The University of Bedfordshire has been announced as one of England’s Top 25 universities to have successfully contributed to an increase in social mobility amongst disadvantaged young people in England, according to a new report published by the Sutton Trust.
Bedfordshire also rates highest in the East of England for ‘access to education’ and is in the Top 10 of this category for the whole country – one of only two universities situated outside of London.
Conducted in partnership with the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the Department for Education, the Sutton Trust’s ‘Universities and Social Mobility’ report – based on a cohort of students from England-based universities, who are now in their mid-30s – summarises that universities have an overall positive impact on social mobility. Graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds are much more likely to become socially mobile and end up in better paying careers than those who don’t go to university. The study also reflects that less selective, post-1992 universities are succeeding in making a difference to enhance the lives of disadvantaged students, compared to their highly selective, ‘red brick’ counterparts.
Universities, including Bedfordshire, which take on the majority of disadvantaged and low income students – and are therefore seen as having lower graduate outcomes – are among those playing the most significant role in driving social mobility and providing support throughout their studies, as these students go on to earn more post-study than they otherwise would have done.
Over 40% of University of Bedfordshire students have no family history of participation in higher education, around 70% of students are mature returners to education and more than half of Bedfordshire’s student population are from Black or ethnic minority backgrounds – a group still under-represented across higher education.
Professor Rebecca Bunting, Vice Chancellor, said: “The findings of this report confirm how vital institutions like the University of Bedfordshire are for enabling social mobility and supporting equality and individual success. It’s well known that many students who feel discouraged from studying at higher education level can, at the right university, go on to flourish and enter the workforce as confident and skilled individuals.”
The university works closely to provide support to students throughout their studies to help them succeed. Students – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds – arrive on campus with very different learning experiences, so it has developed a programme which involves a diagnostic assessment to help identify the best advice and guidance for the student, including support with researching, assignment writing and presentation skills.
Bedfordshire’s on-campus libraries also offer a place to study and develop in a well-resourced environment, enabling students living in digital poverty the chance to use a computer and the internet. Specialist teams are also on hand as part of the ‘Study Hub’ platform, where students can access free professional support to develop their academic skills. The university’s Careers and Employability Service also offers all students and graduates a lifetime support service, assisting them with employment, volunteering and career preparation.
Some of the successful Access & Outreach projects launched so far include Bedfordshire’s Passport to Uni initiative, Luton’s Flying High literacy programme and the ESOL partnership (English for Speakers of Other Languages) initiated by the university’s Aspire Higher programme.