Manifesto for the Director of Fair Access & Participation 35: Helen Smith, AGCAS

Brightside and the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) have released a collection of action points for the new Office for Students on unlocking access to higher education. Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director of Fair Access and Participation contains the views of 35 leading thinkers from academia, university administration, Parliament, think tanks and the media.

We’re also publishing each entry individually. Here Helen Smith, Director of Social Mobility at the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, gives her perspective:

‘AGCAS’s strategy for social mobility is to enhance and equalise access to all careers, institutions and organisations and to help students develop the awareness, confidence and skills needed to unlock their career potential. The latest AGCAS Graduate Labour Market Survey identified that nearly three-quarters of UK university careers services delivered initiatives for widening participation students in 2016/17.

As pre-18 careers support is sparse, many students are ill-equipped to make key decisions about post-16 and higher education options and careers. Most university career services are now gathering and using data to review incoming students’ career readiness, analysing widening participation criteria and
targeting resources to provide more personalised support. In 2017/18, AGCAS will conduct a further review of targeted higher education careers activity.

Unpaid student and graduate placements, internships and work experiences are an obvious barrier to equal access and social mobility, yet they persist. To address inequality, such roles should be paid and openly advertised.

We know that students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to study locally or to return home after study, often limiting their employment and earning potential. However, without associated commentary, rigid application of proxies such as salary outcomes to represent graduate success take little account of regional labour market variations.’