Skip to content

University of Bradford tops Social Mobility Index for third year running


Students at graduation 2022

The University of Bradford has been ranked first in England on the Social Mobility Index (SMI) for the third year running.

The SMI ranking, produced by the Higher Education Policy Institute, is a way of ranking universities based on the impact they have on people’s social mobility.

The University was ranked top in 2021, 2022 and again in 2023.

Professor Shirley Congdon

Vice-Chancellor Professor Shirley Congdon, pictured above, said: “I am delighted the University of Bradford has been ranked first nationally in the 2023 Social Mobility Index. This is testament to our core ambition to make a difference for our students, the city, and society in general.

“At Bradford, the principle of equality of opportunity is at the heart of who we are, what we do, how and why we do it. We take tremendous pride in placing inclusion front and centre in our mission, vision, and values. We are fiercely committed to widening access to higher education through our approach to recruitment and admissions.”

“Moreover, our graduate outcomes stand out not only because of the ‘designed-in’ approach the University takes to student employability, but because of the expertise and dedication of our Careers and Employability Service in supporting students throughout their journey. 

“It is this whole-system approach that underpins our success in delivering social mobility for our students, a systems model to inclusion as a means of accelerating equality for all, making our diversity count, and enabling everyone to achieve their full potential.” 

We are fiercely committed to widening access to higher education through our approach to recruitment and admissions.

The SMI combines data relating to access, continuation and graduate outcomes. This year, for the first time, the full ranking table has been published. 

The story of care leaver Aimee Brannan, pictured below, epitomises the University's approach to social mobility. She graduated with a degree in criminology in 2023, after "scraping through her GCSEs" and having a difficult childhood - read about Aimee's experience.

Aimee Brannan graduation

Professor David Phoenix, Vice-Chancellor of LSBU, who compiles the Index for HEPI, said: “While numerous studies demonstrate that your personal circumstances and where you grow up have a strong bearing on your likelihood of achieving upward mobility, the 2023 Higher Education Social Mobility Index shows that your background does not have to determine your future.

“Universities of all types, up and down the country, are countering expectations by consistently delivering improved economic prosperity for some of our most disadvantaged students.

“The Government has repeatedly expressed its desire to tackle the regional inequalities holding communities back. One of the simplest ways they could do this is by celebrating the success of these institutions in breaking through international norms and ensuring that, in a climate of ever-dwindling resources, we don’t let a lack of finance inadvertently reinforce the glass ceiling and stifle this incredible pipeline of talent.”

The 2023 Higher Education Social Mobility Index shows that your background does not have to determine your future

NIck Hillman from HEPI and Prof Shirley Congdon

Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), pictured above in the main image, said: “The Social Mobility Index is now in its third year and it has rapidly become one of the most impactful things HEPI does. League tables are controversial and have pros and cons but they are not going to disappear, so it is illuminating to think about different methodologies and to measure things typically excluded.

“The fact that some relatively new and less prestigious institutions beat Oxbridge reminds us of the different contributions made by different institutions. Above all, the Index confirms our higher education sector has strength in breadth.  We hear common complaints that there are too many universities and too many students, but this Index provides yet more evidence that higher education institutions of all types transform people’s lives.”

University of Bradford's approach

  • ‘Designed in’ approach: we provide curricular and extra-curricular opportunities for students to engage in meaningful career-focused learning that is subject-specific.
  • We work in partnership with more than 3,000 local, national, and international employers to offer real world career development education and support the ethos of achieving ‘more than a degree’.
  • Our ‘whole systems approach’ means we connect marketing, recruitment and admissions at the front end of the student journey and follow through with evidenced-led career support that builds pathways into high-skilled employment.
  • Our total commitment to inclusion is foundational in the sense that it can be traced as a golden seam that runs through all our strategies, policies, decision-making and values.

First place badge

More about the SMI

The English Higher Education Social Mobility Index (SMI) ranks English universities registered with the Office for Students (excluding specialist institutions) by their contribution to social mobility, based on the social distance travelled by their graduates. 

