The University Best Practice White Paper sets out just some of the actions and projects that are having a direct impact on students and communities. These include widening participation activities, collaboration with local businesses and case studies from students whose lives have been turned around by higher education.
The report was produced by former Education Secretary Rt Hon Justine Greening’s Purpose Coalition - a group of purpose-led businesses, universities and public sector organisations.
In the report, Staffordshire University highlights its Step Up to HE programme which is making a difference on the ground.
Step Up helps to bridge the educational gap for individuals considering Higher Education. The initiative is designed to enable participants to develop their writing, referencing, research and critical thinking skills – all of which are critical for success at university – while helping to build their self-confidence.
The course was developed as a free academic skills course which enables non-traditional mature learners to progress to Higher Education and improve career prospects. Three to four cohorts run each academic year and group sizes vary from 15 to 25 students per cohort.
The report also highlights issues relating to digital poverty as students at Staffordshire University are disproportionally affected – with about 47 per cent of the student body coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Staffordshire University Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Professor Martin Jones, said: “True levelling up means that regardless of geography or circumstance everyone is afforded the same opportunities in life to better themselves.
“We need to pull every lever we can to create a Britain that breaks down the potential barriers to aspirations, and universities have been doing this since before ‘levelling up’ became a popular catchphrase.
“Providing true equality of opportunity and addressing a widening social mobility gap can only be achieved by a collective effort – we must all work together to identify inequality in all its forms and move towards a level playing field.”
The report was launched at an event in Parliament with speeches from Greening, Munira Wilson, MP for Twickenham and the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education, and Professor Steven West, Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol and President of Universities UK.
Justine Greening said: “Our University Best Practice White Paper is full of brilliant, practical examples of levelling up. Not only does it highlight opportunities being spread to those from under-represented backgrounds but also the wider impact that universities can have through research, procurement and many other things. It has never been a more important time to reap the wider benefits of the successful approaches contained in this paper, as the levelling up debate necessarily shifts onto practical solutions.
“Moving forward there is a huge opportunity to develop the role that universities play as anchor institutions. Having worked hard on widening participation, universities have key insights that can be used more widely. There is no doubt in my mind that our universities should be at the centre of the UK’s levelling up plans.”
The report can be seen here.