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Social mobility in higher education is about more than just access to university – launch of new Social Mobility Advisory Group

Graduation from above
Universities UK (UUK) announced today the launch of a new group to provide advice to the government and support for English universities to improve access and long-term success for under-represented groups in higher education.

The new Social Mobility Advisory Group, which was set up following an invitation from the government, will publish a report in the summer which will be given to the Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson MP.

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.

The group, to be chaired by the Chief Executive of Universities UK Nicola Dandridge, will include representation from vice-chancellors, schools, colleges, government, employers and widening participation practitioners. The group will consider the current evidence, explore what universities in England are doing that works, and address what more could be done.

In its work, the group will look at the entire student journey, from aspirations at school, to the process of applying to university, through to career progression once students graduate. The group will also consider the options available for people later in life, such as for those who need to develop their skills as their job changes or those who were unable to attend university when they were younger.

Commenting on the launch of the group, Nicola Dandridge said: “Universities are committed to making higher education available to anyone who can benefit, regardless of their background. This has long been a priority for universities who invest considerable resource in addressing disadvantage. There are now 40% 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.

“I am pleased that Universities UK has been invited to lead on what is a crucially important area for individuals, society and the economy.

“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.”


Membership of the Social Mobility Advisory Group will include:

  • Nicola Dandridge (advisory group chair), Chief Executive, Universities UK
  • Shirley Atkinson, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Sunderland
  • Gaenor Bagley, Head of People, Community and Sustainability, PwC
  • Anne-Marie Canning, Director of Widening Participation (Student Lifecycle), King's College London
  • Professor Joy Carter, Chair of GuildHE and Vice-Chancellor, University of Winchester
  • Charlotte DuBern, Deputy Director of Higher Education, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
  • Megan Dunn, President, National Union of Students
  • Professor Les Ebdon, Director, Office for Fair Access
  • Allan Foulds, President, Association of School and College Leaders
  • Nicholas Glossop, Head of Inclusion and Learning Support, BPP University
  • Gerry Godley, Principal and Managing Director, Leeds College of Music
  • Peter Horrocks, Vice-Chancellor, The Open University
  • Omar Khan, Director, The Runnymede Trust
  • Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Wolverhampton
  • Gary Loke, Head of Policy, Equality Challenge Unit
  • Nona McDuff, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Kingston University and Chair of the Higher Education Race Action Group
  • Chris Millward, Director  (Policy), Higher Education Funding Council for England
  • Mike Nicholson, Chair of the Higher Education Liaison Officers Association, and Director of Student Recruitment and Admissions, University of Bath
  • Professor Sir Steve Smith, Chair of UCAS, and Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Exeter
  • Professor John Storan, Director of Continuum, Centre for Widening Participation Policy Studies, University of East London
  • Professor Mary Stuart, Vice-Chancellor, University of Lincoln
  • John Widdowson, Principal and Chief Executive of New College Durham, and President of the Association of Colleges
The group will also include representation from the Department for Education.

Key Contacts

Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

Media Relations Manager
Universities UK

Clara Plackett

Clara Plackett

Press and Social Media Officer
Universities UK

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