It combines measures of a) access, b) continuation and c) graduate outcomes for undergraduate students. All modes of study are included, although apprenticeship students are necessarily excluded due to a shortage of comparable data.

The following measures are included and reported separately for each year, mode and Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) quintiles 1 and 2: 

  • Access: Access is measured by the proportion of new entrants from Index of Multiple Deprivation Quintiles 1 and 2 at each provider. 
  • Continuation: Continuation is measured by the Office for Students’ Continuation indicator, which records the percentage of first-year students who complete their course or remain in UK higher education for 12 months (full-time students) or 24 months (part-time students) after starting their course.
  • Note: Because the Office for Students’ Access and Participation dataset splits all data by mode (FT and PT), the data inputs are pulled into the model by mode and then pro-rated by the FT/PT headcount split.
  • Graduate Outcomes: Graduate Outcomes are measured by two components which are given equal weight and combined:
    • Graduate Outcomes as measured by the percentage of graduates with ‘Positive Outcomes’ in the Office for Students’ Proceed definition. The Proceed Definition counts highly skilled employment, any further study and other activities (except ‘Doing something else’) as positive outcomes; and medium / low skilled employment and unemployment as negative outcomes.
    • Median salaries as measured in the Graduate Outcomes survey.

Full SMI index

  1. University of Bradford
  2. Aston University
  3. City, University of London
  4. King's College London
  5. London School of Economics and Political Science
  6. Queen Mary University of London
  7. Birmingham City University
  8. The University of Wolverhampton
  9. The University of Huddersfield
  10. University College London
  11. London South Bank University
  12. The University of Salford
  13. Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine
  14. The University of Bolton
  15. The University of Greenwich
  16. The University of Cambridge
  17. Newman University
  18. Brunel University London
  19. Birkbeck College
  20. The University of Leicester
  21. The University of Oxford
  22. The University of Manchester
  23. Teesside University
  24. The University of East London
  25. Canterbury Christ Church University
  26. The University of Warwick
  27. The University of Westminster
  28. Edge Hill University
  29. The University of Sunderland
  30. Kingston University
  31. The University of Central Lancashire
  32. Leeds Trinity University
  33. The University of Birmingham
  34. Liverpool John Moores University
  35. The Open University
  36. The Manchester Metropolitan University
  37. University of Suffolk
  38. The University of Leeds
  39. University of Keele
  40. Staffordshire University
  41. The University of West London
  42. The University of Kent
  43. Sheffield Hallam University
  44. Middlesex University
  45. The University of Hull
  46. Royal Holloway and Bedford New College
  47. University of Chester
  48. The University of Lancaster
  49. Roehampton University
  50. Liverpool Hope University
  51. The University of Southampton
  52. The University of Essex
  53. Goldsmiths College
  54. The University of Liverpool
  55. University of Hertfordshire
  56. The University of Bath
  57. The University of Bristol
  58. The School of Oriental and African Studies
  59. University of Derby
  60. University of Nottingham
  61. Coventry University
  62. Buckinghamshire New University
  63. University of Northumbria at Newcastle
  64. University of Cumbria
  65. The University of East Anglia
  66. The University of Sheffield
  67. De Montfort University
  68. Loughborough University
  69. The University of York
  70. University of Plymouth
  71. The University of Surrey
  72. The University of Portsmouth
  73. University of Newcastle upon Tyne
  74. University of Durham
  75. Leeds Beckett University
  76. London Metropolitan University
  77. The University of Lincoln
  78. The Nottingham Trent University
  79. University of the Arts, London
  80. University College Birmingham
  81. Anglia Ruskin University
  82. The University of Brighton
  83. The University of Reading
  84. University of the West of England, Bristol
  85. University of St Mark and St John
  86. The University of Sussex
  87. Bath Spa University
  88. The University of Northampton
  89. Bournemouth University
  90. York St John University
  91. University of Worcester
  92. The University of Exeter
  93. Bishop Grosseteste University
  94. Solent University, Southampton
  95. St Mary's University, Twickenham
  96. University of Gloucestershire
  97. Oxford Brookes University
  98. The University of Chichester
  99. University of Bedfordshire
  100. Falmouth University
  101. The University of Winchester