Bridging the Gaps Conference 2017

On Wednesday 17 May, the Bridge Group held its second annual conference, bringing together more than 200 representatives from universities, government, charities and the private sector to discuss ways to pursue social mobility.

Slides from the day are available here.

The conference kicked off with two startling new pieces of research.

In a new study comparing changes in attitudes to debt, Professor Claire Callender revealed that young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds are more debt averse now than they were in 2002, much more so than their better off peers, and it’s putting them off applying to university.

Oxford Professor of Geography Danny Dorling followed with some more home truths. The UK is the most unequal country in Europe, and the place in which they grow up plays a huge role in restricting what many young people can achieve. The one consolation? After Brexit, “we won’t be able to afford to be as badly performing as we have been up to now”.

With this in mind, the delegates debated strategies for improving social mobility through better relationships with schools, changes to university admissions processes, improved access to internships, new employer recruitment strategies, and additional professional development.

There were three overall themes in the day’s discussions,

Momentum – The political landscape might be shifting, but there’s growing support for improving social mobility. This year’s conference drew more attendees, from a greater range of organisations, than last year’s’ and new data from the AGR shows that the number of graduate recruiters with strategies to improve social mobility has increased from 20% to 36%.

Data – Universities and employers have access to more data points than ever before. It’s proving that old metrics such as GCSE results and type of university aren’t as reliable as they once seemed. More data will soon be available of universities and employers too, including the world’s first index of employers by social mobility, to be published by the Social Mobility Foundation.

Collaboration – The day’s investigations into the impact of place showed that a one-size-fits-all approach to social mobility won’t work. Universities and charities need to collaborate with partners in the communities they want to reach, and they need to share best practice with one another. The new Office for Students, and the proposed Universities UK Evidence Exchange, will create new opportunities for the social mobility sector to share best practice.

A full report, with the policy outcomes from the conference, will be published on our website shortly.

In the meantime, you can see more from the day’s discussion on Twitter by searching #bgconference17