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University of Wolverhampton in top ten for social mobility

04/03/2021

The University of Wolverhampton has been listed in the top ten universities for social mobility in a paper published today (4 March) by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).

The paper, ‘Designing an English Social Mobility Index’, offers a methodology for comparing the contribution of individual English higher education providers’ to social mobility.

The Index challenges the often-made assumption that only particular kinds of universities make a substantial impact on social mobility, highlighting that, in the context of their individual missions, all types of institution – from research intensives to modern technical universities – can, and do, make a substantial contribution to social mobility.

The paper explains that the current focus on judging universities by the salaries of their graduates fails to take into account individuals’ personal circumstances and how far they have travelled.

University of Wolverhampton Vice-Chancellor Professor Geoff Layer said: “As the University of Opportunity, we have a long history of increasing and widening participation in higher education.

“The student experience and support is at the centre of our work to give our students the best chance of success. Throughout the pandemic we have been supporting our diverse student body as much as we can, including a laptop loan scheme to tackle digital poverty, providing study space for those that don’t have the space or connectivity at home, and increasing the levels of hardship funding available.

“It’s great for the University’s hard work in providing opportunities to the population of the Black Country, and wider communities, being recognised in such a positive way by HEPI.”

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Professor David Phoenix, author of the report and Vice-Chancellor of London South Bank University, said: “Existing university league tables perpetuate a self-fulfilling cycle of behaviour which compounds social advantage; with institutions with the highest entry tariffs admitting students from the most privileged backgrounds who then inevitably go on to command the highest salaries.

 “The English social mobility index (SMI) is an attempt to highlight, instead, the value that universities make to social mobility by showing the distance – academically and economically – they help their students to travel.

 “The results of the Index reflect the diversity of our higher education sector. Some institutions admit moderate numbers of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and enable these individuals to achieve significant social mobility. Others accept many more of these students and, while not moving them as far, make a very substantial cumulative contribution. This model provides a mechanism for institutions to explore how best to effect social mobility within the context of their own strengths and mission.”

Nick Hillman, the Director of HEPI and the author of the foreword to the report, said: “It is often said that existing university rankings should cease because they convey an incomplete picture. This is exactly the wrong way around. We need instead to enrich our understanding of higher education institutions by looking at a bigger range of indicators.

“The new English SMI shows what can be achieved. It recognises institutions’ success in boosting the outcomes of a high proportion of students and also those institutions that push a smaller proportion of students a further distance.

“The results shake up the typical league-table order and we hope they will prompt an important debate about how we evaluate the different missions of different institutions.”

For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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