Universities support upward and lateral social mobility by improving opportunities and life chances for individuals, they facilitate economic growth by ensuring a workforce with high-level skills, and they deliver a range of public sector benefits to UK society as a whole.
The knowledge and skills that universities help people acquire also help people to change career, and adapt to technological and social change.
Universities transform lives. Going to university leads to new ways of seeing the world, to new horizons and networks, and to significantly enhanced job opportunities. But not everyone benefits in the same way. In 2015, Universities UK, working collaboratively with universities, students, schools, vocational training and further education colleges, third sector organisations and employers, set up the Social Mobility Advisory Group to support universities in widening access and increasing participation in higher education so that everyone can benefit from it, irrespective of their individual background and circumstances.
The Group met on 3 occasions, and following extensive analysis, evidence gathering and input from experts, published a report in October 2016 with recommendations for universities to improve social mobility. These include recommendations to:
The report also highlights the increasing focus on universities working with partners in their regions to develop sustained initiatives that align with broader regional agendas including the new government
opportunity areas published in January 2017.
UUK is now working with universities and others including schools, employers and third sector organisations to support implementation. A sector-wide report on progress will be published at the end of 2017.
The term 'equality and diversity' describes an approach that values difference and treats each individual fairly and with dignity and respect, free from harassment and bullying.
We believe that a diverse and inclusive organisational culture – one in which everyone feels valued and can learn or work to their full potential – makes for a more effective and productive higher education workforce.
In January 2017, the Department for Education published Inclusive teaching and learning in higher education providing good practice guidance to help universities support their disabled students. The guidance has been produced by the Disabled Student Sector Leadership Group, chaired by Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton and supported by Universities UK and the Department for Education. The guidance builds on the work and good practice already in place across universities to support disabled students to succeed. The Social Mobility Advisory Report encouraged universities to review the guidance (see
The taskforce was established in September 2015 to support universities in both preventing and developing an effective response to gender-based violence, harassment and hate crime. The taskforce - made up of university leaders, student representatives and academic experts, met four times, and on the basis of an analysis of the evidence identified a range of recommendations to support universities in adopting an institution-wide approach, embed effective preventative measures and maximise the support provided to students. These were set out in its report, ‘Changing the Culture’, published in October 2016. Alongside the report,
new guidance was published to support universities in managing situations where a student’s behaviour may constitute a criminal offence. Alongside supporting the sector to implement the recommendations Universities UK is continuing work in this area including exploring the issues relating to the prevention and response of staff on student harassment and the development of a directory of case-studies to support the sharing of good practice.
Other work includes working closely with the Equality Challenge Unit, Leadership Foundation for Higher Education and HEFCE to raise awareness of the rationale and benefits of improving diversity in higher education leadership.