The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) 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 UWE Bristol will work towards with the aim of ensuring that more people are able to access higher education, and the opportunities that it provides, unhindered by their background or lack of connections.
UWE Bristol 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 a leadership focus on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues.
UWE Bristol 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 UWE Bristol's Opportunity Action Plan, entitled 'Maximum Impact, Long Term Investment', is the culmination of months of work with the Social Mobility Pledge team, who identified UWE Bristol as a trailblazer in social mobility.
Justine Greening and Suzanne Carrie, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity at UWE Bristol, unveiled the action plan together via a virtual launch.
During the launch, Justine Greening heard how UWE Bristol is helping the UK to build back better from the effects of Covid-19. She also learned more about the university's #IAmFirstGen campaign, providing young people who are first in their families to go into higher education with identifiable role models, access to networks and practical support.
The ambitions in the action plan include considering how UWE Bristol can further target opportunities to under-represented groups, increasing early engagement and further developing progression tracking and development targets for those involved in outreach programmes.
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 UWE Bristol is at the forefront of this environment, social and corporate governance agenda. Publishing this action plan today sends out a clear signal that UWE Bristol is raising the standard of corporate ESG and I look forward to working closely with them in the important months ahead for our country.
‘‘I hope many more universities will follow UWE Bristol’s lead and consider how they can go further, faster to make Britain a high skilled, high knowledge economy.’’
Suzanne Carrie, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity at UWE Bristol, said:
‘‘We are very proud to launch our Opportunity Action Plan, which highlights our work in addressing social mobility, and to be part of Justine Greening’s national tour of Britain’s best levelling up universities.
‘‘At UWE Bristol, we believe that all young people should be given the opportunity to fulfil their full potential regardless of their background. For years, we have been working hard to tackle inequality and to increase access to and awareness of higher education amongst students in disadvantaged areas.
‘‘We are delighted to be able to share our learnings from our innovative outreach programme and other widening participation initiatives, but also to share our aspirations for the future as we work towards a more accessible higher education section and a fairer society.’’
Also lending her support to the action plan and UWE Bristol’s signing of the Social Mobility Pledge is the Lord Mayor of Bristol, Councillor Jos Clark. Ms Clark said:
‘‘I have lived in or around Bristol for most of my life. I went to university in Bristol and qualified as a social worker, supporting some of the city’s most disadvantaged children. While Bristol is a wonderfully diverse city, there are also inequalities which need to be addressed. UWE Bristol is making huge strides in this area and I fully support their efforts to create greater opportunities for young people living in our city region.’’