Universities need to share ideas on how to help poorer pupils

Nicola Dandridge.  Photo: David Parry/PA Wire
Nicola Dandridge. Photo: David Parry/PA Wire
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A NEW report has called on universities to work in local partnerships with schools and colleges to get more pupils from deprived backgrounds into higher education.

The Universities UK’s Social Mobility Advisory Group has also called for the creation of an employers forum to allow academics and business to work together to boost the job prospects of those from poorer homes.

It calls for the creation of an online exchange for universities to share what works in improving social mobility.

The report also recommends that universities assess data on how students from deprived backgrounds perform at university and what jobs they go into.

The advisory group brought together universities, employers, schools, colleges and education charities. The group looked at ways of improving education and career outcomes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, from black, minority and ethnic groups, and for disabled students.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of UUK who chaired the advisory group, said: “The evidence provides a stark reminder of the work that still needs to be done to improve social mobility.

“Disadvantage is deeply entrenched in our society, and there are no quick and easy answers.” She said the report found universities needed to do more evaluation and have more focus on advice to students, and better collaboration with schools employers,and the government.

“The report recommends that universities should work even more closely with schools and colleges in a range of ways, given the strong link between a student’s prior attainment at school, and their outcomes at and beyond university,” she said.

“These university and school partnerships have to reflect the circumstances of local schools and communities, the needs of students, and the missions and expertise of the universities.

“Working with employers is also a priority. It is no good for a student to graduate with flying colours if they cannot then get a job. The report found that while the economic and social position of a student’s family has the greatest impact on their access to university and their success while they are there, the geographical location of where they live is also increasingly being recognised.”

It also recommends creating a network involving universities, schools, colleges and education charities to support attainment among deprived students in schools and the development of an employers forum. This will be led by Gaenor Bagley, head of people, community and sustainability at PwC.

She said: “The report shows that there are a number of barriers to social mobility which can only be knocked down if businesses work together with universities, schools and government.”

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said: “We are seeing record numbers of disadvantaged young people going to university... But, as this report makes clear, there is still more to do. That is why I welcome this important piece of work from UUK and also why we are legislating for a new transparency duty which will place a clear requirement on all universities to release more information about their admissions process and real incentives on all institutions to go further and faster to promote social mobility.””