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University of Bradford a trailblazer in social mobility, says former Education Secretary


Vice Chancellor of the University of Bradford Professor Shirley Congdon

‘University Anchors’ will work with schools and employers to create job opportunities for the young

The University of Bradford has unveiled a new action plan to increase access to higher education and career opportunities, in partnership with former Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Justine Greening

The plan sets out a series of ambitions that Bradford will work towards with the aim of ensuring that more people are able to access higher education, and the opportunities that it provides, unhindered by their background or lack of connections. 

The work is linked to the Government’s Opportunity Areas, introduced in 2016 in 12 areas including Bradford. The next stage of the initiative is to transform the University into an ‘Opportunity Anchor’, helping to improve educational and employment opportunities for the young by working with and connecting various stakeholders, including local businesses.

Justine Greening and Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice Chancellor at Bradford, unveiled the action plan together via a virtual launch.

Justine Greening said: “Achieving true social mobility in Britain and levelling up our country is a huge challenge but one that businesses and universities are rising to. They have a crucial role to play and can be an incredible force for good in spreading opportunities more evenly across communities and to people that have missed out for far too long. 

“The Covid-19 crisis has also reset the relationship between universities and their students, who expect them to be much more active on social purpose. I am delighted that Bradford is at the forefront of this environment, social and corporate governance agenda. Publishing this action plan today sends out a clear signal that The University of Bradford is raising the standard of corporate ESG and I look forward to working closely with them in the important months ahead for our country. 

“I hope many more universities will follow Bradford's lead and consider how they can go further, faster to make Britain a high skilled, high knowledge economy.”

The University of Bradford is one of a pioneering group of UK businesses and universities aiming to set a new and higher standard on boosting social mobility in Britain, with a leadership focus on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues. 

Bradford was among the early signatories to the Social Mobility Pledge, co-founded by Justine Greening in 2018, after she left the Government, alongside UK entrepreneur David Harrison. The Pledge asks businesses and universities to commit to levelling up Britain by partnering with local schools, offering apprenticeships and using open and fair recruitment practices. 

The launch of Bradford's Opportunity Action Plan, entitled ‘Opportunity Anchors', is the culmination of months of work with the Social Mobility Pledge team, who identified The University of Bradford as a trailblazer in social mobility. 

Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice Chancellor of the University, said: “The University of Bradford is committed to social mobility and social inclusion, which are at the centre of our mission and vision and the Levelling Up agenda. Launching the Pledge marks an important step in the University’s future and plays a key part in our future strategy of improving inclusion, diversity and equality.”

The launch event included addresses from University of Bradford Vice Chancellor Professor Shirley Congdon, the Rt Hon Justine Greening, Kersten England, Chief Executive of Bradford Council, a student and Bradford West Labour MP Naz Shah, among others.

Kersten England said Bradford had a proud history of initiating social innovations, from the model villages built by Sir Titus Salt (1803-1876) to pioneering work in improving education and opportunity for the young carried out by the likes of Margaret McMillan (1860-1931) and educationalist Mirian Lord (1885-1968).

The Social Mobility Pledge showcases the role the University has played and is playing to enable people to realise their dreams and take advantage of opportunities, which resulted in the University being awarded University of the Year for Social Inclusion 2020 by The Times and Sunday Times. It is also a commitment to work in collaboration with partners, such as the local authority and health authorities, in the city region.

The University’s Strategic Plan 2020-25 sets out broader commitments to put equality and inclusion at the heart of everything it does, with the ultimate goal of changing lives for the better. And its Access & Participation Plan shows how this will be achieved, for example by giving more people the opportunity to go to university and ensuring they do well and achieve good grades when they are there.


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