Enhanced participation in higher education alone does not drive social mobility

Improvements to participation in higher education have not been coupled with equal improvements in social mobility. Socioeconomic disadvantage continues to be the most significant driver of inequality in terms of outcome following university.

Even after completing the same degrees from the same universities graduates from wealthier family backgrounds earn significantly more than graduates from poorer backgrounds.

Graduates from almost all BME groups are still significantly less likely than white graduates to go into employment after graduation, with the gaps in the proportions going onto professional employment even increasing over time.

Graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to go into professional jobs, and if they do they are likely to be paid less.

Previously ‘inputs’ – the number of students admitted from poorer backgrounds has been a misleading social mobility measurement. Universities must now concentrate on student outcomes – how many poorer students gain employment after graduation.

To push forward social mobility institutions need to monitor their admissions, retention, attainment, postgraduate study and employment data. Particularly in relation ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender and disability. Gaps can then be identified and addressed.

For example many students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are not effectively  engaged, particularly with formal, in-person support, preferring to draw on informal online resources for advice. Universities need to develop new processes that engage students in employability that will positively impact outcomes.

Potentially is an online platform that can help raise attainment, student outcomes and graduate employability. On the student side it engages students in developing, evidencing and articulating their graduate attributes. On the university administrator side, the platform enables career staff to personalise their services to large student numbers.

With Potential engaging and tracking students progress is revolutionised. Previously students have been left behind in terms of developing the skills needed for employability. Students need to be equipped to succeed in life once they leave university.


About the author

Miriam Carey

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