Why We Are Needed

“Despite significant progress in recent years, only one in eight young people from the poorest families go to university, I simply do not accept that this is due to a lack of potential among these young people. A lack of opportunity is clearly holding them back.”

Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, November 2016

Britain has a world-leading higher education sector and attending university can be a life changing experience for many young people.  But access to university, particularly to leading universities, is often determined by a student’s social background.

Recent data has revealed that:

  • ‘The average pupil eligible for free school meals leaves school with the equivalent of seven D grades and an E grade at GCSE. Their wealthier peers average seven C grades and a B grade.’¹
  • ‘Young people from low-income backgrounds are 30% less likely to choose the A-levels that are needed to study at a top university. Barely one in 200 pupils, who have ever been eligible for free school meals, go on to achieve three As and Bs at A-level in the key facilitating subjects that Russell Group universities look for.’¹
  • ‘60% of young people living in the most prosperous areas (top 20%) enter university, compared with 24% from the poorest. And 22% of young people from the richest fifth of the population get a place at one of the “top 40” universities, but only 2% of the poorest fifth do.’²
  • ‘Only 4% of doctors and 6% of lawyers come from working class backgrounds. Less than one in eight children from a low-income background ends up in a high-income job. When they do, they find it harder than their more privileged peers to get ahead; their salaries are, on average, almost a fifth smaller.’³

“Social Mobility is about aspiration, access and achievement; it is about changing the way people think, act and engage, to understand that there is an alternative way to live, that everyone can succeed. It’s not about equal opportunities – rather everyone needs an opportunity to be equal.”


Professor Sonia Blandford, Schools Improvement Network, ‘There is an alternative way to address social mobility’, 27 November 2016

Find out how we address this problem


¹ Teach First, ‘Impossible? Social mobility and the seemingly unbreakable class ceiling’, March 2017

² Institute for Fiscal Studies, ‘Family background and university success: differences in Higher Education access and outcomes in England’, November 2016

³ Social Mobility Commission, ‘State of the Nation’, November 2016