New Critical Report: Work Experience Gap Widens, Threatening University Access and Social Mobility

A report released today by Speakers for Schools highlights the concerning issue of work experience being a key factor for university admissions, potentially creating a double disadvantage for students from underprivileged backgrounds.

The report by Dr Elnaz et al. underlines that universities are increasingly using work experience as part of the application process. This can be a valuable tool for students to gain practical skills and knowledge relevant to their chosen field of study. However, the report identifies a crucial roadblock – disadvantaged students are considerably less likely to have access to such opportunities compared to their peers from wealthier backgrounds.

This disparity creates a significant hurdle for disadvantaged students aiming to secure admission into top universities. The lack of work experience can weaken their applications,placing them at a disadvantage during the competitive selection process.

According to a Sutton Trust study,76% of students from the top socioeconomic groups (SEG) complete work experience, compared to just 43% from the lowest SEG. This substantial gap translates into a clear advantage for students from privileged backgrounds who can leverage their work experience to bolster their applications.

This situation poses a serious threat to social mobility and stifles the potential of talented students from underprivileged backgrounds. Universities are meant to be institutions that nurture talent and potential, but if work experience becomes an essential criterion, it risks creating a system that perpetuates existing inequalities.

So, what does this mean for education business partnerships striving to create a level playing field for young people across the UK?

The report emphasises the need for education business partnerships to bridge this gap. By providing work experience opportunities specifically targeted towards students from disadvantaged backgrounds, these partnerships can play a crucial role in ensuring fairer access to higher education.

Initiatives such as mentoring programs, job shadowing opportunities, and internships specifically designed for students from underprivileged communities can equip them with valuable skills and experiences. This can help to level the playing field and ensure that talented students from all backgrounds have a fair shot at gaining admission to top universities.

We agree; work experience should be a valuable addition to a student’s application, not a barrier to entry. By working together with ebp’s, educational institutions and businesses can create a more equitable system that fosters social mobility and allows all students to reach their full potential.


Full report here:

Speakers for Schools article here:

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