Opportunities for upward social mobility – the ability to move up the social ladder relative to your parents – haven’t improved since the 1970s, and in some ways have declined. In the developed world the UK has among the lowest upward social mobility figures according to the OECD. With such grim prospects, how can individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds improve their lot in the world? University education has long been recognised as a vehicle for upward social mobility, with strategies designed for access and success for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Recent evidence shows that university students that take part in international experiences, such as study and work placements abroad, can improve their prospects even more. A report launched by the UK Higher Education international Unit revealed that graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds who took part in international programmes earned more in 11 out of 17 subject areas. Moreover, graduates who engaged in international mobility activity were significantly less likely to be unemployed than those who did not (5% compared to 7.6%) – and even less likely to be unemployed than graduates from all backgrounds who were mobile than those who were not (5.4% compared to 6.7%).
Bath Spa University offers a Certificate in Global Citizenship programme designed to recognise the global perspective of undergraduate studies and to open opportunities for students in the global employment market. In addition to a lecture and seminar programme with internationally renowned speakers, home and EU students undertake an international placement, with eligibility for a Global Citizenship Scholarship of £1,000 to help fund the international placement. Recent figures indicate that over 70% of home students enrolled on this programme have at least one Widening Participation marker, with over 30% coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and 46% from non-professional backgrounds.
In providing opportunities for students to engage in international mobility programmes like this, it is hoped that we can provide real opportunities for upward social mobility for our most disadvantaged students – indeed for all of our students. Disadvantaged background should not be destiny. Equal opportunity demands that we break the relentless social stratification of our society.
As featured in Times Higher Education https://www.timeshighereducation.com/letters/mobility-aid and Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/professor-christina-slade/broadening-horizons-impro_b_9289474.html