The group will look at the entire student journey, from aspirations at school, to career progression once students graduate.

Vice-Chancellor joins new Social Mobility Advisory Group

Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter, will play a key role in new high profile advisory group aimed at improving social mobility within the higher education sector.

Universities UK (UUK) has today announced the launch of the new group, which will 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 will publish a report in the summer which will be given to the Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson MP, after the Minister 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.

Sir Steve said: “I am delighted to be involved in this important work being led by Universities UK. It represents a timely opportunity for universities including Exeter to restate our commitment to ensuring that everybody, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to fulfil their potential and meet their goals and aspirations.”

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.”

Date: 21 January 2016