Page last updated at 12:16 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 13:16 UK

New universities 'drive mobility'

University entrance
There are warnings that funding cuts will damage social mobility

New universities in England and Scotland are drivers of social mobility, according to research from the Million+ organisation.

The research tracked the social backgrounds of students and their occupations after leaving university.

It found that 8% of entrants in these universities were from professional families - but that three years after graduating 17% had professional jobs.

Million+ chair, Les Ebdon, says it proves the "pessimists wrong".

Professor Ebdon argued that there was widespread political support for promoting social mobility - but this needed to be matched by funding.

He called on political leaders to support "universities so that they can meet the demand for university places for students in 2009 and beyond".

'Significant scale'

Million+ group represents 28 new universities in England and Scotland - and the report argues that it is these institutions that are the engine room of the efforts in higher education to create social mobility.

Professor Ebdon says that the debate about widening access should no longer be about "a few thousand high achievers from working class backgrounds accessing a small number of traditional universities".

Instead it should consider the impact of new universities, which are more likely to recruit students from poorer families, and where the report says there is "social mobility on a significant scale".

More than half of the students in higher education are attending one of these 28 institutions, says the report.

The report, Social Mobility: Universities Changing Lives, found that three years after graduating, earnings for students from Million+ universities were 15% above non-graduates.

The report highlights that new universities have a higher proportion of women graduates, more older and part-time students. Among black graduates, 60% have attended new universities.

And it warns of the "damaging impact on social mobility of reducing funding for the expansion of university places".

Earlier this year, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills limited the increase in extra places for 2009-2010, bring the number down from 15,000 to 10,000.

A Dius spokeswoman said: "This government is committed to ensuring that we make the most of everyone's talent.

"This includes young children from deprived backgrounds, parents returning to work and apprentices aiming for a university education - anyone with the potential to succeed."

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