University of Sunderland Vice Chancellor to advise Government on social mobility in higher education

Shirley Atkinson, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sunderland/University of Sunderland.
Shirley Atkinson, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sunderland/University of Sunderland.

University of Sunderland Vice Chancellor Shirley Atkinson is a member of the new Social Mobility Advisory Group, it was announced yesterday.

The Social Mobility Advisory Group, launched by Universities UK (UUK), 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.

University of Sunderland Vice Chancellor Ms Atkinson said: “I am very pleased indeed to join the Social Mobility Advisory Group and offer our experience in, and support for social mobility. We have been one of the leaders in widening participation in higher education for more than 20 years.

“During that time we have improved and enhanced our work in this area, from widening access generally to supporting specific groups, such as looked after young people.

“Today, we are working hard to improve social capital for widening access students and graduates, ensuring they have every opportunity to achieve their goals. It is essential that we support these students throughout their time with us.”

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.

They will consider the current evidence, explore what universities in England are doing that works, address what more could be done and 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.

The Social Mobility Advisory Group will also look at the entire student journey, from aspirations at school, to applying to university, through to career progression once students graduate.

Ms 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 per cent more students from disadvantaged backgrounds at university compared to 10 years ago.

 “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”

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