Introduction and strategic aim

The University of Derby believes in the transformational nature of education. As an anchor institution for social mobility, the University strives to inspire and to create higher education opportunities for people across the city, region and beyond, regardless of their age, personal background or location. The University's desire to 'open doors for everyone' lies at the heart of the University's Strategic Framework 2018-2030. Delivery on this commitment to social mobility is seen through the provision of a range of high-quality, engaging, inclusive and industry focused courses to an increasingly diverse student community. 

Derby is a city of contrasting social and economic fortunes. Despite average earnings being above the national average, more than one third of households fall within the most deprived neighbourhoods in England. While Derby is home to many highly skilled and specialist roles, especially in engineering, there is a substantial gap in the availability of entry-level graduate, management and skilled posts. There are also notable inequalities in education and health outcomes. The University is dedicated to tackling the deeply embedded social and educational inequalities present in Derby and its wider region. 

With Buxton & Leek Further Education College embedded as an integral part of the University, there is a seamless offer from GCSEs to doctorates, through diverse and flexible pathways and provision. The University's learning and teaching methods and multiple modes of study are designed to meet students' personal circumstances and maximise their chances of success. For example, the University's extensive portfolio of online learning courses allows students to develop and enhance their skills, further their careers, or change career direction without having to leave employment and return to full time study. 

The Civic University Agreement demonstrates the University's commitment to strengthening partnerships with key organisations to secure a sustainable and prosperous future for the city and county, through five core goals: secure our future; drive ambition and positive change; make a positive environmental impact; support health and wellbeing; and invest in culture as a driver for change. The University works to meet the aspirations of young people, improve their attainment and education outcomes, and provide clear routes into the jobs of the future which fulfil local skills requirements and address regional skills gaps. 

Derby and Derbyshire face deep rooted inequality in both primary and secondary education outcomes. The Vice Chancellor Chaired the Derby Opportunity Area and leads the new Derby and Derbyshire Priority Education Investment Areas (PEIA). In addition to the PEIA, the University supports the raising of educational attainment through the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Collaborative Outreach Programme (DANCOP) and the University's Widening Access Team. 

As a demonstration of the University's commitment to social mobility, steps have been taken to ensure that policies and processes meet the needs of traditionally disadvantaged groups through mapping to external benchmarks and standards. For example, the University is a signatory of the 'Stand Alone' Pledge, supporting estranged students, and the Armed Forces Covenant enabling those who served in the armed forces and their families to have the best opportunities to enter and thrive in higher education. Across other domains of inclusion, the University has achieved or is working towards external accreditation to highlight the inclusivity of the learning and working environment, for example, Stonewall Workplace Gold, Athena Swan Bronze and the Advance HE Race Equality Charter. 

The University has maintained a strong performance in widening access and social mobility within higher education. This ensures that those who can benefit from higher education are able to do so, whether it be young people living in areas where there is no tradition of higher education study, or mature learners looking to retrain to develop new skills and increase their employability. For example, in academic year 2012-22: 

The University is also proud to have achieved two of the targets of the previous Access & Participation Plan (APP) by academic year 2021-22, well ahead of schedule: (a) eliminating the awarding gap between non-disabled and disabled students, and (b) eliminating the progression (graduate outcomes) gap between White and Black students. This progress in improving social mobility has been recognised through several national awards, including: 

While these exceptional outcomes are celebrated, the University recognises that more work is needed to secure equality of opportunity for students of colour, students with a mental health condition, and students who were previously in receipt of free school meals. The University's overarching strategic aim for access and participation is to eliminate the gaps that exist for these target groups across the student lifecycle. The University will take ambitious steps towards this aim throughout the lifecycle of this plan, through delivering the activity and evaluation plans set out within the intervention strategies, which are designed to maximise student access and success of the target groups.