Brilliant Club

Labour Party Conference: University Access 2.0

09 Oct 2023
This morning, The Brilliant Club hosted their first panel of two at the 2023 Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, University Access 2.0: We’ve hit Labour’s 50% access target – what next?

On our panel, we welcomed:

Ahead of the event, The Brilliant Club commissioned Public First to poll parents’ attitudes towards university to better understand the challenges parents are facing across the UK. Meg Price from Public First kicked off this morning’s panel summarising these findings.

Results show that the cost of living in an area was the most important factor for 47% of parents in the lowest social grade (DE) in deciding where their child would go to university. You can read the full poll results here.

In light of these results, this morning’s panel discussed how university is still a desirable option for families, as Sam Freedman noted, ‘Demand isn’t going to change… And the reason why it is going to keep going up is because parents and students are rational. They know there is a graduate premium.’ Professor Sir Chris Husbands summed up the feeling among panellists that higher education is a catalyst for social mobility with the statement ‘University is a driver of generational change. That’s why it really matters.’

Sam Rushworth described his experience of talking to the community in Bishop Auckland about higher education. He said ‘there is a sense that university is just a dream for them.’ He also went on to detail the perception of the cost of university study and how many less advantaged students have to battle with the desire to bring money into their family homes as soon as possible.

The panel moved on to unpacking what skills look like for this generation, and how universities must evolve to provide this alongside subject knowledge. Sam Rushworth, who is also a Brilliant Club PhD tutor, said, ‘In the future, university study will have to be broader, to make sure degrees do lead to something. Practical components, volunteering opportunities, things that make you more employable.’

There was also a discussion about how to balance the approach to degree apprenticeships alongside more traditional degrees. Professor Sir Chris brought it together by saying ‘degrees and degree apprenticeships create better jobs. This is about making better lives’.

As well as thinking about the popularity of degree apprenticeships alongside degrees and university as a driver of social mobility, Meg Price touched on the importance of starting early on in children’s educational journeys as she said, ‘Early intervention is so important. The impact you can have on year 6 children is wild.’ Meg went on to stress the importance of supporting successful transitions to undergraduate study, ensuring that everyone is set up to enjoy and succeed at university.

The Brilliant Club will be hosting another event at the Labour Party Conference tomorrow Tuesday 10th October from 8am – 9am on Parent Power: What do parents and carers want to see in education? For more information and to register your attendance, please click here.