Universities UK has announced the launch of a new social mobility group that will advise Jo Johnson and David Cameron on improving access to higher education and ensuring that what young people study, and where, “reflects their ambitions and aspirations”.
The Social Mobility Advisory Group will be chaired by Nicola Dandridge, the UUK chief executive, and will include a number of vice-chancellors and other senior sector figures such as National Union of Students president Megan Dunn and Office for Fair Access director Les Ebdon.
The group will also include Charlotte DuBern, deputy director of higher education in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, as well as representatives from schools, colleges and widening participation practitioners.
The group will publish a report in the summer on ways to improve access and long-term success for under-represented groups in higher education.
The document will be presented to Mr Johnson, the universities and science minister, who invited UUK to form the group last year.
“Recommendations in the report will also be fed back to the Prime Minister David Cameron, following his announcement last year of a series of 2020 goals to improve social mobility in a number of areas of society, including universities, the armed forces and the police,” said UUK.
The government’s higher education Green Paper pledged progress towards a target set by Mr Cameron to double the proportion of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education from 13.6 per cent in 2009 to 28 per cent in 2020.
Mr Johnson said: “As a One Nation government we want everyone with the talent and potential to be able to access higher education. With record numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds securing places at university this year we are making real progress – but there is still much to do.
“I’m delighted that we have such a strong group of experts with a breadth of knowledge and experience to advise on how we can achieve the Prime Minister’s ambitions to improve social mobility in universities and I look forward to working with them over the coming months.”
Ms Dandridge said: “There are now 40 per cent more students from disadvantaged backgrounds at university compared to 10 years ago. However, there is still much more that we can and must do.
“Social mobility in higher education is about more than just access to university. It is about fulfilling a person’s potential in ensuring not only that all those who can benefit from university apply, but that they also stay on, get a good degree and progress well in their chosen career path.”
She added: “Student decisions about what to study and where must reflect their ambitions and aspirations, and not their social background or where they live. It is important that their decisions take into account the full diversity of our universities and the range of courses on offer. Social mobility is about opening minds, not narrowing choices.”