicly resourced at £9,000 per student whilst other universities face having 8% of numbers taken away year on year unless they reduce their average fee to £7,500. The controls will also reduce choice and access to well-resourced courses for the majority of students from lower socio-economic groups.”

“This will hit those students aspiring to attend the universities responsible for recent advances in widening participation and employment prospects for their graduates. Ensuring that capable young people and those mature learners looking for new opportunities later in life, can aspire to and gain access to the professions is a fundamental aspect of the social mobility agenda and crucial for economic growth. This is an area of strength and focus for Alliance universities with up to 70% of our courses professionally accredited and up to 69% of students coming from lower income or under-represented backgrounds.”



Notes to editors

  1. Media contacts – Sam Jones 07767673982, or Andrew Henry on 07833 236629.
  2. The University Alliance response to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty review can be found here.  It includes case studies of innovative and creative initiatives at Alliance universities – often delivered in partnership with other universities, colleges, businesses and employers – aimed at widening access and supporting the transition into employment.
  3. Our response to the higher education white paper can be found here.
  4. Professor Janet Beer is Chair of University Alliance and Vice Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University. Please contact Sam Jones on 07767673982 or Andrew Henry on 07833 236629 if you would like to arrange an interview with Professor Beer.


Further reading