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News Staffordshire University partners with former education secretary to close opportunity gap

Staffordshire University has today unveiled a new action plan to increase access to higher education and career opportunities

Staffordshire University was among the early signatories to the Social Mobility Pledge
Image: Staffordshire University was among the early signatories to the Social Mobility Pledge

At Staffordshire University we have put social mobility at the heart of our purpose and we are committed to taking steps to boost opportunity and access to education.

Professor Liz Barnes CBE DL, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive,

Staffordshire University has today unveiled a new action plan to increase access to higher education and career opportunities, in partnership with former Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Justine Greening.

The plan sets out a series of ambitions that Staffordshire University will work towards with the aim of ensuring that more people are able to access higher education, and progress in careers, unhindered by their background or lack of connections.

Staffordshire University is one of a pioneering group of UK businesses and universities aiming to set a new and higher standard on boosting social mobility in Britain, with leadership focus on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues.

The University was among the early signatories to the Social Mobility Pledge, co-founded by Justine Greening in 2018, after she left the Government, alongside UK entrepreneur David Harrison.

The Pledge asks businesses and universities to commit to levelling up Britain by partnering with local schools, offering apprenticeships and using open and fair recruitment practices.

The launch of Staffordshire University's Opportunity Action Plan, entitled 'Game Changer', is the culmination of months of work with the Social Mobility Pledge team, who identified the University as a trail blazer in social mobility.

Justine Greening and Professor Liz Barnes CBE DL, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive, unveiled the action plan at a virtual launch. The launch was hosted at the Esports Hub at the University’s Stoke-on-Trent campus and also featured contributions from an expert panel who discussed issues around social mobility.

During the event, Justine heard how Staffordshire University is helping the UK to build back better from the effects of COVID-19.

The action plan highlights the University's success in improving outcomes for the most deprived communities and with the most complex backgrounds. The University supports people who experience early barriers to education, or in life more generally, to overcome them so they can access university and a degree. It develops the talent that undoubtedly exists in those communities and equips its graduates with the skills and expertise employers need, in some of the fastest growing sectors of industry.

Justine Greening said: “Achieving true social mobility in Britain and levelling up our country is a huge challenge but one that businesses and universities are rising to. They have a crucial role to play and can be an incredible force for good in spreading opportunities more evenly across communities and to people that have missed out for far too long.

“The COVID-19 crisis has also reset the relationship between universities and their students, who expect them to be much more active on social purpose. I am delighted that Staffordshire University is at the forefront of this environment, social and corporate governance agenda. Publishing this action plan today sends out a clear signal that the University is raising the standard of corporate ESG and I look forward to working closely with them in the important months ahead for our country.”

Liz Barnes said: “Education is a key determinant of social mobility and participation rates in higher education are between 16-28% in Stoke-on-Trent, compared to more than 50% nationally.

“Approximately 40 percent of Staffordshire University students come from areas that are among the most deprived in the country, with some having experienced challenges such as homelessness and substance misuse, and many of our students are among the first in their families to go to university.

“At Staffordshire University we have put social mobility at the heart of our purpose and we are committed to taking steps to boost opportunity and access to education.

“We were delighted to have Justine Greening take part in our virtual launch so we could outline just how the University is opening doors to opportunity for people in Stoke-on-Trent and beyond and we look forward to welcoming her on a visit to campus next year.”

Staffordshire University's Opportunity Action Plan can be viewed here.

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