UCU accuses government of failing on social mobility

UCU-logoTwo decades of government efforts to improve social mobility have failed to deliver enough progress in reducing the gap between Britain’s “haves and have nots”, warns a new report released today.

Commenting on the Social Mobility Commission’s report, the UCU said it was right to highlight the role further education colleges played in educating students from disadvantaged backgrounds, but warned that colleges needed more investment to improve students’ skills, especially post-Brexit.

The union said that students should be allowed to apply to universities after they got their results to help improve access. This follows a report that revealed that the grades of the most able students from disadvantaged backgrounds were most likely to be underestimated.

It added that universities could not see getting more disadvantaged students through their doors as a measure of success in itself, and that they needed to provide more support for students throughout their time at university.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “The opportunity to improve social mobility is provided on a plate through our further education colleges, which, as the report says, are used by up to 80% of disadvantaged students before the age of 24.

“But successive governments have failed our colleges, and the students that rely on them, seeing them as easy targets for cuts and the austerity agenda. Colleges must be given the chance to flourish and deliver for people who want to get on in life, especially as we seek to improve people’s skills post-Brexit.

“Our university system remains socially stratified and this report says it would take 80 years at the current rate of progress for disadvantaged students to catch up their better off peers. A fairer universities admission system based on actual grades, rather than predicted ones, would go a long way to addressing inequality of access.

“However, simply getting disadvantaged students through a university’s door is not a measure of success. The report highlights the higher drop-out rate among poorer students and we need more effective action on supporting students through their degree courses, and helping them get the sort of extra-curricular experiences which are key to getting graduate jobs.”

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