81% say universities should be graded on Social Mobility

Universities should be measured on the impact they have on social mobility, according to research that we have carried out at the Social Mobility Pledge.


It shows over 80% of the public would back the move and an even greater proportion of younger people - 87% of under 24s.


Amid growing calls for universities to do more to attract students from disadvantaged backgrounds, our poll shows young people, in particular, want to see more accountability from universities and transparency over the impact they have on improving life chances and removing barriers to getting on.


The poll of 2,000 people asked whether a university's performance on improving social mobility should be part of how their success is measured?


Nationally, 81% agreed that it should, rising to 83% among female respondents and 87% of those aged 18-24. 


Meanwhile 86% of single adults with dependents below the age of 18 also felt universities should be graded on social mobility impact. 


The Social Mobility Pledge initiative was founded by the former Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, to encourage employers to play a bigger role in challenging and changing the UK’s poor record on social mobility. 


Over 220 organisations have signed up to the Pledge. Universities are well represented, with Aston, Nottingham Trent, London South Bank and York St John universities all on board. Joining them are the universities of Bristol, Chester, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sunderland, Warwick and Sussex, as well as Kings College London.


Other companies to have signed up include BP, Sainsbury’s, True Potential, WH Smith, Greggs, Morrisons, National Grid, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Vodafone, ITV and BT.


In total, more than two million employees are now covered by the Pledge since it was launched just a year ago in Parliament in March 2018. 


Justine Greening MP said: “Universities’ role in society and the impact they can have on social mobility extends way beyond purely academic and employment measurements. What our research overwhelmingly shows is that people, especially students themselves, want to know how effective universities are at changing life trajectories and opportunities, not simply hitting quotas for the sake of it.   


“Basically, people across our country rightly have an expectation that universities are open to students irrespective of their background – yet our research shows three quarters of people believe elite universities are not doing enough to recruit students from less well-off backgrounds – but also about what happens once students are there.


“Nottingham Trent is a great example of a university that understands the importance of this. They are using technology to track signals often missed by the human eye and to then generate an intervention in good time. The overall effect is improved engagement, which is a key factor in higher levels of social mobility.”

Lewis Grice