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Nick Clegg's warm words on social mobility cannot disguise punitive government policies

22 May 2012

UCU said today that Nick Clegg's warm words on social mobility were to be welcomed, but that key policy decisions were denying people from the poorest backgrounds access to education and the chance to better themselves.

The union questioned how moves by the coalition government, including increasing the cost of a university degree, axing vital grants for college students and forcing anyone aged 24 and over to take out huge loans to pay for college courses, could possibly help people get on in life. UCU said it was wrong to attack university admissions staff when the government had removed funding for outreach programmes.
The union said while there may not be a silver bullet to improve social mobility, it felt education was the best option we have and such punitive policies would eradicate any warm words or fine sentiments from ministers. UCU concluded that perhaps the greatest threat to social mobility in this country at present is government policies.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Nick Clegg has consistently made positive noises about the importance of social mobility and it would be unfair to suggest it is not something he feels strongly about. However, his warm words will never be a substitute for government policies that would genuinely help the poorest people in society access education.
'It is disappointing to hear once again that university admissions staff are under attack, especially when they are doing such a difficult job in a climate where funding for outreach programmes has been axed.
'Education is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet when it comes to social mobility. However, we have seen university fees rocket, vital college grants axed and now plans to force young adults to take out huge loans if they wish to return to education. It is difficult not to conclude that the greatest threat to social mobility at present is this government's punitive policies.'

Last updated: 11 December 2015