Social Mobility: Giving Graduate Candidates the Edge

More needs to be done to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in the graduate labour market – that was the argument set out by a University of Leicester debate on social mobility attended by leading graduate recruiters, which took place on Thursday 4th September.

Discussion Panel

The debate, hosted by multinational law firm Norton Rose Fulbright in London, follows a recent report by Alan Milburn MP – the Government’s Adviser on social mobility – which shows that elitism is still rife in Britain with many of the top jobs in society being significantly over-represented by individuals who were independently educated.

Professor Sir Bob Burgess

Professor Sir Bob Burgess

Professor Sir Robert Burgess, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, chaired the debate that focused on how universities and employers can better work together to give graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds the edge to fulfil their potential.

The Vice-Chancellor was joined by four panellists, along with an audience of leading graduate recruiters, as discussions ranged from considering how much progress had been made on the issue of social mobility over the last ten years, to sharing ideas about best practice in attraction and selection processes.

Henrietta O’Connor, University of Leicester

Henrietta O’Connor, University of Leicester

Henrietta O’Connor – one of the panellists and a Professor of Sociology at the University of Leicester – said the report by Alan Milburn made for ‘depressing reading’, but was encouraged by the outcome of the debate. She said:

“This was a timely debate given the publication of the report on social mobility earlier this week. It was fascinating to hear the types of strategies being used by graduate employers to actively seek to employ graduates from a wide range of social backgrounds.

“It is clear that forward thinking employers are as engaged as universities in recognising that future leaders come from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds and are increasingly embedding recruitment strategies designed to appeal to all graduates and not just an elite few.”

Ben Lawson, Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Ben Lawson, Enterprise Rent-A-Car

In an increasingly globalised and more diverse society, the panellists recognised that workforces should better reflect the communities and clients they serve in order to maintain credibility, and this needs to be addressed by fostering a closer collaboration between employers, universities and schools so that barriers to social mobility can be removed throughout every stage of a student’s life.

James McShea, Civil Service Fast Stream

James McShea, Civil Service Fast Stream

As the only top 20 Higher Education Institution to have consistently met and exceeded government benchmarks for the inclusivity of students from state schools and lower socio-economic groups, the University of Leicester is leading the way on the issue of social mobility.

Ffion Flockhart, Norton Rose Fulbright

(Left) Ffion Flockhart, Norton Rose Fulbright

The University’s Career Development Service was recently nominated for a Times Higher Education award for Outstanding Student Support, recognising the innovative approach it has taken to ensuring every student, regardless of their background, has access to opportunities for enhancing their skills and employability.

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