‘Talent is spread evenly, opportunity is not’
Former Secretary of State for Education, the Rt. Hon. Justine Greening, highlights UCLan’s role in protecting opportunities and boosting social mobility
In June 2020 the University announced it had signed the Social Mobility Pledge, founded by the Rt. Hon. Justine Greening, to protect opportunities and boost social mobility in the wake of Covid 19.
In the following blog the former Secretary of State for Education calls for a rethink on how Britain values degrees and highlights the University’s commitment to encouraging more young people from less privileged backgrounds to realise their academic potential.
“A phrase we often hear these days is “talent is spread evenly, opportunity is not.” It’s one I recognise well because it is originally from my foreword to the Department for Education Social Mobility strategy I set out in 2017. With the right plan, Britain can lead the world in the fourth industrial revolution and embrace a greener, net zero carbon future. But we need to put the foundations in place now and our country won’t become a high skill, high wage economy without an education plan to deliver it. It must have higher education and further education working in partnership at its heart.
“I was the first Secretary of State for Education to have been educated at my local comprehensive school. I’m also proud to have been the first person in my family to go to university and it transformed my prospects. It not only allowed me to progress my knowledge of my chosen subject, economics, it also developed my confidence, ability to work with others and sense of the opportunities in a wider world.
"Together, the Social Mobility Pledge and the University of Central Lancashire are building a coalition of purpose-led organisations and changing Britain for the better.”"— Rt. Hon. Justine Greening, former Secretary of State for Education
“The experiences have lived with me ever since and provided the foundation on which I built a career. They’re also the reason I’m so passionate about ensuring more young people from less privileged backgrounds have the opportunity to go to university if that’s their choice.
“Part of the problem stems from a misguided reliance on assessing degree value for money, purely based on graduate earnings when that data is only a partial picture of value at best. Some roles, for example in education and healthcare may earn less than those in business yet be highly of value socially. And the evidence shows that a graduate may emerge from university with a better degree than a fellow student on the very same course but earn less due to having fewer connections than those with more privilege – what I call the privilege premium. Simply looking at graduate earnings loses the bigger picture of what value really means and how we should consider it in relation to which young people get to study a degree and which institutions are delivering value for money.
“Now more than ever, a rethink is required on how Britain values degrees and the access to them if we are to spread opportunity more widely to mirror the talent that our country has.
“Part of the solution is action on the ground, and there at least, positive change is happening.
“In 2018, I set up the Social Mobility Pledge to level up Britain. The University of Central Lancashire is one of over 500 universities and businesses working to achieve their goal by committing to partnering with local schools, offering apprenticeships, and adopting fair and inclusive recruitment policies. Our signatories represent over five million employees and two million students.
“Levelling up is about enabling more of our young people to have high aspirations and realise their potential. Together, the Social Mobility Pledge and the University of Central Lancashire are building a coalition of purpose-led organisations and changing Britain for the better.”