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Realising potential in the South West

Dawn delivers keynote speech on higher education participation

Local MP, and Paymaster General, Dawn Primarolo spoke today at the Aim Higher South West conference at the University of the West of England.

The event, entitled 'Celebrating Success', was attended by over one hundred people, drawn from across the South West. Afterwards, Dawn set out the content of her keynote speech:

"Recent analysis of the UK's long-term skills needs has forecast that 80% of new jobs will require the skills and competences that can only be gained through higher education, and that by 2020 some 45% of all jobs will need to be filled by graduates. That is why Labour is firmly committed to our target for expanding access to university to 50% of young people".

"However, it is clear that we could reach our target without making any inroads whatsoever into the deeply entrenched inequality of opportunity that pervades our university sector. I believe it's unacceptable that whilst the last forty years have seen a large and welcome expansion in the the absolute numbers going to university, the gap between the proportion of those in the top three socio-economic groups - and the proportion in the bottom three - has not narrowed, but has widened. From 23% in 1960 to 30% in 2000. Our challenge, then, is not just to widen, but to also deepen, participation in higher education - why is why Aim Higher is so important".

"By raising awareness, aspirations and attainment through improved links between universities and local schools, Aim Higher is successfully reaching out to the young people who think university is 'not for them'. Although it's still very early in the journey, encouraging progress is being made in closing the gap, and this event is about celebrating the success of the many excellent projects that have undoubtedly changed lives. I pay tribute to the enthusiasm and dedication of all those who have worked so hard to make this happen".

"I believe we must maintain - and even increase - this momentum in future years by encouraging our universities to engage still more with our local communities, so we can ensure that the social and personal worth of learning, as well as the very real economic benefits, are extended to even more young people".

[23 June 2006]

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