Lancashire university unveils plans to plug higher education gap

A Lancashire university has today unveiled an action plan aimed at making higher education accessible to all.
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Working with former education secretary Justine Greening, the University of Central Lancashire has put together a plan to ensure that more people are able to access higher education, and the opportunities that it provides, regardless of their background or circumstances.

Focusing mainly on its Burnley campus, the plan details how the university intends to work to provide opportunities for organisations and local communities.

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The launch of UCLan’s Opportunity Action Plan, is the culmination of months of work with the Social Mobility Pledge team - who identified UCLan as a pioneer in social mobility - and comes hard on the heels of UCLan signing the Social Mobility Pledge in September.

UCLan vice-chancellor Prof Graham BaldwinUCLan vice-chancellor Prof Graham Baldwin
UCLan vice-chancellor Prof Graham Baldwin

This was co-founded by Justine Greening in 2018, after she left government, with entrepreneur David Harrison.

The plan highlights UCLan’s position as the largest provider of health and social care education in Lancashire and Cumbria and, with new facilities on its Burnley campus, the university is in prime position to provide graduates for the jobs likely to arise in the local community post-Covid-19.

With more than 25 partners helping strengthen non-standard access routes into its courses, the university already works with groups such as care leavers, people with disabilities, those from Pupil Referral Units and former members of the military services.

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The aim now is to build on that and widen access even further and continue to develop its work across Lancashire, focussing on the public sector, particularly the NHS.

UCLan's Burnley campusUCLan's Burnley campus
UCLan's Burnley campus

UCLan vice-chancellor Professor Graham Baldwin said: " Our action plan further demonstrates our continued commitment and long-standing expertise in addressing social mobility.

‘"We are delighted to share our experience from many years of pioneering outreach programmes and widening participation initiatives among communities across the North West and beyond."

He added: "At UCLan we have always prided ourselves on being an open and accessible institution for people of all ages and all backgrounds helping people to seize every opportunity to flourish in education, at work and for life."

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Justine Greening said: "There is no doubt that progressing the levelling up agenda is fundamental to Britain’s future and a far wider effort is needed to combat Britain’s weak social mobility. But many of those solutions will need to be locally tailored and owned if they are to succeed.

"The work that UCLan is pioneering in Burnley and beyond can provide a template for others to look at how to tackle inequality, fill crucial key worker vacancies in the NHS and other public services and encourage genuine diversity in the organisations that underpin this country.

‘‘I hope many more universities will follow UCLan’s lead and consider how they can go further, faster to make Britain a high skilled, high knowledge economy."

So far around 500 organisations representing more than seven million people have signed the Social Mobility Pledge, including over 50 universities.