Responding to the plan, Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "All universities are committed to widening participation and ensuring that everyone with the potential to succeed at university is given the right support and opportunity.
"We welcome the aims of this social mobility action plan and the recognition that there are no quick and easy solutions to this challenge. Universities have made considerable progress in widening access and supporting progression in recent years, but there is still more to do. We welcome also the support for Universities UK's proposed evidence and impact exchange which, once set up, will allow universities to better target their widening access work and support students, based on what 'works'. For this to succeed, the planned exchange will need to be independent.
"The 2016 report from Universities UK's social mobility advisory group recommended 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.
"For some areas of the country, young people are much less likely to go to university than in other areas. For any response to make a difference in the long term, it will need to reflect the individual university's location and mission, as well as the individual circumstances of each student. More work also needs to be done to reverse the worrying decline in the numbers of part-time and mature students."
The government's new strategy – Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential: A plan for improving social mobility through education – is available to download from the Department for Education website
The 2016 Social Mobility Advisory Group final report made a series of recommendations for universities, schools, colleges and employers to improve social mobility in higher education in England. The report reflected the work of an advisory group which 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. To see the recommendations in full, see the media release.