18 Oct 2012

The Open University welcomes Alan Milburn’s report on Social Mobility

The UK’s largest university and foremost driver of social mobility, The Open University, has today given its warm support to University Challenge: How Higher Education Can Advance Social Mobility – A progress report by the Independent Reviewer on Social Mobility and Child Poverty, Alan Milburn.

Rajay Naik, Director of Government and External Affairs, at The Open University said: “The Open University warmly welcomes Alan Milburn’s report. He is absolutely correct in his assessment that higher education has a significant impact on social mobility and that all universities have an obligation to play their part in widening access.

"I am proud that the OU has inspired millions over recent decades but, given the economic context and rising costs for graduates, we must all redouble our efforts to ensure that all people – regardless of their background – can transform their lives through the power of learning.”

He continues “Early evidence of student demand supports Milburn’s assertion that ‘the Government needs to broaden its messaging to include potential applicants who are not coming straight from school’. The introduction of loans for the 40% of students who study part-time was monumental but now we must ensure these learners understand the support available. Education changes lives. This report must remind us of the importance of investing in access and ensuring that flexible, world-class opportunities are open to all.”

The Open University is directly cited twice in Alan Milburn’s report – more than any other university. In particular, the OU welcomes the fact that:

• The report talks in detail about the importance of widening access to all universities – not simply ‘elite’ institutions;
• It also highlights the crucial life changing role of part-time study, particularly for adult learners and an increasing number of younger students; and
• The importance of public investment in education and efforts to expand access to the most disadvantaged communities.


For more information or to access an Open University spokesperson contact Christine Drabwell on
T: 01908 858 673; M: 07990 827 027; E:

Notes to Editors

About The Open University and Widening Participation

• 45% of OU students have one A-level or less.

• Over 14,000 of our students declare a disability.

• 11% of OU students come from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

• 18,000 students have accessed higher education through our targeted access, taster and Openings programmes.

• The OU invested over £4 million to communicate loans system to mature and poorer prospective students

• We have seen an increase in the numbers in the widening participation category this year
o England: proportion of WP students increased to 16%, compared to 14% for October 2011.
o UK: proportion of WP students increased to 15.6%, compared to last year’s 14.2%

• 69% of OU undergrads have no previous HE qualifications.

• 75% of our WP students say they would not have gone to university were it not for the OU.

• In the past five years, OU part-time enrolments for students aged 25 and over increased by more than 17%, compared to a 23% decrease at other institutions.

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