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Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter

Learn about national and regional social mobility challenges from leading University of Exeter expert

The stark social mobility challenges facing the South West – and the UK – will be the focus of an event led by a leading expert on the issue.

Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter, will discuss what his research shows about how to improve people’s lives in the post pandemic world.

Professor Elliot Major’s studies shows in the UK society fails basic fairness tests, with inequalities so extreme those on the lower rungs of the economic or social ladder face an impossible task in forging a decent life, let alone climbing the ladder. Education and employment inequalities have widened during the pandemic

Professor Elliot Major argues that efforts to improve social mobility must be made at a local and regional level alongside national initiatives.

Professor Elliot Major said: “The current crisis has brought immense challenges, but there are still opportunities to develop national and regional and university policies to improve prospects for those from less advantaged backgrounds.

“I hope as many people as possible will join this event, where people can learn more about the issues and solutions.”

The event, on February 2, will be chaired by the University of Exeter's Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Professor Lisa Roberts. There will be an opportunity to ask questions following the presentation.

Professor Roberts said: “The University of Exeter is extremely proud to have founded the UK’s first Centre for Social Mobility in 2018, and to have appointed Lee Elliot Major as the UK’s first Professor of Social Mobility. A higher education experience can transform lives, and I am looking forward to hosting this important discussion and considering what more we can be doing as a University and as a society to tackle inequality.”

Professor Elliot Major was formerly Chief Executive of the Sutton Trust and remains a prominent voice on key national education policy debates. He was the first in his family to go to university, and was awarded an OBE in 2019.

His recent book What Do We Know and What Should We Do About Social Mobility? was cited by the Financial Times as the “definitive guide to social mobility”.

Professor Elliot Major’s current UKRI-funded research, in collaboration with academics at the London School of Economics, assesses the extent of educational and economic inequalities during the pandemic. The research team have found last year nearly three quarters of private school pupils benefitted from full school days during lockdown, nearly double the proportion of state school pupils (39 percent). Parents in the highest fifth of incomes were over four times as likely to supplement their children’s learning, with private tuition than parents the lowest fifth of incomes (15.7 percent compared with 3.8 percent).

Professor Elliot Major is also leading research to identify social mobility barriers in the South West. A total of 40 per cent of disadvantaged pupils in the region passed English and maths at GSCE in 2019, down from 41 per cent in 2017, the lowest for any part of England . Just 18 per cent of disadvantaged children in the South West enter higher education by age 19 –  the equal lowest for any region. West Somerset has lowest social mobility ranking of all local authority districts in England while Devon has the second lowest level of absolute upward occupational mobility of all major areas in England and Wales.

Professor Elliot Major will show how the Government’s “levelling up” agenda needs to look to the South West as well as to the north, and how despite the pandemic there are many opportunities to improve social mobility.

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Date: 29 January 2021

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