‘Social Mobility’ is a term used frequently in Higher Education, but what does it mean, and what are universities doing to improve it?
With recent Government funding cuts affecting both students and institutions, universities will have to do more to encourage hard-to-reach students to take up the opportunities of HE study, according to Social Mobility experts.
The UK’s top university for Social Mobility, Marjon, commits to innovative initiatives to inspire people to take up further study.
Student Recruitment Manager, Dr Roger Pitt, said: “We are meeting lots of students who are discouraged not just by tuition fees and the threat of debt, but losing the maintenance grants and disabled student allowance can impact on parents’ concerns too.
“Our outreach team visits school pupils from primary school age who have not heard much about university and where no family members have been to university before. Their belief is that university is expensive and there are no jobs - so what is the point? We need to work even harder to prove the opportunities on offer and the life-changing experience that sets university graduates above the rest.”
Kari Eilertsen, the University of St Mark & St John’s Student Recruitment Officer for Widening Participation and Outreach, delivers activities to engage students who may not consider higher education.
As the first in her family to go to university, Kari is the perfect example of the success of these projects. At school she hadn’t considered university as an option. But when a young professional came into her school to talk about higher education, the penny dropped.
She said: “Not many people from my home town left to go away to study, so it wasn’t something I’d considered.
“A man around the same age as I am now came into my school and told me how amazing student life was.
“He talked about the sports teams and other clubs you could get involved in and the opportunities for work experience and travel. But most of all, he told us that university meant you got to pick a subject you really liked and study it for three years.
“It was my first experience of anything university related and that happened at the end of year eleven. I had been half interested because I didn’t want to be stuck in my home town forever, but I hadn’t envisaged myself being at university.
“University opened up a lot of doors for me. It gave me new experiences and helped me to develop. In my job now, I always remember that Outreach Officer’s influence and how in that one day, he changed my life forever.
“I meet students who don’t want to move away from home or who are worried about it, but university doesn’t always have to mean moving away.
“After looking around Marjon at one of our events, I can see a difference in the students who are then keen to start looking into the possibilities of a university education.
“Even a student who wanted to join the Royal Marines realised that if he got a degree first, he would gain more skills before he joined up, and enter the Forces at a higher level.
“My job is about breaking down the misconceptions so that people can explore whether university is the right option for them, without preconceived notions getting in the way. It’s also about giving people the confidence to make life changing decisions with all the facts. It worked for me!”
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