OU backs report saying social mobility policy must embrace adult learners

The Open University’s Vice-Chancellor Peter Horrocks CBE welcomes a Universities UK report out on Monday October 10 calling for older learners to feature in government policy on social mobility.

The new report says that to leave mature students out of the picture, when considering social mobility, risks effectively excluding a large proportion of the population.

It states: “The inclusion of older students in efforts to improve social mobility would therefore be good policy, and would help achieve goals of increasing the number of students from under-represented backgrounds more generally.”

Mr Horrocks, himself a member of the advisory group, said:

This underlines the value of a clear social mobility policy for HE that goes beyond school leavers and which takes in the contribution and the needs of mature learners.

The Social Mobility Advisory Group (SMAG) in its inaugural report also stresses that there is an urgent need for accessible information, advice and guidance on all learning and training opportunities for everyone across the country. It states “there should be a particular focus on encouraging upskilling or reskilling of mature students and the promotion of lifelong learning, along with the value of part-time study”.

The report highlights the particular importance of part-time higher education, for adults over 20 years old, saying that universities should provide an open door to people in all communities and across the generations. It recommends that “to incentivise more outreach aimed at mature students, more research is needed to understand the results of outreach activity targeted at mature students.”

Mr Horrocks said the report also notes that mature learners living in areas without access to higher education “are unlikely to be geographically mobile” and therefore study part-time or via distance learning. He added:

Therefore, there remains a need for the availability of an attractive, inclusive part-time offer

The Open University hopes the Government will respond positively and speedily to the proposals in the report.