What if access to higher education was entirely ‘fair’, and more evenly split across social classes? David Morris has made a rough model of a ‘fair’ system to uniquely illustrate some of the challenges for fairer and wider access to university.
Geoff Layer, Vice Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton reviews Alan Milburn’s latest report in to the social mobility ‘state of the nation’, published last week. Depressed at the rhetoric inside the report and how the sector has received it, Geoff calls for a more realistic view about what higher education already does to drive social mobility, and an honest appraisal of what really works drive better outcomes.
Michael Brown, the former Vice Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University reflects on his new report: ‘Higher Education as a tool of social mobility: Reforming the delivery of HE and measuring professional graduate output success’. Michael looks at the problem with purely focusing on ‘input’ measures rather than ‘output’ and suggests new ways to measure the positive social mobility outcomes in the sector. As well as looking ahead to the future, Michael reflects on the sector’s reaction to these ideas and the debate surrounding the report.
Despite widespread recognition that higher levels of education are essential for countries to compete, and the fact that the number of people in higher education is growing, access to higher education continues to be skewed according to socio-economic status. Mary Stuart takes a look at some of the current issues with policies on ‘access’ and unpicks how and why universities should play a role in social mobility.
There is little doubt that we have a problem or two in postgraduate policy. Fifty vice chancellors recently wrote to the Observer to say so. BIS ministers have been asking for imaginative suggestions and are clear that they are very open to considering any new or ingenious ideas. Well here’s one: don’t do anything (or at least don’t do anything rash).
Alan Milburn’s recent report into social mobility and higher education says little that is really controversial or particularly surprising. He has outlined the data that shows up the unequal admissions across universities and surveyed the policies that have aimed to address it – from the National Scholarship Programme to Aimhigher. But his central question too easily repeats the widespread assertion that social mobility in the UK has at best stalled or at worst is in decline. And that this has largely happened since the 1990s. But he is at least partly wrong.
‘Social mobility’ is now the central trope in the public discussion of university tuition fees and the guiding principle of HE policy. Given that social mobility is only a possible side effect of a university education not its primary purpose; we are entitled to ask how we arrived at this confusing situation in which the tail seems to be wagging the dog.