Social mobility not the responsibility of UK universities

Universities should not be asked to help fix industry’s latest technological problems nor should they be “implementers of the [government’s] skills agenda”, the vice chancellor of Cambridge University will warn today.

The government is increasingly looking to universities to work with business in designing vocational degree course and to do more to attract students from poor backgrounds.

But the Times reports that Alison Richard believes universities are not here to “fix the problems of social mobility”.

Speaking at the annual conference of Universities UK today, she will say: “As institutions charged with education, research and training, our purpose is not to be construed as that of hand-maidens of industry, implementers of the skills agenda, or indeed engines for promoting social justice.”

Richard agreed that more young people could benefit from university education, but stressed that background or class should not discourage prospective students from applying to Cambridge.

Some 59% of pupils to Cambridge come from state schools according to figures released last week – the highest level since 1981.

A spokesman for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills told the Times that measures to encourage universities to help design courses matched to employerneeds, or to attract more students from state schools, were voluntary.

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