Unleashing Aspiration - Government report on social mobility

18 January 2010

Welcoming the Government’s response to “Unleashing Aspiration”, the report by the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group of 20 leading universities, said:

“Any information about a candidate’s potential which is fair, accurate and relevant is welcome as our institutions are constantly seeking to develop the most effective ways of identifying real potential. Russell Group universities draw on a range of factors in order to identify potential in students, which may not be reflected in traditional qualifications. For example, some universities use personal statements or aptitude tests to give the applicant a further opportunity to demonstrate their strengths or interests. Others may take into account any particular barriers the candidate may have faced during their education.

“However, the stubborn fact is that academic achievement remains the key to whether a student will go on to university. This is why Russell Group universities are working hard to help raise attainment and aspiration, with staff and students devoting an increasing amount of their time to working closely with local schools and colleges, arranging summer schools, and providing access courses. The Government’s proposals to increase mentoring and improve advice and guidance in schools will help our universities in this critical task.

“We agree that better information for potential students is a priority, particularly for pupils from families who haven’t been to university, or who have less knowledge about higher education. Russell Group universities are making concerted efforts to ensure that teachers, parents and pupils receive better information, guidance and encouragement to apply to their courses. Potential students should be aware that Russell Group graduates are highly sought after by employers with higher starting salaries and, on average, a 10% wage boost over a lifetime compared with graduates from other universities.

“The Russell Group also welcomes the announcement of undergraduate internships as a way of aiding students from non-traditional backgrounds gain valuable experience and insight into coveted professions such as law.”

Notes to Editors

  1. Research undertaken by the Centre for Economics of Education has identified an average wage premium of nearly 10% (9.4%) for a graduate from a Russell Group university compared to a graduate from a modern university. This statistic comes from an OLS linear estimation technique, which controls for individual characteristics including A-level scores, parental background, the school the individual attended among other factors affecting wages. “Does it pay to attend a prestigious university?” Arnaud Chevalier and Gavan Conlon, March 2003, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE (table 5 for the 1995 cohort, page 29). 
  2. HESA data for 2007-08 show starting salaries for Russell Group graduates were on average approximately £3,500 higher than graduates from other universities.

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